Contractor mergers are a great way to leverage companies’ assets to win more government business. Joyce Bosc discusses how those deals should be messaged to employees, shareholders, customers, and the press to get the best response.
Federal government contractors are busy pushing through the final merger and acquisition activities for this year. Dealmakers are eager to sign agreements that will deliver the key contracts, capital infusion, products and services, executive guidance, key staff and/or customer relationships to advance their growth.
For most, an M&A agreement is the culmination of months—or even years—of seeking the right conditions and entity for a wise combination.
However, just behind that milestone is an oft-overlooked reality: Communicating M&A news is almost as important as finding the right partner. Just when you think the work is over, it really just began.
Most leaders know to distribute a press release to announce the deal. But that’s not nearly enough. Done right, M&A communications will engage internal and external stakeholders who support the move. Missed or blundered communications can damage relationships and alienate employees, customers, partners, and others in your stakeholder communities.
Here are the top five overlooked M&A communications to-dos (and why you need them).
1) Manager Briefings and Toolkits
Once your press release is published, your community will rightly start to ask questions. It’s not possible—or even preferred—for your top executives to address the multitude of queries as stakeholders ask, “What does this mean for me?”
The day before you distribute your press release, brief your leaders and managers so they can serve as a front-line touch point for employees and customers. After stepping them through the news and answering their questions, give each manager a toolkit. Include key messages that connect the “why” behind the “what” of your news.
Share your communications plan, employee communications, customer/partner email communications, digital and traditional announcement ads, a PowerPoint presentation for their use, and the final press release.
This move divides the communications load and activates some of your most effective ambassadors.
Pro Tip: Draft sample LinkedIn posts for managers, so they are prepared and inspired to spread the news.
2) Employee Town Hall
It’s important that your workforce hears the news from your CEO first. This “inside out” approach is a sign of respect. It’s also a smart way to manage the information shared with external stakeholders.
Just before the press release is published, gather your workforce to share the news. Schedule town hall meetings to take place at the same time within both companies, led by the respective CEOs.
Be clear about what’s happening, why now, and what to expect. Outline how employees can help. And emphasize a press policy where only the CEO will speak to the press. Around the same time, send the CEO email to employees, with links to the town hall presentation, FAQs, customer communications, and the press release.
By keeping your team informed, employees will be more engaged and prepared to handle customer and partner inquiries. This effort reinforces your team focus and sets the stage for effective ongoing internal communications.
Pro Tip: Invite one or two executives from the other company to your town hall meeting, so your workforce starts to see the faces and leaders who will be part of the combined team.
3) Direct to the Customer, Partner
You’ve gotten to this level of success based, in great part, on your customers and partners. To honor and preserve those relationships, share your news directly with them.
About a week before the announcement, confirm your customer and partner contact information. Assign executives for key contact outreach. Finalize a call script or bullet points to ensure that each executive will convey the same information.
On announcement day, send your CEO email to customers and partners, linking to the press release and outlining how the transaction will impact them. Then start calling key contacts personally to share the news, talk through what happens next, and answer initial questions.
This outreach bolsters your customer focus and builds the foundation for ongoing updates and connections.
Pro Tip: Host a key customer event at a high-profile local venue with the top 25 to 30 customers of both companies. It’s a great way to make them feel how important they are.
4) Targeted Press Interviews
A press release is one way to share your news publicly and support your search engine optimization. But it does not guarantee that influential GovCon reporters will share your news.
The best practice is to gently follow up with reporters, sharing reasons why this transaction is important to the market. If you can, get ahead of the transaction and, time permitting, have a PR professional reach out to a small number of key reporters several days before your announcement and share information under an embargo agreement. You can offer your press release and facilitate executive interviews, so the media can include your perspective in the stories they write and post on your announcement day.
As a rule, some GovCon reporters are eager to share M&A news and they want to get the facts right. However, if the news leaks early or you’re not available or prepared for press inquiries, reporters will be left to go to publication with the limited information they have. You’ll miss out on key opportunities to help shape the messages that are shared with the market.
Pro Tip: Keep one extra executive quote in your pocket in case an executive can’t meet a reporter’s deadline. That way, you can at least offer a customized quote.
5) Feedback Loops
Just as the acquisition isn’t over when the agreement is signed, your communications shouldn’t end with the announcement. Internal and external stakeholders will want to know answers to the questions you weren’t ready to answer initially. Which leaders are staying? Will there be layoffs? Are you refreshing the brand? How are your products and services changing?
Build in feedback loops from the start. For the first week, do a daily “huddle” with your communications and HR teams to vet questions and concerns. Then check in at least weekly for the next month.
As new questions arise and decisions are made, share updates using appropriate communications channels. Keep your online employee FAQs current. Schedule small team meetings and key customer conversations to communicate important decisions.
Pro Tip: Schedule a 20-minute daily call at 5 p.m. with all managers to collect new questions from employees. Add them to the Employee FAQs for the first three to five days to keep it current.
By preparing well for your M&A communications, your community will be engaged when the acquisition is finalized — and on board, as you move to and through integration activities.