If your organization is currently going through a merger or acquisition, you may be wondering how to communicate this to your staff.
When should I tell my entire workforce? What should I say? What touch-points should I have in my communication plan?
And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
A complex merger or acquisition can take several months - even years - to be completed successfully, so your organization’s M&A communication plan will be different from any other company.
Even though your communication plan will be different from plans that other organizations create, it will still be as equally important to the success of the M&A transaction.
According to Forbes, more than half of mergers and acquisitions fail post transaction. There are several reasons for this, including lack of knowledge about valuation, lack of understanding about value drivers, and cultural misfits.
Want to know another huge reason that mergers and acquisitions fail?
Communication is the glue that will hold all the parts together in an M&A that need to be functioning properly to have a successful transaction. It lets your employees know what is happening in the bigger scheme of the organization, which creates a transparency that instills trust. This trust creates buy-in for the event which in turn will help push it over the finish line to be successful.
So, as stated above, not all communications plans will be the same. But all communications plans will have similar things in them….
And that is where we come in.
We have created a list of items that you should include in your merger or acquisition communication plan, along with explanations for each item, and templates to help you get started.
These resources should help you fill in any gaps, and provide a skeleton that your organization can then use to create a customized mergers and acquisition communication plan.
What Should Be Included in an M&A Communication Plan?
Well, to be honest-- a lot.
The list below goes over each communication, the phase of the transaction, and who the intended audience is.
Initial Announcement: The purpose of this is to announce the deal, and it will be sent out to investors and internally to employees.
Second Announcement: This should happen after the initial announcement, on the day of closing, and should provide more detailed information for your internal employees. There should also be a copy of this for external use sent out to the press.
Closing Letters to All Impacted Stakeholders: This should happen after signing the deal and will be sent out to customers, vendors, partners, suppliers, etc.
Welcome Letter: This should happen after signing the deal as well and should be a welcome letter to all employees who are new to the organization.
HR Updates: This should happen after the closing of the deal and should include information for employees in regards to changes to their benefits, compensation, etc. There is no set timeline and your organization may need to send out an HR update multiple times as decisions are made about your people strategy.
Ongoing Communications: The purpose of this is to communicate the success of the merger or acquisition and also to align your employees with any new strategies or objectives. Since most mergers and acquisitions fail, this ongoing communication to keep your new band of employees aligned and working towards one goal will greatly improve your chances of success.
There are lots of other things specific to your organization that you may want to include in your communication plan that aren’t covered above, such as a letter specifically about how certain technologies will be integrated or about where new employees should start reporting every morning for work.
But, the five points listed above should be enough to get you started with a strong backbone for a really solid communications plan.
Now, let’s jump into each communication more thoroughly and explore templates…
The initial announcement will be responsible for letting your investors and employees know that you are currently working on closing a merger or acquisition. The announcement should include the following information:
- Details about the companies
- Transaction effective date
- Reason for the merger or acquisition
- Goals, impacts, and new objectives of this transaction
- Information on the specific business being merged or acquired (What do they do? What do they sell?)
- Any quotes from involved parties, such as the CEO, or other relevant people involved in the merger and acquisition deal
- Updated logistical information, such as a new website, location, or logo
- Contact information for a press representative at your organization
- Boilerplate legal information
It is important to let your employees know earlier rather than later about a merger or acquisition. Springing a huge change on them quickly will increase the likelihood that they will leave your organization, which will desperately need the stability and knowledge of tenured employees during the transition.
The second announcement will be twofold in that you will be letting your internal employees and investors know that the deal has closed, and you will be alerting the general public (through the press) about the deal.
For your internal employees, the information should be very similar to that of the initial announcement, but with more information about the actual closing. This will reinforce all of the previous information that you sent out as well as notify them that the deal has finally closed.
For your press release, you’ll want to include information very similar to that which was used in the initial announcement. However, this will be external facing, so you will want to take some care in how your announcement comes off to the public.
Internal vs external communication is very different!
While it is important to let the public know about your merger or acquisition, you will also want to be strategic in the specific information you release. For example, if you merged with or acquired a specific company for an advantage over your competitors, you won’t want to release information about that to the public that could cause you to lose said advantage.
Closing (Notification) Letter
This letter will be sent out to all of your impacted stakeholders that aren’t your investors, employees, or the press. This could be your vendors, clients, partners, or suppliers. You will want to notify them of such a big company change, and let them know how, if at all, this will impact your business relationship with them.
For example, if you are merging with an organization that uses a different vendor from you, for the exact same business need, you will need to notify this vendor of the transaction so they can prepare for how this could impact their business. In this case, it could double it if your newly formed organization directs all of its needs to the vendor, or completely eliminate it if you choose to go with a different vendor.
Here is the information you need to provide to your stakeholders in this letter:
- Notification of the M&A deal
- What date it will become effective
- The reasoning for the merger
- How it will impact their business
- Any new services that you will be able to provide them (for clients)
- Logistical information (new location, website, etc)
- Contact information in case of questions
It is so important in a merger or acquisition for the CEO to send out a welcome letter to employees. Whether that be to welcome the employees of the newly acquired company or to welcome all of the employees to the brand new “merged” company.
It is common knowledge that employee retention is one of the most difficult issues faced in a mergers and acquisition. Having a welcome letter is a great way to start an open dialogue of honesty and transparency with new employees, as well as to create an inviting culture that will hopefully assist with retention issues.
This letter will be sent out to all employees at the new organization to let them know how this merger or acquisition will impact their specific employment.
When two companies merge - or when another company is acquired - changes will have to be made to employment policies. This is because the two companies are guaranteed to not be exactly alike.
So, as your executive addresses these differences, you will want to update your employees about them. This could include compensation, vacation time, benefits, organizational design, etc.
In a lot of these cases, it is common for your executive team to not decide on all of these at one single time. Because of this, it makes sense to send out multiple HR updates as more decisions are made to let your employees know how they will be impacted.
Just remember to include:
- New policies, benefits, or changes
- Impacts on previous policies, benefits
- Contact person in HR for more information
Most mergers and acquisitions fail over the long run when compared to the objectives they were suppose to achieve. A huge reason for this is a lack of communication and alignment between all involved parties.
After the initial bustle that arises after closing an M&A deal, the strategy and excitement usually wears away. Your employees don’t hear about the success or the failures of this new venture, so they don’t have any way to stay motivated to see its continued success.
This is were ongoing communication is useful. Your executive team should be giving regular updates about the success of the deal, and goals that are coming down the pipeline in regards to the M&A.