Mergers and acquisitions (M&A) are critical events in the life of a company that impacts the future profitability and reputation of the general entity, whether it is positive or negative — executing a robust communication strategy before, during and after the transaction helps to resolve the daily concerns of stakeholders; especially employees, investors, customers, and the media. This is achieved through the design of an effective communication strategy in messages that are clear, grounded, consistent and coherent.
The primary objective of any communication strategy should be building a reputation based on the ethical principles of the company and creating value for the business and society. Companies that have designed a complete communications plan, which is executed in a disciplined manner, manage to transmit confidence to the interested parties. An accurate plan should be focused on increasing the company value, the attention to the consumer, the performance of their collaborators and the growth of the reputation of the company. In a merger or acquisition context, the message gives support to the business decision creating confidence and certainty about the convenience of the transaction.
Even though most companies invest significant resources in hiring the best legal advisors, auditors and financial firms; they do not have the same rigor in hiring experts in the area of communications. Often, corporations hire public relations agencies that can interact well with the media but do not have the expertise or strategic focus to communicate the business benefits of the merger or acquisition.
Hence my career as a communicator, and the strategic management with stakeholders in CLC, an affiliate of Llorente & Cuenca. I can affirm that each M&A has its specific characteristics and contexts. In the following lines, I will share several fundamental tips that can make a difference when communicating a merger or acquisition.
1. Include communication strategists in a multidisciplinary working group.
An M&A is a complex transaction that should be approached from different disciplinary areas. It is crucial to include a communication representative and stakeholder management consultants (C&SM). Furthermore, I will insist on this point: no communication strategy could be divorced from the primary strategy of the organization, in this case, the plan for the merger or acquisition. If a C&SM does not accompany the general strategy of the transaction, sooner or later, the organization will have to rectify and redesign the approach in a context of uncertainty, which generates operating expenses and potential undesired effects. The experts in C&SM focus on easy the communication of the teamwork of both entities, by designing and implementing the best strategy to plan, position, transmit and evaluate the business communications.
2. Use external resources with experience.
The participation of the internal Human Resources and Communications departments of the company is fundamental, but not enough. Working with a communications company, which has the experience in mergers and acquisitions, is vital. Without its experience the company can make serious mistakes that later on will be difficult to solve. An external team expert in C&SM generates added value, by providing an external vision of the context. Moreover, they will be in charge to identify critical problems, design the message, and anticipate the risky situations and follow-up a clear calendar; while avoiding potential adverse situations, setbacks and organizational shock.
3. Write a strategy and execute disciplined.
When you have the general roadmap of the multidisciplinary working group, it is time for the C&SM team to establish the communication strategy. One rule that I always keep in mind is that every strategy should be written. If you cannot write your communication strategy it is because it does not exist. Moreover, a C&SM team should consider for the campaign elements as time, format and method to address internal and external stakeholders. Finally, an appropriate strategy must also identify its key audiences, such as executives, leading collaborators, investors, business partners, suppliers, business and community leaders, government and technical officials, labor leaders, media; and other actors related to both entities.
The communication strategy must include the explicit role that each member of the working group must fulfill with its responsibilities, objectives, success indicators, timeline and expectations of the merger or acquisition. In the same way, the strategy must contain: a coherent message adapted to each of the audiences, various probable scenarios, speakers in charge, a procedure to manage the possible queries, a detailed "run of show" for the day of the event, and the identification of who within the organization will interact with each group of stakeholders.
The message is essential, as I have said, it must be consistent and adapted to each audience. It is important to emphasize that there is only one message, with different tones or details, but only one. The message should manage fear and uncertainty, by creating closeness with the brand. Likewise, the key phrases must include shared values and the vision of the entities involved in the merger or acquisition. Last but not least, the message should contribute to cultural integration and the development of a teamwork vision to improve the collaborators' experience. This point is as significant as the factors of the financial transaction.
4. Extreme confidentiality.
It is mandatory not to skimp on efforts to achieve confidentiality, especially during strategy planning. This element is relevant to avoid leaks and rumors that may affect the public image of both parties. A manifest protocol to regulate communications between collaborators is useful to prevent difficulties that can frustrate or delay the transaction.
5. Prepare for a sustained effort.
Occasionally, the work team prepares for a short battle, but mergers and acquisitions are not a 100-meter race, but a marathon. The team may run out after the announcement, which potentially generates a misinterpretation of the context, lack of rigor and tactical errors in communication with stakeholders. For example, it is essential to monitor what happens inside and outside organizations, in the short and medium term, after the announcement of the merger or acquisition. Consequently, it will be possible to diagnose concerns or problems that arise and address them with criteria of effectiveness and timeliness.
Summing up, effective public relations and strategic communication plan significantly contributes to achieving successful mergers and acquisitions by allowing greater possibilities of controlling the story and discourse, contributing to organizational integration and restricting the space for noise, rumors, and misrepresentations during and after the transition. The strategic role of expert advice in C&SM should begin during the preliminary stages to construct the narrative, assess the probable scenarios and anticipate and minimize the risks to the public reputation of the companies.
Llorente & Cuenca (2018). M&A Communications Monitor 2017: De la desconfianza a la convicción. Recuperado de https://www.macommunicationsmonitor.com/es/. Mergermarket (2018). Global & Regional M&A Report H1 2018: Including Legal Advisor League Tables of Legal Advisors. Recuperado de https://www.mergermarket.com/info/h1-2018-global-ma-report-legal-advisor-league-tables.
 For its acronym in English of Mergers and Acquisitions, are transactions in which the ownership of companies are transferred or consolidated with other entities. Mergers and acquisitions can allow companies to grow or reduce their size and change the nature of their business or competitive position. The mergers have the form of A + B = C, while the acquisitions have the form of A + B = A.
 Llorente & Cuenca has positioned itself as the number one communication agency in Spain for mergers and acquisitions (M & A) for the value of its operations, according to the prestigious ranking of the Merger market data analysis agency. The agency has advised in the communication of a total of 12 operations of M & A valued at 46.767 million dollars, which makes it the number one company among the Spanish-speaking (number 13 worldwide) (Mergermarket, 2018).
 Any operation can suddenly faced with a hostile environment or an unpredictable risk, which makes it necessary to incorporate communicative advisors into decision-making. These professionals can design a comprehensive strategy that knows how to anticipate and prevent the possible difficulties of each transaction (Llorente & Cuenca, 2018, p.9).
 According to a study by Llorente & Cuenca (2018), the interest of the media is becoming more and more critical in M & A processes. The data shows that mentions per M & A operation in the media have escalated from 73 (in 2007-2010) to 179 (in 2011-2013). For the period 2014-2017, the mentions have increased by 88%, standing at 337. Thus, 66% of the experts consulted consider that "communication is a factor to be taken into account", while 31% affirm that that "communication is a decisive factor" (p.7).
 The study by Llorente and Cuenca (2018) argues that the specific factors of the M & A processes advise "to follow a diversified strategy when designing the communication of an M & A transaction [therefore] the messages must cover a wide range of interests and not limit yourself to the main means ". (p.9)
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