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Avoiding Messy Mergers – The Three Cs

Jeff Watt | 01.07.2024

The merging of agencies has become a notable feature of the PR landscape, whether driven by a need to open new markets, extend a service offer, or simply the result of a difficult economic environment.

The path to completing a successful merger is never easy, with many obstacles (seen and unforeseen) likely to occur along the way. But before the happy news sees the light of day, much needs to happen behind closed doors to avoid a messy merger.

Paying attention to three key Cs – culture, communication and clients – can help to keep things clean.


An agency is a living collection of personalities, ideas, creativity, values and spirit. It is not just about systems or processes, revenue or profit. The most important element of any agency is its culture, and by association its people.

Bringing two agencies together is not simply about combining two inanimate entities, but rather bringing together a group of talented and diverse people. Understanding this is fundamental to making a merger a success.

Accepting that any merger will bring disparate elements across agency cultures is key. A focus on culture ensures respecting these differences and making the sum better than its parts.




Fostering the culture of the newly merged agency brings us to the next ‘C’ – communication.

Being transparent with staff about the ‘what, why and when’ is vital.

When staff hear about plans to bring two businesses together, rumours will inevitably spread. Some people may worry about their future, and that of the business.  Information vacuums can become filled with speculation and untruths. It is vital to share information in full – if there are to be redundancies or new hires, how many and of what nature?

So, it is important for everyone impacted to be kept in the loop, with the goal being to prevent staff anxiety and knocks to team morale, culture, and productivity.




Last but not least, the final ‘C’ of our merger triumvirate – clients.

It goes without saying – clients are an agency’s lifeblood. Thinking carefully about how a merger will impact them is a significant consideration. It is vital to understand their priorities and concerns, anticipate how they might react, and mitigate potential issues.

It’s important to note that the impact on each client may not be uniform. For some, it might be business as usual. For others, it could give them access to new resources and skills. But for a few, it might mean in essence a change of agency or account – something they hadn’t asked for.

Unsurprisingly, clients don’t generally welcome upheaval in their agencies. Time must be invested in reassuring, stabilising and re-building client relationships where needed.

Most mergers are designed to create a better offer to clients. A merger can create a unique opportunity to deliver a positive message to all clients about the future.


Mergers aren’t easy but paying attention to the three Cs can give you the best chance at avoiding a messy merger, helping to create a smooth transition to a new, cohesive and successful agency.

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