Nothing is more important during times of change than consistent communication and staying on message. Why? Because, when change occurs, humans seek clarity. However, when your audience hears an inconsistent story … doubt and confusion creep into their minds. Doubt and confusion cripple organizational performance. This is especially true when it comes to mergers and acquisitions.
A company’s M&A integration story is usually crystal clear to executives. And for good reason. Months leading up to an M&A transaction, the entire executive team eats, sleeps and dreams about the transaction and the implications associated with it. They are well-versed in the strategic rationale, business value, cultural implications and customer impact. However, what most executive teams don’t do, is translate that knowledge into a clear, compelling and consistent story that is meaningful and relevant to employees, partners and customers.
This creates a very real and significant gap between the executive team and the rest of the organization. During the M&A integration process it’s easy for leaders to “assume” everyone knows what they know. But let’s be clear, they don’t.
That’s why having a clear, consistent M&A integration story that permeates the newly combined cultures and customer experience is so important. A story that translates the “transaction” into messages that are relevant and meaningful to employees, partners and customers.
It is important to note, executives only get one chance to shape the story. And that opportunity comes long before the first day the “transaction” is revealed to an internal audience. The story must be shaped and baked well out in front of this event. The story must be formulated from the “point of view” of each audience that will be impacted. It must address critical questions and provide these stakeholders with a sense of clarity and confidence in the path forward.
An M&A integration story usually answers questions like the following for all critical stakeholders (employees, partners, customers):
- What was the strategic rationale behind this transaction?
- What does it mean to our business and brand?
- How does it impact me short term?
- What does it mean long term?
- What is going to change?
- What’s not going to change?
- What are we supposed to communicate to employees and when?
- What are we supposed to communicate to partners and when?
- What are we supposed to communicate to customers and when?
- How does this event impact the vision, mission and values of the company?
- How does this impact our corporate messaging, positioning and value proposition?
These and so many other questions must be answered and then used to shape a story that creates clarity inside and outside of the organization. This story must find its way into a sustained, structured and strategic communication plan that breaks down the story into consumable chapters that are shared with stakeholders at specific stages of the integration process. Starting on Day 1 and continuing through Day 365.
An M&A integration story is the most overlooked and underutilized lever in the merger or acquisition process. No wonder lack of clear, consistent communication is one of the main reasons M&A transactions fail to deliver lasting value.
Maybe that is why an article in Europe Business Review stated, “A successful merger or acquisition comes from carefully combining employee engagement programs with a multi-layered strategy built around communication. With this at the center of the overarching strategy, organizations will have a better chance of bucking the merger and acquisition trend.”
As a C-suite executive, make no mistake about it, your M&A integration story matters.
How well you answer these questions, crystallize your messaging and deliver an intentional story inside and outside of your organization, will directly impact the ROI you will attain from your M&A transaction.