When a company embarks on a merger, acquisition or corporate restructuring, much of the focus of leadership is on the financial and legal aspects of the deal. But these deals also affect hundred or thousands of individuals – from employees, shareholders and customers to corporate partners and referral sources.
Often the need for a communications strategy is underestimated or completely overlooked in the flurry of other activity.
A lack of communication, or poor communication, during such a major change at a company often leads to negative outcomes both internally and externally. From bad press to employee strikes, effective communication can often mitigation or eliminate negative backlash before, during and after a merger.
Here are 6 best practices for communication during a merger or acquisition:
- Create a specific communications plan – Communication often ends up at the end of management’s priority list as they focus on the technical, legal, and financial aspects of the deal. As a communications professional, not only is it important to have a seat at the table, but to arrive there with a thorough and thoughtful strategy.
- Identify all audiences – Think beyond the obvious audiences who will be affected. Consider both internal and external audiences who may not be top of mind, such as investors/stakeholders, partners, vendors, referral sources and media, among others.
- Create key messages for every audience–This will ensure that the company portrays a consistent and accurate voice on all levels. Messages should address all potential questions, concerns, and relevant next steps, which may be different for each audience. Communication that speaks to the specific needs of each audience is better received and ensure better cooperation throughout the process.
- Conduct spokesperson training – Well trained and well practices spokespersons ensure that key messages are seamlessly integrated into each interview. In addition to company spokespersons, consider managers as additional, internal spokespersons who also need to be trained so speak with staff about the change and answer any questions they may have.
- Make employees a priority – This may seem obvious, but often external communications becomes the focus and employee communications are neglected, causing internal unrest and unnecessary gossip. Communication departments should work closely with Human Resources to make sure managers are well informed and empowered to update their staff each step of the way.
- Make leadership accessible – A positive work environment is more likely when management makes an effort to listen to employees concerns and keep information from the top flowing down. This is also an effective way to build moral for the future.
These six tips showcase a few key communication tactics and concepts that should be considered during any major organizational change. While acquisition communication is essential, it’s also important to plant the post-acquisition communication tactics. Stay tuned for a future blog on that topic.