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Communicating Mergers and Alliances

Any merger or strategic alliance impacts every individual and company connected with both – or all – the involved organizations, and they may react to the news with varying degrees of excitement or uncertainty. Communicating the right messages at the right time to each group is critical for a successful consolidation.

In fact, says Stephanie Barton, Vice President of Marketing and Strategic Account Management for FCCS, consolidating organizations should have complementary but distinct communications plans addressing all their key stakeholders, both internal and external.

“It’s important that each organization communicate its key messages to its audiences, but those messages should be aligned so that customers, employees, the public and other stakeholders aren’t confused about the reasons behind or the benefits expected from the merger,” Stephanie says.

Organizational communications plans should detail overall objectives as well as specific messages, tactics, desired outcomes and timelines for each audience, covering from the merger exploration phase, Farm Credit Administration review (for Farm Credit organizations), to stockholder voting, through implementation and integration. Regardless of the audience, communications should be transparent.

Within the scope of the communications plan are a myriad of topics to be communicated, starting with the big questions of why the consolidation is happening and how it will impact employees. Getting more detailed, communications should cover which software, processes and procedures will be used moving forward, what training will be needed, how the organization chart will change, and how the future culture will be developed. Stephanie recommends keeping communication positive but realistic, and using multiple channels and many connection points, including inperson leadership visits to branch offices, regular virtual meetings with the senior leadership team and even the CEO.

“It’s hard to work effectively when you’re worried about how your job may change, or even if you’ll have one,” says Stephanie. “Regular communication from the top, as well as from direct managers, will quiet rumors, instill confidence in the merger, and help teams stay focused on the job at hand, which is serving the mission and the customer.”

The most crucial external audience is your customer-members, who will vote on the merger as well as be impacted by any changes to operations and personnel. Also consider community organizations, local youth clubs, industry groups, potential customers and the general public as audiences to target with communications about the consolidation, and include them in the communications plan along with messages, tactics, timelines and desired outcomes.

And while all critical communications should come from the organizations’ leadership and communication team, as outlined in the communications plan, it’s important to recognize today’s reality: employees are active on social media as well as in direct contact with customers, so it’s important to share your external messages with your internal team as well. These are your biggest brand ambassadors. Don’t miss the opportunity to utilize your team members for external and internal support.

“Organizations should arm their leadership and staff with key messages and talking points to share with their teams internally and their customers externally, including what should be said and what shouldn’t,” says Stephanie.

“And you want these plans and messages ready in advance so you can focus on the important integration work when you’re in the thick of things.”

For more information about developing communications plans, contact Stephanie Barton at 303.721.3217 or via email.

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