Step 7: Develop M&A Integration 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 percent 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.