Companies often make communications for a merger a low priority compared to the seemingly more pressing operational issues. Not a great plan, as research into mergers has shown that effective communication for the merger and acquisition (M&A) journey is key to the ultimate success of the merger. Importantly, merger communication can only be truly effective, if it can properly explain and engage all stakeholders with the “why”. In getting the M&A process right, it is very often about the WHAT, HOW and WHEN – in this second part of our M&A series, we talk about the importance of communicating the WHY.
All merger communications need to be based on a set of core messages arising from three things: the reason or rationale for the M&A, the employee value proposition (EVP), and the associated change story. The rationale is an explanation of why the merger is taking place and what value will emerge as a result. The EVP describes why the M&A will provide a range of opportunities for employees – note careful language needs to be used here, as in some restructure situations, jobs will be lost. Lastly, the change story needs to describe what must be done to ensure that the M&A delivers value, and why the merger departs from “business as usual.”
The core messages around these three areas must also be specifically tailored for each group of stakeholders; external – customers, shareholders/investors, business partners/suppliers; and the very important internal group, the employees. It is within this area of communicating to stakeholders, that Change2020 can assist with developing the right set of strong core messages that outline the value proposition that works for each group.
Change2020, has a number of senior consultants who are experts in this space – one such expert is Ms Tracey Wright who has extensive experience in M&As, in particular establishing a corporate communications function areas for a merger of three large corporations. Tracey outlines the importance of getting the “why” out in all merger communications.
“Explaining the reason why the merger is happening must be the very first step in the communication process. Communications should have targeted messaging, explaining why it is good for the customers, the employees and why it is good for the business.”Tracey Wright
People are generally attached to their employer’s brand and have invested time, effort and loyalty in the business. It’s really important to show empathy and to ensure you understand the sensitivities around mergers and/or acquisitions for those experiencing it. For employees, M&As bring uncertainty, they can be confronting and an emotional time. To help minimise this, it’s vital to consult thoroughly with stakeholders, asking for their opinions, acknowledging their perspective and experience and taking them on the journey.
The next step is then to be very transparent in the following communications, as to what is going to change and how people are likely to be impacted. Special attention also needs to be made to communications to illustrate that the leaders are aware of how people will be affected. Employees need to know that they have been considered.”
Change2020 works with communications teams to create the core messages and assist CEO and leadership teams to develop and clearly articulate the vision and value of the M&A, and importantly the “why”. As a part of this process, Change2020 also supports leaders and their senior teams with the tools and resilience needed to take their people through the M&A process. Change can generate uncertainty, fear, and disengagement. So, during the turbulent times of the merger process, leaders need to focus on providing clarity, rather than confusion.