I’d be thanking Marissa Mayer if I did PR for an HR firm...

Yahoo logoIf I did PR for an HR firm then I'd be paying very close attention to Marissa Mayer's buying habits since she started as CEO at Yahoo! a year ago this month.

Mayer's been brought in from 'bigger boy' Google to help build Yahoo! into a major search contender again. While its news service remained strong, Google has led the search market, successfully and quickly expanding into mobile technology, ensuring the dominance of its search engine.

So what's Mayer's chief tactic been? While not being privy to what takes place behind the scenes (although I do have an inside contact at Yahoo! who claims to have seen a Mayer ankle as she visited the floor above him one day) her main strategy has been acquisition. So far this year she’s filled her shopping basket with 16 companies – this week saw the acquisition  of email software pioneer Xobni for a price rumoured to be upwards of $30 million, and in the first year of Mayer’s rule she also oversaw the search giant’s largest purchase ever - $1.1 billion for blogging site Tumblr.

But what does all this mean from an HR PR perspective?

Every B2B PRO is constantly on the lookout for the next big story to use as a hook for their clients. Once news breaks it’s a case of researching the story in an effort to come up with the most interesting contributions your client can make to the story.

The Yahoo! acquisition tale is useful for a couple of reasons:

1) It’s not just one acquisition. Phoning a journalist and offering comment on a story that they’ve already written about is a PR sin. BUT, Mayer’s like a kid in a candy shop and after the third or fourth acquisition any PRO worth their salt would have thought, “At this rate she’s bound to buy someone else”.

At which point they work on comment from their HR client which considers the effect of rapid mergers and acquisitions on incumbent Yahoo! staff, or the best way to bring new staff up to speed with Yahoo! culture, or how best to organise incoming management to ensure their abilities are maximised as they become part of a much larger workforce. Once the comment’s been signed off you lay in wait for the next Mayer purchase (after sensibly setting up Google Alerts, following Mayer’s blog etc., to ensure you know about the acquisition at the same time as anyone else) and BOOM it’s only bloody Tumblr – bish, bash, bosh – you’ve contacted and pushed the comment from your client at all the journalists that have written about the previous purchases. Before you know it, you’re drowning in a sea of national print, broadcast (if your client has a media trained spokesperson) and leading tech press media coverage, and your client thinks you’re the next Max Cliff... no wait, Lord Bel... no wait, your client  thinks you’re the best PR thing since the invention of the press release.

2) It’s a huge name. This makes it a great topic and means it’s much more likely the HR press will be writing about it. Basically, take the themes from the comments you’ve prepared and expand them into well structured opinion pieces. As with the comments, if the journo feels it isn’t timely then wait for the next acquisition, change the minor details, and offer it around again.

That’s what I’d do anyway. Naturally once coverage has been secured I’d advise using it to engage the client’s social media communities, but this is a PR first, social media second type scenario as it’s a reactive as opposed to a proactive opportunity.

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