You have decided to merge, now what?

This year we continued to see significant merger and acquisition activity in workers’ compensation and expect this to remain a trend in 2018. While this is an exciting time filled with new opportunity, it is often one of trepidation for employees, clients and prospects. That’s why it always surprises us when companies engage in a merger or acquisition without having the following in place:

  • A communications plan. Preserve brand integrity by putting a plan in place for how and when you will communicate with all audiences before announcing the intent to merge/acquire. Communication should occur when the deal is announced and after it has been finalized. By proactively communicating with audiences, even if there is not a lot to tell, you will decrease the likelihood of false information being shared. For example, we’ve seen some organizations announce the merger to clients first, causing employees to make false assumptions when they hear it from the outside. A tactic in your plan might be to provide employees with relevant information just prior to releasing the information to clients and other audiences outside the organization.
  • Strategy for brand integration. Before announcing your intent, consider how to integrate the entities’ value proposition and brand identity. Essential to this process is engaging your marketing teams and agencies as early as possible. These professionals can provide powerful insight on brand considerations, identify potential market concerns and develop a strategy and timeline for roll out.  people-coffee-notes-tea

Are you going through or planning a workers’ compensation M&A? Here are 10 best practices to streamline communication before, during and after the transaction. These tips are also helpful when communicating other major organizational changes.

  1. Meet with your communications team regularly – Be certain to include agencies and marketing teams.
  1. Identify audiences impacted by the deal – Include current and prospective employees, clients, prospects, media, industry analysts, partners and investors.
  1. Determine communications channels – Consider where audiences will go to find out information (website, news media, blog, social media, sales representatives, front desk) and craft appropriate messaging.
  1. Create an FAQ and talking points for each audience segment – Determine when, how and who will share the news with them. You may not have all the answers to the FAQs, but it’s important to prepare a message in response (we’re still working on some of those details, etc.). Prepare supporting communications before any announcement is made.
  1. Provide regular updates – About the integration of the new entities once the transaction is finalized. A monthly or quarterly email goes a long way in reassuring clients, prospects and employees. It also reduces the likelihood that false rumors will spread.
  1. Appoint communications ambassadors Whether they are highly respected team members or team leads, arm these individuals with communications to share with their colleagues and empower them to be your ear on the ground (both externally and internally).
  1. Evaluate brand equity, perception and culture – How credible and recognizable is each brand? What are the positive and negative perceptions of each entity? Should both brands continue to operate as they are for the short and long term? Are there limitations with the current name of a company? What is the culture of both organizations today? The sooner this exercise is conducted (ideally prior to announcing the intent to merge) the better. 
  1. Create the value proposition for the new entity and test it in the marketplace – All too often companies believe they understand what is most important to a client, but don’t have the full picture. Before rolling out new messaging and benefits, test them through interviews and sessions with clients, prospects and influencers such as media and industry analysts. 
  1. Determine brand integration strategy and timing – Is there a major tradeshow driving the rollout of the new brand? Are there other factors impacting timing? Based on the outcomes of the brand equity assessment and message testing, is there a need for an identity refresh, rebrand, name change or will both brands continue to operate business as usual? 
  1. Create a separate budget for brand and positioning rollout – It should include everything from internal roll out to advertising, promotion and signage.

Need help navigating a recent merger or acquisition? Contact us for a one-hour consultation.

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