Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Transparency and Mergers

merger

When it comes to business growth, I have learned that communication is tantamount to internal and external success, especially when it comes to mergers and acquisitions. 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.
In my experience, implementing a transparent communications program ensures that employees and the marketplace understand exactly how the deal will affect them. Without transparency, employees and stakeholders can lose confidence in the company. A flawless response time and communication routes are just as crucial when it comes to easing the concerns of employees, investors, vendors, customers and even the media. Here are some other lessons I learned:

Quick, Precise Response
When it comes to mergers, I make it a point to anticipate and respond to rumors as soon as a deal seems imminent. I do this by immediately identifying “key messages” that contain useful and comprehensive information. Initiating a proactive strategy—which includes face-to-face meetings with those most affected by the deal—a schedule of updates and a plan for eleventh-hour changes is
also essential when it comes to creating a smooth transition process.
To ensure the transition is unaffected by exigent circumstances, I identify communication vehicles that will effectively reach my target audiences. More importantly, I establish a plan for which communication routes should be employed first. Nothing is worse than having employees find out about a major change in the company from acquaintances. These concerns should be addressed long before the rumor mill kicks into action.

Internal Communications
When announcing a merger or acquisition, I try my best to provide accurate information and avoid making promises I can’t keep. Falsely assuring employees that jobs will not be lost is detrimental to the mergers and acquisitions process, as well as overall operations, employee morale and business. If time is taken to discuss the deal’s benefits and drawbacks, employees are more likely to respond positively instead of resisting change.
Over the years, I have found that employees expect straightforward and honest information; that’s no different when it comes to mergers or acquisitions. I try to anticipate questions that may arise and have a solid answer prepared for each. What’s more, I do my best to ensure that regular updates are communicated through management, Q&A sessions, staff meetings, company newsletters and e-mails.

External Communications
Alerting employees is not the end of my responsibilities. Stakeholders, customers, vendors, community members and other key audiences hold specific interests in a company. Utilizing media relations throughout the mergers and acquisition process can help me reach out to these groups. Furthermore, communicating with key media outlets offers a means for publicizing a name change, reducing customer loss and launching new market and/or services announcements. Fostering this relationship also allows me to better control the message that is being communicated about the company.
All in all, I’ve found that the perfect mix of internal and external communication plans involves implementing communications quickly, using 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. And trust is what good business is all about.

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