How to Strategically Navigate Any Merger or Acquisition Phase

Acquisitions tend to put people on edge. Add to that a merger on the heels of COVID-19 and your team is feeling whiplashed. They just wanted to get back to normal and now you’re telling them more changes are ahead.

Communications and transparency can make it a smoother transition. Your team is hungry for a rally, so position your merger or acquisition for a strategically stable and bright future.

Your first steps will be blending company cultures, sales processes, brand messages and operations, which is a major first set of steps. The feeling of change alone can be disruptive to managing your investment for optimal returns, so having a plan is essential to success.

By leveraging communications and messaging, you have the opportunity to mitigate talent and revenue loss. Whether you’re acquiring another company or merging your operation into a larger organization to be better positioned for changing economies in post COVID-19, scaling operations, addressing talent pain points and customer demands, frequent communications can keep you moving quickly by building relationships and trust.

While sitting at the decision-making table, having a clear brand and communications strategy sets the tone for how smoothly your transition will be for your employees, customers and stakeholders. Having a plan will also determine how quickly you’re able to leverage your new market opportunity for desired growth and outcomes.

Controlling the message from within the C-suite is the starting point. From advising the leadership team to adhere to specific language to crafting clear and consistent plans of action, sticking to a plan will comfort your audiences through change. When leaders are in control of the message and their teams are aware of their conveyed intentions, you are able to move at the speed of trust.

Having a communications cadence provides a sense of safety that removes the clutter of concern.

Our team often hears executives state in hindsight that they wish they had a clearer communications plan in place before making an announcement of a merger or acquisition. Most realized an absence of proactive communications created more issues. They also  underestimated the power nuanced rhetoric has to sway behavior and how scarce information is as bad as misinformation.

Here on our blog, we frequently share how a proactive communications and brand valuation process can make or break a merging of cultures and customers.

Start Your Planning 

  1. What’s the message you want people to receive and recall?
  2. Define goals and roles for each audience in the transition
  3. Outline potential questions and concerns for all audiences to vet proper responses
  4. Have a timeline for all communications so that your employees, customers and stakeholders hear news from you first
  5. Plan to pivot

Essential Tips For Your Communications Plan 

  • Schedule communications to create a sense of control and safety, inclusive of regular communications to create a feeling of when to expect more information, even if just a confirmation of what’s already known
  • Internal communications should always be first
  • News travels fast, so have your customers hear it from you with the message you want them to receive
  • Don’t let too much time pass between releasing news to various audience segments – plan hours and days between information sharing, not weeks
  • Control the message with your “owned” and “shared” content platforms (i.e. website and social media, rather than solely relying on public relations with reporters or industry media)
  • Provide managers simplified messaging and tools, inclusive of FAQs, direct access to information and quick response interactions
  • Keep information simple and clutter-free
  • Plan onsite tours for executives to humanize the new company among employees – roll up those sleeves and host lunches, walk the floors and shake hands
  • Schedule internal and external content that delivers get-to-know information about the leadership team while affirming the value of the acquired company and team
  • Establish a feedback loop for managers to share information so that communications may pivot when needed
  • Never underestimate the power of communications cadence – when in doubt, communicate

Plan for Questions

The absence of information forces audiences to fill in the blanks with assumptions, so prepare to answer questions. We see the following as the top six questions that arise in merger and acquisition communications that can be problematic if not proactively addressed:

  1. Are you eliminating jobs?
  2. Will I have to move my desk?
  3. Will my pay or benefits change?
  4. What do I tell my customers?
  5. Will our prices or services change?
  6. Are you changing our name?

Some of these questions may make leaders uncomfortable as they want to avoid committing to what is unknown. This is where having consistent messaging that builds trust is essential.

In our next blog about M&A, we’ll talk about brand valuation and navigating brand consolidation. For more about developing an effective M&A communications strategy, contact the Gavin team today.