The Role Of Marketing/Communications In A Merger & Acquisition
A merger/acquisition tests the mettle of your Marketing and Communications team like nothing else. Usually, the team must operate under strict secrecy, and with little advance notice. They need to manage several moving parts under an impossibly tight deadline, and then coordinate the effort with their counterparts at the other company involved. And after all that, the M&A might get called off, leaving an exhausted team with seemingly little to show for their efforts.
And yet, an M&A can and should be Marketing/Communication’s finest hour. That’s because the Marcomm team plays a critical role shaping and articulating one of the most important aspects of an M&A: corporate values.
As I’ve already written, two companies involved in an M&A need to align their corporate values for an M&A to have any chance of succeeding. That’s because values make culture, and culture is the make-or-break factor that will either bond or separate two companies when they agree to form a new organization.
When two companies are planning an M&A, they need to understand how their values complement each other and how they overlap. If their values are unacceptably out of sync, their M&A is doomed to fail. A CEO might ask, “Where does Marcomm play a role here?” An even better question might be, “Where does Marcomm not play a role?” Marcomm is essential in these ways:
- Helping two companies understand what their values stand for while they’re assessing each other. CEOs and their executive teams who plan the merger/acquisition need to have a firm grasp of their own values – but many times they need help articulating them. Long before two companies decide to undertake an M&A, their Marcomm teams need to be embedded with the planning teams, making sure that they’ve accounted for the essential step of communicating values to each other. Too often, CEOs are so focused on how they’ll articulate their shared values to shareholders and news media that they overlook how they’ll make sure they’ve done so with each other and their planning teams. Marcomm needs to own this internal step.
- Counseling the CEO. Marcomm teams need to act in some ways like a brave and bold counselor. They need to ask the hard questions and let their CEO know when the answers are falling short of being credible. Anyone who has planned the communications behind an M&A creates FAQ documents, or the anticipated questions that the two companies will get from employees, shareholders, news media, and other stakeholders. Marcomm needs to own the creation of the FAQ – and that means actually sitting down with the CEO and using the FAQ as a tool to test whether the M&A is going to work. It’s crucial that the Marcomm team not hold back with the questions. And they must work with the executive decision makers to devise credible answers. If the answers seem flimsy, then you know your team may need to take another hard look at the merger plan.
- Amplifying the values. The days when Marcomm teams focused solely on writing press releases and setting up interviews for their CEOs are over. Marcomm teams have a far more strategic role. Their job needs to be coming up with a plan that amplifies the core values of an M&A through the creation of a compelling message that resonates with audiences – and amplifying that message through paid, earned, and owned media. On top of that, Marcomm has the crucial role of rallying employees around the M&A and convincing them to share the news of the M&A on their own socials. Finally, Marcomm teams also has a role in discussing an M&A itself, whether through blogging or talking to the news media. Marcomm executives must be storytellers and advocates for corporate values.
If you view your Marcomm team as an order taker and implementer, you’re doing it wrong. Lean on your Marcomm teams to counsel you, challenge you, and advocate for you when you plan a merger/acquisition.