M&A Marketing and Communication: 5 Tips for During and After an Acquisition

In M&A scenarios where a Buy & Build strategy is applied, the board is primarily concerned with internal structure and organization. What’s missing is the acknowledgment of the need for communication. A lot of communication is essential. However, the question arises: when do you share what, and through which medium or channel?

In this article, we provide you with 5 tips for communication, employee activation, and M&A marketing during and after an acquisition.

The topics covered in this article include:

  1. Challenges in M&A marketing and communication post-acquisition.
  2. The ignored insight: people know it, but the urgency is lacking.
  3. The key themes that play out internally; these are personal and vary depending on the individual and their position.
  4. Five success factors for M&A marketing, transition communication, and employee activation.

1. Challenges in M&A Marketing and Post-Acquisition Communication

In an acquisition, multiple parties are involved, believing they are stronger together at the executive level. However, to truly become stronger together, many hurdles must be overcome. We see three distinct challenges that lie after an acquisition and within the new operational organization. Each phase requires different communication.

The phases are:

  1. Orientation, with the central question ‘how do we keep this vehicle running during the transition?’
    • Involves: TOM (Target Operating Model), employee retention, personnel inventory, finance, sales, etc.
  2. Integration, with the central question ‘who will do what, where, and when?’
    • Involves: TAM (Target Application Model), internal and external communication, rebranding, employee relocation, finance, sales, etc.
  3. Consolidation, with the central question ‘how do we maintain a strong position for the various brands and services in the market?’
    • Involves: Removing visible risks through targeted market communication because a company in transition can appear restless and uncertain to the outside world.

2. The Ignored Insight: People know it, but the urgency (still) lacks

During and after an acquisition, questions arise about culture, system integration, aligning contracts, press releases, sales strategies, organizing marketing efforts, and communicating from which brand, etc. Feel free to refer to McKinsey’s 7S model, and you’ll understand precisely what the focus is.

What’s missing – and what people realize but simultaneously ignore (because the primary urgency is absent) – is the need for internal communication. Ensuring that all employees are informed with a consistent message on time. However, the focus remains on questions like ‘how,’ ‘to whom,’ and ‘when,’ as the board and the management team are too preoccupied with day-to-day operations. And that’s understandable. The tension in making the right communication choices lies between:

  • Keeping the business running,
  • Achieving desired consolidation (or growth),
  • Retaining all people,
  • Ensuring smooth integration.

3. The Key Themes Internally at Play

In mergers and acquisitions, well-structured and executed M&A marketing and communication are crucial. We know the themes at play and where different forms of communication and messages contribute to integration success. Although employees from different parties experience an acquisition very differently, they all wonder what follows a merger. Can they distinguish facts from fiction?

The themes at play are highly personal and vary greatly depending on the individual and their position. And of course, the personal nature of the individual. Questions they ask (in random order):

  • What does this mean for my role/position within the new organization?
  • Who will be my new supervisor?
  • What will be my work location?
  • Can I choose where I end up?
  • Are there opportunities for me to change jobs?
  • What are the implications of this acquisition for my (temporary) contract?

As you can see, at the early stage of such an acquisition, people are less concerned about systems, company cars, workspaces, or culture. Internal communication can make a significant difference and provide tranquility.

4. Five Success Factors for M&A Marketing, Communication, and Employee Activation

First and foremost, it’s fair to say that the board rarely gets it right quickly. People quickly feel bypassed, poorly informed, and less involved. This human behavior is simply challenging to manage. Additionally, we know that when you have a few things in order early in the transition, it can positively influence this behavior. And therein lies the key to a faster and successful transition and integration.

Based on our experiences, these are the five success factors for M&A Marketing, post-acquisition communication, and employee activation:

1. Immediately involve the right people Form a core communication team from the different entities. By involving marketing and/or communication personnel early on, you gain control over the internal organization:

  • They are your eyes and ears for what’s happening within the walls of a location/company.
  • They can push the message that needs to be communicated.
  • They become ambassadors of the new vision of the new organization.

2. Opt for a single internal communication channel And this internal communication channel contains the only truth. If a story from the grapevine isn’t mentioned on it, then it’s either a) not true, or b) not fully crystallized yet. Everything else is gossip.

3. Prevent information leaks “When gossip reigns, truth’s light wanes.” By outlining a path, a vision, and associated action points in a timely manner, you can somewhat prevent people from making up and sharing their versions of how things really are. The most important ‘gossip’ that spreads quickly is related to personnel changes. Ultimately, such a transition also revolves around people, while the board is preoccupied with structures, systems, and contracts.

4. Take the stage with roadshows

If there are multiple locations, it’s wise to show your face. Both spontaneously and announced. By planning with the leadership team when and where you work, or where you officially announce certain matters, you show that each entity matters. And that’s important for people. It builds trust and offers prospects.

5. Personally inform the key external stakeholders This is where your M&A Marketing begins. Your new positioning. It may be that the new positioning hasn’t been fully developed yet, and that’s okay. You need M&A marketing because a company in transition can appear restless and uncertain to the market.

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