Tips for a successful merger or acquisition

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A merger or acquisition is a sensitive process for all parties involved. Misinformation can abound, egos can be bruised and business relationships can be damaged.
One major cause of problems for companies are rumors and misconceptions that can run rampant through all levels of employees and stakeholders, as well as communities surrounding the businesses. Preventing inaccurate information from spreading is vital to all parties involved.
Communications planning should happen well in advance of an announcement, even though actual communication may occur a week, a few days or even hours before or proceeding a closed deal.
Implementing a transparent communications program ensures that employees and the marketplace understand exactly how the deal affects them. Without transparency, employees and stakeholders begin to lose confidence in the new company.
Both groups want all their questions answered, and they want them answered yesterday. Flawless response time and communication routes are crucial to effectively ease the concerns of employees, investors, vendors, customers and even the media.
Quick, precise response
Companies must prepare to beat fast-paced social media and text rumors, as soon as a merger or acquisition seems imminent. Management should immediately identify “key messages” that contain useful and comprehensive information.
Initiating a proactive strategy — including face-to-face meetings with those most affected by the deal, a schedule of updates and a plan for 11th-hour changes — is essential to create a smooth transition process.
Nothing is worse than having your employees find out about a major change in the company from acquaintances. Why didn’t anyone at work inform them? Will they lose their jobs? Will their co-workers lose their jobs? What about benefits packages? These concerns should be addressed before the rumor mill kicks into action.
Internal communications
When announcing a merger or acquisition, it’s imperative to provide accurate information and avoid making promises that cannot be kept. If management takes the time to discuss the deal’s benefits and drawbacks, employees are more likely to respond positively, instead of resisting change.
Employees expect straightforward and honest information about what the deal means for them. Anticipate questions that may arise and have a solid answer for each. Regular updates should be communicated through management, question-and-answer sessions, staff meetings and company newsletters and emails.
External communications
Alerting employees should be the top priority, but other stakeholders — customers, vendors, community members and other key audiences — are equally important. Communicating with key media outlets allows a company to better control the message by providing information directly to the media, rather than allowing misinformed sources to speculate about the deal.
The perfect mix for internal and external communication plans involves early and comprehensive communications planning, implementing communications quickly when ready, utilizing all available communication routes and delivering clear and accurate messages.

Companies that make communications plans a priority during a merger or acquisition will emerge from the process as an organization that stakeholders, employees and the media can trust.

Kelly Borth is the CEO and chief strategy officer of GREENCREST, a 25-year-old brand development, strategic and interactive marketing and public relations firm that turns market players into industry leaders™. Kelly is one of 35 certified brand strategists in North America and works with companies to establish brands and build brand value for their businesses.