How important is it to have a robust & comprehensive communication plan or strategy?
Having a structured and comprehensive communication plan is essential to the success of a merger. It is extremely crucial to have a communication strategy that is clear, concise and can help separate the truth from the myths.
The communication plan, if paid enough attention to, can both inform and influence key stakeholders throughout the merger time-line with each phase requiring its very own communication focus. It is also an opportunity for the integration team and the executive leadership to shape a targeted communication plan that can reinforce the deal rationale and the driving values, every step of the way.
Motivating the employee base, nipping attrition waves in the bud, and engaging vendors and clients are critical areas where communication takes the center stage.
Balancing external & internal communication is indispensable to the success of an M&A deal
The success of every M&A deal depends on the ability of the merged organization to emerge as a unified whole.
The communication team begins work almost immediately after the birth of the idea, proactively navigating through the trials and tribulations of the first announcement. It is advisable to keep the messaging simple and consistent. Communicate the same message, reinforced through several channels of communication, and avoid offering employees multiple information bits that might create turbulence. It is also important to ensure that employees view these new developments as an opportunity and not a threat. Communication goes a long way in developing that narrative.
Key elements & core strategies to help you make the most of your communication strategy
Identify the gaps & bridge them through communication
Extremely professional, brief, and routine messaging may serve some purpose but it leaves out a glaring lacuna in the form of unanswered questions and problems that ultimately culminate into major challenges for the organization. It isn’t an unknown fact that sudden uniformed changes can impact employee morale and the productive capability of the organization as a whole, leading to more damage than value addition. Some key questions to answer are, what is going to change and how is the organization planning to accommodate the said changes? Will employees be laid off? And how would leadership position and hierarchy be impacted? What processes would be followed and what steps would be taken to unify both the corporate cultures?
Account for the unforeseen & build the action plan into the communication strategy, right at the beginning
A complete communication plan should also account for the possibility of news leaks. A lot of companies, regardless of their scale, suffer at the expense of fake news and rumors. A client or engaged stakeholder would prefer to receive important communication in their email inbox rather than their news feed. Thus, maintaining confidentiality becomes a given. With an M&A deal spanning several months, being prepared with approved responses in case of a leak saves much time and prevents chaos.
Build a 2-way communication plan that is uniform yet flexible & dynamic
It is always advisable to build a 2-way communication plan. The very purpose of the plan is to ensure everyone is on the same page and there is no cause for confusion. Having a well-laid-out plan that accounts for all eventualities is not a panacea to the communication dilemma. The plan has to be welcoming of feedback since feedback is a primary signal that can help employ corrective action before it gets too late. In fact, feedback can be analyzed and included in the plan itself for use during further stages of the integration process.
Identify key stakeholders and use a personalized & targeted approach
After the development of a broader communication strategy, it is pertinent to break it down and customize it according to the needs of the various stakeholders involved in the process. Stakeholders can broadly be categorized as external and internal. Having a basic template and framework and then going ahead and customizing it according to the relevant target (internal/external stakeholder) and also specific to the complexities of the deal can be an effective method to adopt. Generally speaking, in an integration project, external communication is involved only at closing and during the Day 1 M&A gate.
Use communication to highlight the positives & acknowledge the negatives
Human value is one of the key drivers and disruptors of value creation in an M&A deal. There is no avail in sugar-coating the fact that workforce disruptions are a part and parcel of M&As. There is the possibility of duplication of roles and consequently a tremor of doubts and suspicions among employees- be it change of culture, new management, losing their position, taking on more workload, and more. The role of a robust communication strategy is to acknowledge the current scenario and highlight new roles and opportunities that arise out of the merger. Genuine and transparent messaging instills a sense of trust and security and helps retain talent.
Think from an employee point of view
Communication is the power which when wielded strategically can make employees stay longer and if neglected or misunderstood, can give an unwanted impetus to attrition rates. Thus, it is crucial to think of what employees need to be aware of at each of the integration milestones. This will also help you pin-point integration stages where you can expect maximum resistance and plan for it well in advance to ensure the deal goes on smoothly.
A multi-channel iterative & action-based approach
Making use of a multitude of communication channels helps because each individual learns differently. The different channels could be infographics, circulars, etc. Also, paying close attention to how both companies individually received communication before the merger, and bringing in uniformity ensures that changes in the communication dynamics are received well. Following an action-based approach when communicating a key announcement not only minimizes anxiety among employees but also eliminates any twisting of information or speculation on future developments.
The level of disruption involved in M&A and the consequent impact on the firm undergoing the process can be made less adverse if the right plan of action and strategy is adopted. In an age that is exponentially moving towards AI and Automation, M&A deals cannot be excluded out of the ambit of innovation. Hence, we at Mergerware offer a secure digital-based platform that helps your company obtain maximum value out of a deal and helps you adopt a seamless and efficient M&A deal management and communication process. You can also refer to the M&A Integration Internal Communication Best Practices handbook on our website to get a glimpse of all the checkpoints you need to take care of when it comes to integrating internal communication for a deal. In case you need further assistance, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would love to help you out!
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