Mergers and acquisitions are one of the trickier situations for PR folks to navigate. Change is never easy – but you can take control of the narrative. Time is of the essence, and it falls on the communication team to update the messaging, announce the deal and keep tabs on both internal and external sentiments. The key is to ensure trust and credibility in both brands don’t dip – while reassuring customers and other stakeholders that it’s business as usual and that this means better products and services – in the long run.
If you are in this unique situation – take a deep breathe – and read on.
Connect the dots
Communications teams are often the first to the roped in just before the merger is legally inked. The first task is to connect with core team members including key executives and communications colleagues from both brands; choosing channels carefully to avoid any news leaks with strict non-disclosure agreements reinforced. The communications team should identify if there has already been talks or rumours in the media – carefully mapping out key journalists and titles for the official announcement roll out. Needless to say, any ongoing campaigns or communications should be on pause.
Map Out Messaging
As two become one, the core team need to collaborate and map out a fresh narrative for the merger. The new direction needs to be clearly articulated with key messages need to address all potential stakeholder concerns. A press release, speech and holding statements together with extensive FAQs will form the foundation of the roll out plan. All spokespeople should be briefed with a media training session to help them navigate tough questions.
Just before rolling out the communications externally, coordinate with team leads to announce the merger internally. It’s important to check the tone and humanise the message – with sincere platforms such as a town hall with a senior executive, followed by smaller group sessions that would help open up conversations to address any questions. This announcement may bring up insecurities as employees fear a reorganisation – and if larger changes are in the works; change management specialists should be brought in to help.
On top of sharing a press announcement, the communications team should pick a media outlet or two for key interviews. Here’s where the initial research comes in handy, as the team should pick a credible, neutral source that was not skewed in publishing initial speculations. The spokesperson representing the new merged brand will need to brace for incoming media queries – stick to the fresh messaging and help address any concerns.
Listen & Reinforce
Once the news is out, the communications team will need to step up monitoring for new sentiments and message pick-up both in news sources as well as social media. This will help them reinforce or tweak the narrative to land better. This is only the beginning – and it usually takes companies between six months to several years to complete a merger. In the meantime, the team needs to keep a pulse on the sentiments and roll out larger campaigns that will cement the new narrative.
There’s no one size fits all plan – but these basic blocks would help put a PR plan in place.
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