Internal Communications during Mergers & Acquisitions

There are many reasons that a merger or acquisition may be attractive for many companies. The transaction provides a strategic opportunity to grow market share, increase performance, decrease costs, or eliminate competition. For example, it is reported this week that with the acquisition of YahooVerizon hopes to grow its new media empire.

As this acquisition proceeds, these media giants must be proactive in communicating with employees using a variety of internal communications tools to influence employee discussions. At the time of the merger, there were many complex issues for managers to sort through and take action on. However, it can be argued that managing the people of each of the organizations through a strong internal communications plan is among the most important factors of the merger’s success.

Adobe Spark (2)

The Challenge

Mergers and acquisitions bring significant change to both companies involved and it is the goal of internal communications to lessen the impact to employees. It is easy for employees of both the controlling and subordinate organizations to get caught up in the uncertainty and speculation surrounding the changes. Internal communications aims to get buy-in from employees and keep productivity high throughout the process.

Public relations manager Kim Harrison wrote:

“Regardless of the brilliance of the vision and the fit in a merger, the subsequent success of the deal depends mostly on the employees. They are the ones whose day-to-day actions can make a merger work or can sink it after the deal is done. And a sufficient investment in internal communication is the link in keeping the employee attitudes positive towards the changes brought about by the merger.”

Timely Communications

It is important for merging organizations to communicate with internal stakeholders from the earliest stages of the merger. This can help pave the way for internal acceptance even before the deal is made and during the due-diligence phase completed. “One of the biggest complaints from internal communicators,” writes internal communications agency, Melcrum, “is that they’re asked to help too late, when all the important decisions have already been made.”

Consistent, frequent, and honest communication from management shares a positive and clear vision for the path forward. This has the power of shaping the internal tone for the entire process and positively influence employee discussions. Managers may not have all answers, but a free flow of information (as it becomes available) can give employees of both companies confidence in the way company leadership is handling the transaction.

In the absence of timely communication, employees will circulate rumors about pending layoffs, changes to the company culture, and discuss whether the acquisition was a good or bad idea, etc.

Mark Brenner, chairman of the Global Consulting Partnership, wrote:

“Be assured that whenever there is an information vacuum, the human species can be counted on to fill that vacuum with its own fantasies about what is ‘probably’ going on. Most employees are constantly talking about all the ‘worst-case scenarios,’ in terms of who will be retained, who will be released, and how the everyday rules of the game will change, once the dominant culture shifts into ascendancy.”

Communications Plan – Methods and Tools

At the time of the merger announcement, merging companies have a variety of internal communications tools to address changes happening within the organization. An email from the CEO, intranet articles, FAQs for managers, and corporate videos are a good start. However, providing adequate budget resources for a more comprehensive communications plan will help provide ongoing leadership through the post-merger phase.

The combined organization has the ability to create specially branded communications on a frequent basis throughout the process to keep employees fully informed of business information, such as merger / acquisition progress, direction, developments, goals, etc. Other important announcements and day-to-day communication regarding organization and business changes can be sent regularly via email.

Employee intranet serves as an important resource for employees to find an extensive library of information regarding company policies and procedures, as well as other important business information including HR (benefits), training and orientation materials, etc.

Video and training webinars help promote alignment of the two organizations, help all employees understand changes, and help employees own the corporate vision. This may include regular live-stream video of large group meetings with company leadership to assist in culture building. These open town-hall-style events give leaders an important opportunity to listen to valuable feedback from across the organization.

It is significant to note that the quality of communications, however, is more important than the quantity. “Communication shouldn’t be measured by how much is shared,” writes management consultant David Braun, “but rather how well it is shared. Employees do not need dozens of meetings or bulletins but rather honest and credible messaging… Being direct and honest with employees will ease concerns and lessen the spread of rumors.”

Listening to employees

Real communication is two-way, and includes a critical listening component. Company leadership will have many seemingly important roles during the merger, but being fully committed to listening to employees will be of greatest importance.

Through a strong commitment to internal communications throughout the acquisition process, company leaders can engage employees and create a strong, united culture.

 

Advertisements

Why I don’t use the term ‘Millennial’

When working on developing marketing strategy, I rarely use the term ‘millennial’ to refer to young adults ages 19-35. As a member of this supposed cohort, I don’t feel that the stereotypes that many associate with the term are respectful of the contribution that young people make in our society.

Believe it or not, our generation are not all entitled, distracted, and self-centered. Young adults are still valuable, contributing members of society. It might be convenient for demographers to group us into one neat and tidy category, but far too often I find the term to be over-generalizing and even patronizing of this young generation.

In an article for the World Economic Forum, author and blogger John Green wrote, “I cringe a little every time I see the word ‘millennial.’ I often hear complaints that young people are disinterested, or self-obsessed, that they prattle on incessantly on social media but that’s it all mere narcissism and naval-gazing. But that hasn’t been my experience.”

I believe the term ‘millennial’ has almost become derogatory, and unfairly characterizes a large and valuable segment of our society. You won’t find me using it very often.

 

Cord Cutting and Disruption

No one could have predicted 10, 20, or 30 years ago that in 2014, TV would be on its way out, newspapers would be struggling to stay alive, that we would carry powerful cell phones and mobile devices that fit in our pocket. Nor, in many ways, are we able to know with great certainty what the future will hold. We can speculate on the future of the trends we discuss, but it is difficult to know what great idea will emerge or catch on. It is amazing to think of some of the innovative possibilities.

I am fascinated that companies, big and small, are able to disrupt norms by innovating and “changing the game” – sometimes even fundamentally changing the way that we live our lives.

One technology trend worth paying attention to is the shift in traditional television and entertainment viewing.

I recently heard a new term “Cord Nevers”. Not only do we have a large population that are choosing to no longer subscribe to paid satelite or cable television (“Cable Cutters”), but we also have a generation of younger, tech-savvy consumers who havenever before paid for cable, and are not be able to justify the steep expense.

Cord Cutting

For this group (of which I am a member), when the power of a high-speed internet connection is combined with the popularity of smartphones and tablets, downloading full-episodes and other free or paid content online makes more sense.

Could the cable television industry go the way of the land-line telephone service provider or the newspaper industry? Is there a significant decline ahead as consumers change the way they view media content?

In response to industry changes, outgoing Time Warner Cable CEO, Glenn Britt said in 2013:

“I think the cable industry as a whole was in denial that we had real, viable competitors. And certainly, each of them has strengths and weaknesses, just as we do. However, they are around to stay, and we need to keep getting better at competing.”

A few key factors are at play here:

  • Services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Instant are not only delivering content to consumers, but some have begun a new trend producing their own original content.
  • Products like Roku, Apple TV, and Google Chromecast allow media- viewers to purchase TV shows and movies in digital format and view on th eir television. These products also allow viewers to mirror streaming content from their mobile devices to their TV sets.
  • Mobile devices are really the ones stealing the show. People are spending more time on cell phones and tablets, and less time watching TV.

In the end, will cable companies be able to survive if they don’t adjust to industry and lifestyle trends?

Lifestyle Trends of the Millennial Generation

In 2010, the Pew Research Center released a report profiling Millennials and comparing and contrasting to older generations. (For the purpose of this survey, Millennials were defined as those born after 1980.)

Generation Y.pngThe report delves into a number of lifestyle trends among the Millennial generation, but in particular, discusses technology use among this key demographic.

  • 24% of Millennials in this study, in response to an open-ended question, felt that technology-use is the defining characteristic of their generation.

Other lifestyle choices among Millennials, revealed in this report, support this claim:

  • 83% report having ever placed their cell phone on or right next to their bed while sleeping.
  • 64% admit to texting while driving.
  • 75% have created a profile on a social media site.
  • 62% reported connecting to the Internet wirelessly when away from home or work.

 

Millennials Unique.gif
Image Credit: Pew Research

Two quotes from the Pew Research report highlight the pervasive nature of technology use among the Gen Y generation:

“Steeped in digital technology and social media, [Millennials] treat their multi-tasking hand-held gadgets almost like a body part – for better and worse.

Millennials’ technological exceptionalism is chronicled throughout the survey. It’s not just their gadgets – it’s the way they’ve fused their social lives into them.”

Many Millennials have integrated social and digital technology into every aspect of their life. It has become a primary platform for self-expression. They also have a greater belief than other generations that new technology will make their life easier and make people more connected.

If there is one thing that is certain, it is that technology will continue to advance – often at a blinding fast pace. As new technology categories emerge and develop – categories such as wearable technology, bio tech, cloud computing, smart home tech, driverless cars, and 3-D printing (as well as categories not yet conceived) – the way we live our lives in modern American society, will continue to transform. The way we communicate, connect, and collaborate with other people (socially and professionally) will evolve.

In a February 2014 Forbes Magazine article, digital innovation expert Greg Satell writes, “Today, computers are taking over the work of humans and it appears that we are entering a new industrial revolution. While this alarms some, many technologists point out that we’ve been through similar times of technological change and emerged better for it.”

Satell further suggests that as artificial intelligence and thinking machines begin to permeate our everyday lives, the problems we face with the future of technology will be largely cultural. “While the past favored those who could retain and process information efficiently,” Satell writes, “the future belongs to those who can imagine a better world and work with others to make it happen.”

Future considerations we must consider include:

  • what effect will constant connectivity will have on our physical and mental health?
  • how will our economy will adapt to computers replacing human jobs?
  • what safety-measures need to be implemented to protect personal privacy?

I’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your thoughts on what effects you see future technology making on societal and lifestyle trends.

Use Social Media to #ShareGoodness

Image credit: LDS Church

During a recent presentation to an audience at Brigham Young University’s Education Week, LDS Church Leader (and former president of my alma-mater BYU-Idaho), David A. Bednar spoke about the power of today’s media in spreading goodness in our society. While his remarks were given in a religious context, referring to ways in which Christian believers can share their faith in Jesus Christ through social media tools, there were a few takeaways that any social media marketing user could take away from his remarks.

Bednar offered the following guidelines and principles for social media use. :

  • Be Authentic and Consistent. “Our [social] messages should be authentic. A person or product that is not authentic is false, fake, and fraudulent. Our messages should be truthful, honest, and accurate.  We should not exaggerate, embellish, or pretend to be someone or something we are not. Our content should be trustworthy and constructive. And anonymity on the Internet is not a license to be inauthentic. Authenticity is strengthened through consistency.”
  • Edify and Uplift. “We and our messages should seek to edify and uplift rather than to argue, debate, condemn, or belittle.”
  • Respect Intellectual Property. “We should respect the property of other people and organizations. This simply means that you should not create your own content using someone else’s art, name, photos, music, video, or other content without permission.
  • Be Wise and Vigilant. “Remember that the Internet never forgets. Anything you communicate through a social media channel indeed will live forever—even if the app or program may promise otherwise. Only say it or post it if you want the entire world to have access to your message or picture for all time.”

The response to Bednar’s remarks was positive, as many immediately starting using the new hashtag #ShareGoodness to create positive messages that highlight the good in the world around them.

There are many examples of brands that have used their influence to make a positive impact on their brand community and others by devoting marketing resources to highlight the goodness in humanity or to promote an important charitable cause. These companies create goodwill for their brand by such messages.

I would love to hear some of your favorite good-will promotion campaigns in the comments below!

Cabela’s: Fall in Love with Customers on Social [video from SocialMedia.org]

This blog post is the second in a two-part series. I wanted to briefly share with you some of the work that my friend Adam Buchanan (the guest-author of an earlier post on this blog) has been involved with as the Social Media Manager at outdoor-retailer Cabela’s. Adam recently spoke at the Member Meeting for SocialMedia.org about how his team at Cabela’s has turned around customer service using social media. I hope you enjoy his presentation:


Video from SocialMedia.org on Vimeo.

A couple of my favorite quotes from the video:

“Our customers love to hunt and fish, and they love to share their experiences with us. If they’re sharing really cool photos with us and we’re not responding, we might as well turn off our Facebook page, because that’s the opposite of social.”

“Breaking out of the box, getting that passion, and bringing it to the surface has been a huge key to our success.”

Cabela’s is a great example of how brands are effectively using emerging media platforms not only to engage with their customers in telling the brand message, but also to help resolve customer service issues. Companies who are listen to their customers using social media, are able to build better relationships of trust with those customers and improve brand loyalty.


Click here to download the slide presentation in this video.

Follow Adam Buchanan on Twitter at @adam_buchanan

Consider This Before You Work in Social Media [guest blog post by Adam Buchanan]

This blog post is the first in a two-part series. Adam Buchanan has spent his career in the field of social media marketing, particularly in the outdoor retail industry, since the early days of social media. Adam is the author of the e-book, The Never Ending Cocktail Party, available for Amazon Kindle. In Adam’s current role as the Social Media Manager for the Cabela’s brand he has opportunities to connect with people who share his passion for the outdoors. I have always considered Adam a good friend and a someone who I look up to in the Integrated Marketing Communications field. I recently asked him to some of his thoughts about a career in social media marketing, and he wrote the following article on his blog, www.adamcbuchanan.com, in response.


Does social media marketing interest you as a full time career? Are your dreams filled of viral videos you create that generate millions of sales for a company? Do you sit back and dream of all the Instagrams you’ll be posting that will elevate a brand and completely transform an industry?

Continue reading