GE buys Honeywell, and PR aligns slew of messages

FAIRFIELD, CT: Corporate communicators at General Electric and Honeywell scrambled into action last week to handle the PR implications of GE's sudden deal to buy the industrial products firm.

FAIRFIELD, CT: Corporate communicators at General Electric and Honeywell scrambled into action last week to handle the PR implications of GE's sudden deal to buy the industrial products firm.

FAIRFIELD, CT: Corporate communicators at General Electric and Honeywell scrambled into action last week to handle the PR implications of GE's sudden deal to buy the industrial products firm.

The dollars 45 billion deal - GE's largest ever - was put together in just three days after GE chairman Jack Welch discovered that Honeywell was about to be bought by rival United Technologies.

'We've had quite a few sleepless nights,' admits Tom Crane, Honeywell's director of corporate media relations. 'It's certainly an interesting situation when you're all prepared for one deal to go through, only for another one to turn up within 36 hours. It's been a wild ride.'

Welch put the deal together with Honeywell CEO Michael Bonsignore on Friday afternoon. It was approved by the Honeywell board on Saturday and by the GE board late Sunday afternoon. Later that evening it was released to the press, followed by a press conference Monday morning.

Crane and GE's manager of public affairs Gary Sheffer, have been making full use of their respective intranets to quickly update staff on developments and answer questions. In addition, Crane and Sheffer prepared a video of Welch and Bonsignore addressing staff.

'The external priority is to align our messages,' Crane told PRWeek.

'Internally, we have to allay any anxieties and confusion on the part of the staff. You can't over-communicate in this kind of situation, and we are trying to listen to everyone's concerns.'

Beyond their professional responsibilities, the pressing issue for Crane and his team is the fate of their own 12-strong corporate communications department. Sheffer said it is too early to say how the merger, due for completion early in 2001, would affect the PR staff of either company.

But given that the deal is a complete buyout of Honeywell, some staff cuts to iron out overlaps are inevitable.

However, Beth Comstock, VP of corporate communications at GE, emphasized that 'there are opportunities for the best communicators within GE. There are some very good people in PR at Honeywell, and we look forward to working with them through the merger.'

The timing is particularly unfortunate for Crane's boss, Honeywell VP of communications Tom Buckmaster, who only joined the company eight months ago. Just last year he had moved from Hill & Knowlton to head Edelman New York, a job which he then left after seven months.



Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register
Already registered?
Sign in