By Komal Mishra, communications specialist at Active DMC
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) can often create uncertainties and discomfort for employees and stakeholders. An effective and accurate communications strategy can ease some of this stress. Without it- you run the risk of rumors, perplexed brand messaging, disappointed employees and distrustful customers.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure a smooth transition:
- Delay is equal to damage– Companies often involve their communications team at a later stage, without realizing that this may lead to a long term or even permanent damage. Delay in communications also tends to cause confusion during post-merger integration. So, don’t wait for your communications team to step-in when the ink dries on the deal.
- Confidentiality is a must– It’s no surprise that M&A news travels faster than the speed of light -sometimes even earlier than expected. This is where your PR team steps in to help keep announcements behind the curtain and control the messaging to the external audience.
- Consistency is the key– While it’s important that the key messages are uniquely tailored to each audience, the messages must be consistent, to avoid misunderstanding.
- It’s not a one-day show– For a seamless communication process, it’s critical to develop unified messaging, tailored to each audience and set objectives for the coming months. You can expect the audience to take some time to absorb your new brand positioning.
- Social media messaging – Before creating a social media strategy ask yourself: How many times do I need to talk to my audience about the change? Make sure you don’t beat them over the head with too many reminders. Additionally, don’t miss out on monitoring messages and responding to questions throughout the merger. It’s not ideal to leave your audience unattended!
Your external audiences include not only your clients but also the public at large. It will take the right consultancy, strong messaging and time to change their present image of your brand. Your PR agency is more than a mere press release distributor, and not involving them early on, will only increase the risk of having a poor transition thereby affecting your company’s image.
While external communications cannot be ignored, internal announcements are just as crucial. Your employees are your biggest asset. If you keep them happy, they will, in turn, keep your customers happy- which results in success for the company. So how to communicate with your internal audience?
- Create awareness instead of letting people speculate: Avoid any sort of internal speculations, rumors, and doubts. Sharing information, being transparent and open about your plans play a huge role in your credibility. It builds a lot of trust in the eyes of your employees when you keep them updated with what is going on. It will also help avoid any panic amongst your internal stakeholders. Employees feel more secure when they are involved in management decisions.
- Inside-out approach: Before sending out a press release to the media, it would be worth informing your important internal stakeholders i.e. employees. This would also help create a buzz in the market. Your employees will communicate this to the customers thereby amplifying the noise you need to make.
- Avoid any un-planned exits and resignations: Always sort out internal employees and stakeholder issues before things get out of hand. The last thing you need is your chief strategy officer announcing his resignation on LinkedIn suddenly after the merger announcement.
- Company values, traditions and culture: When a merger or an acquisition is about to happen, it is important to let your employees know about the upcoming changes. Here, it’s also important not to forget the core company values, traditions, and culture. If employees need to adapt to any new policies- educate and empower them to own up to the changes, and give them enough time to do so.
Utilization of both your in-house and external communications and marketing agencies can help ensure the right kind of message is being sent across. which in turn will help increase your brand value in multiples.
Opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author.