Zen and the Art of Merger Communication

It is the new normal in American business. Acquisitions, mergers and consolidations are a fact of corporate life. Whether you’re a startup or a Fortune 500 firm, the odds of experiencing one of these events are good and getting better. According to accounting giant Deloitte, “Corporate and private equity executives foresee an acceleration of merger and acquisition activity in 2018.”1

Whatever part you play in the transaction—acquirer or acquired, this is the time for great and clear communication. What are the essential dos and don’ts of merger messaging?

Here are our top 6.

company merger1. What’s your story?

Rather than a recitation of facts and bottom-line financial benefits, craft a story. Part history, part economics lesson and part vision-casting, your story should paint a picture. It should include what brought the parties involved to this place, the most pertinent and impactful numbers and, most importantly, some picture of the future. Everyone—and especially employees—wants you to answer this question: “What’s in it for me?”

Consider your stakeholders. Take the time to prepare a compelling story. Tell it well.

2. Have a plan

The communication plan needs to be formulated well in advance of the actual event—before there is even certainty that it will occur. Create a timeline for communication, with the understanding that there must be flexibility. Formulate an action plan that includes both parties in the transaction. Assign key roles and responsibilities.

Plan to utilize various communication styles and channels. Hold meetings, utilize your website, intranet and printed materials. The multi-channel approach will reach a high percentage of your stakeholders.

3. Equip your front line

Employees will seek information from people they trust and work with every day. As a part of your communication plan, make sure that your front-line managers are kept up to date with the latest information. Treat them as insiders and equip them so they are comfortable with what to say—and, also, what not to say.

4. Prepare for rumors

The news will get out. It almost always does. Determine how you will handle leaks, and who will be the point person. Consider preparing messaging and materials in advance to address rumors quickly when they surface.

5. Answer questions openly

One of the most effective ways to combat rumors is to be as honest and up-front as possible when questions come your way. Anticipate the questions you’re likely to field and create an FAQ. As questions are received from stakeholders, incorporate them into a Q&A document that can be regularly updated. When you receive questions that cannot yet be answered, give your audience a status report or a date when you will know more. Creating a master FAQ will also ensure that language is consistent across executives and managers.

6. Tell the story again . . . and again

Once the merger is official, the need for further communication is over, right? Wrong.

The proposed union may have been ratified, but the success of that union is far from guaranteed. In fact, the crucial blending of systems and culture is still ahead. Much must be accomplished to secure the benefits of this union for customers and employees. Talent and sales may be lost if you do not continue to talk about the progress, the challenges and the reasons for the merger.

Issue regular progress reports after effective date of the union. In these reports, highlight the headway you are making at unifying both systems and cultures. When a glitch occurs—and it will—apologize to both customers and employees. Thank them for their patience, and spell out the steps being taken to correct the problem.

Even after the vote is taken and all the official papers are signed, keep telling your customers and employees why you did what you did. Don’t assume they remember. This persistence in communication will give you the “honeymoon” you need to get your unified organization on an even keel and growing into the future.

If your business needs help communicating change or even initiating a communication plan, put VistaComm’s expertise to work. Call 844-453-9261 to begin the conversation. And remember, digital communication is immediate and effective, especially in merger situations.

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  1. Deloitte, The state of the deal: M&A trends 2018, Deloitte.com, https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/mergers-and-acquisitions/articles/ma-trends-report.html