It’s fair to say that 2016 squeezed a lot of change into one 12 month period, inspiring as much political commentary as it did internet memes.
However, looking beyond the increasingly dystopian political stage, there was some other news. Namely, despite the number of IPOs being down, there was further consolidation within the business-to-business (B2B) tech market.
When it came to Exclusive Group buying Transition Systems and FireEye acquiring iSIGHT Partners in January, Maintel leading a reverse takeover of Azzurri Communications in April and Kyocera acquiring Annodata in December, we often found ourselves in the eye of the storm.
And boy, does that storm have the potential to get messy, if not managed stringently. Company changes of this nature are always complicated for those involved, with people’s concerns about job security mixed with questions and uncertainty about the future. But with risk, comes reward… if the merger or acquisition is planned and managed well.
“Mergers and acquisitions will always retain both risk and reward.” – Raconteur
By moving in with my partner, I navigated my own merger of sorts last year, which was of course met with the usual chaos and confusion. Unfortunately company mergers are rarely as simple as signing cards with both of your brand names or offering to take on the Netflix account while the other company stumps up for Now TV.
They represent a total shift in your business’s story. And it’s helping people to make sense of this change of story that is absolutely crucial.
So how do you successfully communicate a merger or acquisition?
1. The first word on our lips is collaboration. When two organisations come together, more often than not they have very different communications drivers, whether in-house or agency-based, which may be pulling in two separate directions. Situations like this call for everyone to work with each other in order to get the best results for both parties.
2. Before you start anything, you’ll realise that you need to be able to answer tough questions. It’s not only journalists you’ll need to contend with here, as your customers and staff will want answers too. So be prepared: why have you made this move, and how does it build into your wider strategy? Be as transparent and honest as you possibly can about what the future holds.
3. The next important aspect is timing. Time zones can make or break a media announcement, as journalists often will only report on news if it’s hot and comes out at the right time for their news cycle. Is the business you’re buying or merging with in another time zone? If so, you need to decide quickly which region to prioritise when it comes to media relations. And if you are using an embargo, make sure it is for the right reasons.
4. Ensure you have something worth saying. There’s no point telling everyone you’re merging with a company and not being able to address the whens, whys, hows and whats. Sometimes companies will set themselves an announcement date and try to stick to it, regardless of the fact that the merger is behind its original timeline. In our experience, it’s always far better to develop a more concrete narrative to communicate and simply push the announcement back.
5. Finally, and arguably most importantly, think human first. While this is a business change, it affects your employees, customers, partners and stakeholders, who are all human first and foremost. It’s therefore important to articulate the ‘why’ of the merger or acquisition, as a story that not only connects with them emotionally but also gives them something to believe in, on a level that goes beyond plain business reasons.
Often, the hardest parts of any merger or acquisition come after the initial announcement, so don’t fall into the trap of underestimating the power of follow up communications. After all, a successful merger or acquisition is so much more than an operations integration plan.