Rumour, gossip and misunderstanding can be major distractions when organisations merge. Using a clearly planned and executed communications strategy is vital if you want to minimise unnecessary disruption, according to Oliver Engert, Becky Kaetzler, Kameron Kordestani and Anish Koshy, writing for McKinsey Insights.
This means getting your communications team together as soon as conversations begin – not only to be ready to announce the deal, but to make sure information lines are open and accurate right through to execution.
The priority is to get correct and consistent messages about your future vision, and how it will be achieved, across to all stakeholders, inside and outside both businesses.
It’s important to keep employees well informed, reduce their anxieties to a minimum, maintain high staff morale and hang on to your most talented team members. Likewise, it’s vital to reassure customers, sales teams and regulators of your continued commitment.
The authors say that having a strong communications plan in place, and starting to spread the word early on in the merger process, will have a big influence on how seamlessly it is achieved.
There will be peaks and lulls of information sharing through the phases of initial design and ramp-up, official announcement, pre-close integration planning and day one of the merger and the subsequent unification. These variations can be worked into the plan, and additional resources pulled in when needed.
Here’s are six steps the authors advocate for building and executing the best communications plan possible:
1)Work out who your key stakeholders are and create targeted messages for each group. Externally these could include investors, financial analysts, customers, vendors, regulatory bodies and officials, as well as the public. Internally they are your employees, who naturally divide into groups with different priorities – from high performers to imminent retirees. Don’t forget the importance of unions or other workers representatives.
2) Map out the milestones and major markers of the merger process. It’s important that communicators set out a timeline of potential priorities, particularly organisational trigger events, such as leadership announcements. This will help keep the communications team focused.
3)Establish clear governance processes, as well as defined roles and responsibilities. Roles should include: an integration steering committee to set the overall approach; an integration leader to oversee the plan; a communications leader to control delivery of the plan; and a communications team – the people actually delivering messages and receiving feedback.
4)Devise strong core messages backed up by a consistent underlying narrative. These should be rooted in the rationale of the merger deal and offer appropriate, positive, motivational stories.
5)Make detailed plans for each step of the journey. Decide how and when you will deliver the messages to each stakeholder group so that they sink in. Remember the key role played by social media.
6)Create two-way feedback channels. Communication needs to be a two-way street – something that is often forgotten in the grand plan. Make sure doors are open for people to give their opinions and be prepared to answer and act upon criticisms.
A SMOOTH OUTCOME
Good communications are a vital tool in every well-executed merger. Putting a strong plan in place as soon as the idea is mooted will help to bind the whole process together and ensure a smooth outcome.