Navigating a Merger and Acquisition: Complete Guide to M&A Comms

Navigating a Merger and Acquisition: Complete Guide to M&A Comms

Navigating a Merger and Acquisition: Complete Guide to M&A Comms

Last updated on March 7, 2024 at 12:00 pm

At some point, we’re all going to be a part of a merger and acquisition. Either as an employee experiencing it or as the comms team tasked with communicating it. Make sure you’re prepared to navigate this major change campaign and rise to the challenge with a strong M&A communication strategy.

From pre-merger preparations to post-merger integration, we will explore key considerations and best practices to ensure a smooth and successful transition for both sides of the deal.

What is a Merger and Acquisition?

A merger and acquisition (M&A) is the process of bringing two companies together. Companies merge together or acquire each other to be more competitive in the marketplace. And by combining companies, you can create a stronger workforce and/or gain economies of scale to grow your business.

Mergers and acquisitions are a major change, making M&A communications absolutely critical. Because in every merger and acquisition there is an acquiring company and an acquired company, and all parts of each organization might not exist in the newly combined business. That means comms teams may have to communicate:

merger and acquisition flat art illustration. Two arrows coming together with illustration of two professionals standing on the arrows and shaking hands.

What’s the Difference Between a Merger and an Acquisition?

While the two terms may seem the same, the underlying activities that define each are very different.

A merger is focused on bringing two separate entities together into one, taking the strengths from each organization and bringing them into one.

On the other hand, an acquisition refers to the complete takeover of a company. During an acquisition, there might be some merging of functions and departments, but it may result in simply the change in ownership of the organization itself. This can happen when a company wants to buy a competitor to get their client list to expand their business.

So, the big difference between a merger and an acquisition is the goals and motivations behind the decision.

What is an Example of a Merger and Acquisition?

Chances are during your career you have been part of a merger or acquisition, or a division of a company you have been employed by decides to sell off or acquire a competitor or a new product line to help grow their core business. 

But here are a few examples:

  • An example of a merger would be the combination of Kraft Foods and H.J. Heinz. These two well-known food producers merged in 2015 to form The Kraft Heinz Company, forming a top 5 food and beverage company in the world.
  • An example of an acquisition is Disney acquiring 21st Century Fox in 2018, which allowed them to expand its direct-to-consumer (DTC) offerings and international presence.

blue image with two sets of wooden blocks pushed together. The wooden blocks all have people icons on them. And both sets of blocks are contained by brackets.

Merger and Acquisition Strategies

So much rides on how well you communicate, manage change, and lead through an M&A. It’s no easy feat. If you’re charged with communicating through a merger or acquisition, you certainly have your work cut out for you, but we want to help. Try these strategies at every stage of the M&A process: before the M&A, during, and after the M&A.

Step 1: Prepare for the M&A

  • Make sure you’re NDA’d. Before engaging in any M&A discussions, it’s vital to establish a culture of confidentiality and ensure all parties involved sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs). This protects sensitive information and maintains trust throughout the process.
  • Work with the comms teams from the acquiring side as well as the acquired side. To alleviate anxiety and uncertainty, initiating clear and regular communication channels between the acquiring and acquired organizations is essential. This helps establish an inclusive environment where employees from both sides feel valued and heard. Not to mention, each communication team will know their audiences well and be able to advise on best practices for reaching them.
  • Get a seat at the table early. Internal communications professionals should be involved in the M&A process early on. By participating in strategic discussions, you can gain insights into the vision, goals, and challenges associated with the merger or acquisition. This involvement allows for the development of well-aligned communication plans and strategies.

Step 2: Create a Merger and Acquisition Communication Plan

For the most effective communication plan during your M&A, you’ll need to include people managers, senior leaders, and input from your workforce. Here are a few tips to get your comms plan right:

  • Focus on Manager Communications. People managers play a critical role in sharing information with their teams—especially among your frontline workers. Starting focus groups and giving managers talking points early on will help you stop the gossip train before it starts. Not to mention, you’ll learn more about exactly what your employees are worried about and care about as you navigate this major change.
  • CEO presence is a must. Focus on bringing that current or new executive leader forward. They have to be visible, and you can use your app, intranet, and other communications channels to make sure everyone gets messages from your CEO directly. Why? Because the CEO’s presence and active communication during an M&A process can significantly impact employee morale and confidence. Regular messages from the CEO, whether through emails, video updates, or company-wide meetings, help establish trust, provide clarity, and set the tone for the future.
  • Form partnerships with HR. HR teams play a crucial role in supporting employees through this transition period. Collaborating with HR departments to develop targeted communication strategies, including comprehensive FAQs, resource guides, and support programs, helps ensure essential worker communications are prioritized and delivered effectively.
  • Put yourselves in your employees shoes. Tools like empathy maps can make a huge difference in reaching employees where they are and addressing their top concerns. Remember that acquiring versus acquired employees are going to have a completely different experience. Empathy maps will help you understand any division and strain between groups.


Step 3: Post-Merger Integration Strategies

Don’t assume that once the M&A is “over” that it’s really over. Like any change management campaign, you’ll need a plan to reinforce new behaviors and ways of working over time. Not to mention, there might be lingering doubt, anxiety, or concerns that pop up as your company navigates the new world. Here’s what we recommend:

  • Don’t let the M&A comms trail off. After the merger and acquisition is completed, it’s essential to maintain ongoing communication efforts. Avoiding a communication vacuum reinforces a sense of stability and continuity, alleviating any lingering concerns and fostering a positive organizational culture. When employees are concerned, transparency is the best way forward.
  • Unify the workforce. There’s a lot of “us vs. them” talk during a merger and acquisition. This doesn’t disappear overnight just because the deal is gone through. It takes a long time to transition employees away from the acquiring and acquired mindset to being all “one company.”
  • Combine channels. Odds are, each company was using different channels for communication. Make sure you seamlessly get all employees onto your go-forward channels.

M&A Best Practices

No matter how robust your merger and acquisition communication plan is, you have to ensure all employees have access to your communication channels and receive targeted, personalized messages.

To do this, you’ll need to start by auditing your current internal comms channels to identify potential gaps. If you aren’t able to reach all employee groups, you open the door for anxiety, uncertainty about their job security, and mistrust in the business.

Once you know what your internal communication channel strategy needs to be, focus on the following:

  • Notifying managers first. During any change, your managers are a critical comms channel. It’s important to loop your managers in first so they can support your messaging and keep their employees feeling positive and informed.
  • Collecting employee feedback. No comms strategy is going to be perfect. That’s why it’s important to provide employees with opportunities to share their feedback. Share pulse surveys on all your communication channels to keep a finger on the pulse of how employees are feeling through the transition. And use that feedback to pivot in real-time to address concerns or any confusion.
  • Continuous measurement. Bringing two companies together has very real risks. Measuring continuously to see if engagement is down with certain groups or if you’re struggling to get employees to adopt the consolidated tech stack can help alert you to bigger issues. Then share the results with leadership so they can respond in real time and understand how the broader merger and acquisition strategy might need to shift.

a man and a woman pushing two puzzle pieces towards each other

Merger and Acquisition Tools to Support You

Navigating the M&A journey successfully requires a strategic and proactive approach to internal communications. And having the right merger and acquisition tools is going to make a big difference.

  • Broadcast Channels. During a change, you want all employees to be informed of critical communications at the same time. Using broadcast channels like an employee app or SMS texting helps you directly reach every employee in real-time.
  • Self-Service Hubs. Employees don’t always want to wait for answers. They want to be able to find FAQs, instructions, and key reminders about the M&A at any time. Leveraging mobile communication apps and your employee intranet to create central, resource hubs can be a great way to keep all important information in one place.
  • Two-Way Communication Channels. Showing employees that their voice matters is powerful, especially during times of change. Channels like apps and intranets let employees ask questions directly on content and updates. These channels also make it easier to share your pulse surveys.
  • Video communication. We can’t recommend video enough when it comes to your executive communications during a merger or acquisition. Not only does video help you control the tone of your messages, but seeing your executive team’s faces and their effort to share personalized video updates can go a long way toward building trust.

If your company is going through a merger or acquisition, but your comms tech stack isn’t up to the task, request a demo to see how you can bundle app, intranet, and texting into one affordable package.



About the Author

Michael Marino is the Vice President of Marketing where he oversees the creation and execution of theEMPLOYEEapp’s marketing programs. Before joining the team, Mike held marketing leadership positions in both the B2B and DTC spaces in channels that include media, manufacturing, and professional services. Mike is passionate about demand generation, mar-tech, and being able to create campaigns that connect with Internal Comms audiences.


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