In September 2016, Dell and EMC underwent the largest tech merger in history.
We were bringing together about 400 social media accounts combined across Dell and EMC.
For Thom Lytle, now Senior Director of Social Business at Dell, that meant leading Dell and EMC's newly combined Social Business team through the announcement and the extensive transition process that followed.
And that whirlwind effort all began a year earlier with a late night phone call and a three-day crash course on SEC and FTC social media regulations.
Back in October of 2015 and “within the span of a weekend, we had to figure out how to quickly deploy custom social guidelines to EMC's employees,” says Thom. “They weren't able to discuss Dell or the merger, so they wouldn't be seen as influencing the important decision that our shareholders had to make.”
Thom and his (then EMC) team underwent a crash course in learning social beyond simply just promoting their brand and its products.
“During the quiet period we had to capture every single relevant social mention related to this potential merger,” explains Thom. “That meant monitoring every single brand account and deploying filters within our Sprinklr social media system to make sure teams weren't publishing posts directly or indirectly related to the merger.”
“We also put together guidance for senior executives, guidance for our employees, guidance for our account managers on what could, and in most cases couldn't, be said,” says Thom. If they found any of those mentions — from any of those sources — they would file the results daily with the SEC.
— Dell EMC (@DellEMC) September 7, 2016
As for the announcement planning itself, Thom describes it as a huge, collaborative undertaking across Marketing and the Chief Customer Office that marked the first opportunity for EMC and Dell employees to work in tandem.
“We were bringing together about 400 social media accounts combined across Dell and EMC,” Thom explains. “Think of it as at 6:59 AM you're two companies and at 7:00 AM you have to somehow execute the rebranding aesthetically, textually, and within the URLs of your 400 social accounts.”
Their first challenge was dealing with the sheer breadth of changes that Thom and his team managed. “The process was less about social media and more about change management,” says Thom. “We have some of the most talented social strategists in the industry, but managing change is an entirely different world.”
But the biggest challenge they overcame with the merger was putting together the combined social team. “Everyone had a different point of view or feeling or story coming into the merger,” says Thom. “Beyond building our social strategy, there was a lot of culture that needed to take shape early on.”
The whole process leading up to the launch moment took months of planning.
You need to make sure very early on that people understand what their roles are in the new organization.
It began with what they wanted the new brand to look like aesthetically and moved into how different social elements would support their new brand narrative. “And that takes months because you're dealing with uncharted territories — new brand names, new brand guidelines,” says Thom. “Dell Technologies wasn't even an entity before the merger so we had to establish a whole new social presence for one of our brands.”
But Dell and Dell EMC social managers delivered on the official brand changes in a pretty remarkable span of time. “While it's hyperbole to say at one minute we were legacy branded and the next minute we were future-branded, I would say I think we achieved the social branding turnaround that we wanted within three hours of time that morning,” says Thom. “That exceeded my expectations. I'm really proud of the team.”
And as for the advice he'd give for successfully navigating a merger?
But just as social media always changes, so too must our approach.
“You need to make sure very early on that people understand what their roles are in the new organization,” says Thom. “When there was initial ambiguity — and there inevitably is in mergers — the earlier someone understands a new team's charter and scope, the more easily and quickly they can understand their fit.”
More than anything, though, Thom stresses that a merger is an ongoing process. “Even at a year and a half past our Day 1 announcement, we are still fine-tuning our social approach,” explains Thom. “You have to prioritize the things that you're going to integrate and the things you are going to consolidate. And there is still plenty of work to do even after you address your top priorities.”
“I don't think anyone brings together a new team or company and says after a year, ‘That was perfect, and the model is still perfect,'” explains Thom. “It's important to always take stock and make sure a team's model evolves well with the demands of an organization. In our case, the Dell social business team has made considerable progress in our first year and half. But just as social media always changes, so too must our approach.”