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 playbooks, agendas, and guidelines for conducting announcement, day one, and benefit meetings. Plus, our presentations and articles (more than twenty) explain M&A communication planning best practices. And our eMerger software offers step-by-step instruction on how to develop an integration communication plan.

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Expect These M&A Questions
Expect These M&A Questions

The deal will create numerous questions in the minds of stakeholders. By anticipating their concerns in advance, you’ll be better prepared to address them. We have compiled lists from our M&A integration consulting projects of the most common questions asked by:

  • Employees
  • Customers
  • Vendors/Suppliers
  • Community
  • Media

Common Employee Questions

We refer to the first ten questions on the list as “me issues”  because they are focused on the most common personal concerns of employees. Until these “me issues” are resolved, people are …

Employee Communications Playbook - $3 Billion Acquisition
Employee Communications M&A Integration Playbook - $3 Billion Acquisition

Seventeen-page playbook includes communication tips, talking points, letter, and answers to 45 FAQs. The document makes the job of sharing accurate, timely, consistent information with employees much easier.

Will offices or other facilities be closed?

For the time being there will be no changes and we will continue to go to market as we have in the past. We will begin immediately to get to know each other and develop plans to combine our businesses in the most effective way. As we make business decisions over time, we’ll work closely with our employees, customers and suppliers to ensure smooth transitions. 

Will I lose my job?

Changes may come, but not right away. As with any merger or acquisition, we know there will be some job changes and some overlap that will result in job eliminations. How many and where will take a bit more time to work through. Most people’s jobs won’t change, but others may end up with new or different responsibilities, or may report to someone new. The number and extent of job changes and reductions will depend on the unique needs of each business and department. We expect some reductions may happen within the first 90 days, and others may take longer as we integrate systems and businesses.

Our commitment to you is that we will outline a high-level process and timeline for finalizing the organizational structure within the next 30 days that will help people know what to expect ...