Step 7: Develop M&A Communication Plans

M&A communication planning is difficult because a merger is always a fast-breaking story.  Every day brings new developments. The truth is a moving target, and often dead on arrival.

Rumors start to fly as soon as people pick up the scent that a merger is in the works.   This is high drama.  Hot stuff.   Everybody has an opinion, and all the rules of gossip prevail.  In this tense environment, it is easy for messages to be misinterpreted, twisted, or exaggerated.

Communication planning requires much more thought in a merger than it does during more stable, less stressful circumstances. Yet, most key managers receive little education on what to say, and just as importantly, what not to say. There is little opportunity for them to make an insignificant remark. Practically everything they communicate is taken seriously, studied for innuendo, or held up to the light for subtle implications. Just because a comment from an executive is well-intentioned doesn’t mean that it is effective.

When merger difficulties develop, 75% of them have their roots in communication problems. In fact, at the very time company communication needs to be better than ever, it’s often at its worst. And the trouble is that communication problems never seem to remain just communication problems. They end up causing productivity and morale declines and—eventually—profitability problems. Work becomes more frustrating and stressful for everyone.

A well-crafted communication plan can help reduce employee anxiety and cynicism, protect the acquirer's credibility, and prevent top management from being accused of reneging on its promises.

In this section, we list the questions to expect from different constituencies and the proper information to convey to each. We also provide PowerPoint communications planning presentations, examples of Day 1 communications, plus communication playbooks, best practices, and tools.

M&A Communication Planning Presentations

M&A Communications Prior to Day 1

M&A Communciations Day 1

M&A Communication Playbooks

Merger Communications Best Practices

Communication Advice From A Hit Man
Communication Advice From A Hit Man

You’ve probably never heard of a guy named Robert Valentine Braddock. He’s a hit man who hangs out in Tennessee, and he has a killer reputation.

Now to be clear, Bobby Braddock’s fame is in the world of country music. His hits are songs, and they have made him a living legend on Music Row in Nashville.

Bobby is the only living songwriter who’s had at least one song reach the top of Billboard’s country chart in every decade for five decades running. He has written some thirteen #1 hits, and was inducted as the youngest living member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1981.

Country artist Toby Keith recorded the biggest hit of his career with a Braddock song. It’s not about mergers. But the words to the chorus should be tattooed onto the brain of executives. Maybe then they’d remember the song when talking to their employees about being acquired and merged.

Bobby’s lyrics describe precisely what employees want their boss to talk about. The words go like this:

“I wanna talk about me, wanna talk about I

Wanna talk about number one, oh my me my...”

Instead, top management is typically preoccupied with trying to sell the workforce on the wonderfulness of the deal. They talk and talk and talk. The employees may listen, but really what they’re dying to hear is how they’ll personally be affected by the merger. They want to know, “Will I still have a job? Who will I report to? What will happen to my pay and benefits?” and so on.

“I Wanna Talk About Me” was #1 on the charts for five weeks back in 2001. And no question about it—the “me issues” will be #1 in the minds of your people when they’re being acquired and merged.

That’s what you should talk about if you want to be a hit with your people.

M&A Communication Tools