- Written by Ronald van Haaften
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Marketing communication in M&A
The purpose of this exercise is to create a common understanding of one of the roles of marketing communication in merger and acquisition processes. This section was part of the central training and development program for all global active marketing team members (international off-shore) gathered at the Kurhhaus, Scheveningen.
Leaving aside all the marketing strategies, structures, processes, and so on, it always comes back to mutual dependencies and the interaction between people. We can identify three hygiene factors: (1) trust, (2) acceptance and (3) communication. As with all sorts of organisations (small and big) merging is often a melting pot of different cultures which can easily turn into a political snake pit and is very hard to turnaround.
The role and influence of marketing
The role and influence of marketing before, during and after a merger and acquisition (M&A) is significant. Fulfilment depends upon the nature of M&A;
- Both organisations remain independent
- Either organisation merges full to the other
- An intermediate form
The influence of marketing is by far the greatest under circumstance 2 & 3.
The most applicable speed of change and extent of sustainable changes highly dependent on the adaptive ability of both organisations and on the nature of the change. Are we talking about evolution (culture) or creation (structure)? Well, see here the birth of the paradox of alignment; the balance between the internal force for stability (a negative willingness to change caused by cohesion) and on the other hand the need for change (creativity).
Despite the reciprocal dependency between evolution and creation, it is often the evolution that kills creation. If the organisation ignores of simply do not understand the principle of the alignment paradox, they will be trapped in the paradox pitfall as a result of a (fast) top-down turn-around of technical elements. Not surprisingly sometimes with catastrophic effect.
It is the role of marketing to inform, unfreeze and prepare the organization for upcoming changes and future organizational dynamics. Behold the “birth” of marketing communication. We can divide marketing communications into three sections;
- Marketing communications, external communication between the organization and customers
- Corporate communications, external communication between the organization and customers
- Dialogue communication, interactive communication between external collaborators and customers
On the intersection of the above we find the habitat of our communication ambassadors, namely internal communication.
Our communication ambassadors (people) act and perform differently, their core values are often embedded within social structures and cultures. Internal communication is the magic key to create some sort of alignment and togetherness. Internal communication can accelerate changes by the speed of light, but also it can easily create a wall of negative willingness to change if the resistance change is not assessed properly. The negative expectations and perceptions experienced by the organisation may result in increased negative feelings of threat and lower levels of commitment to both M&A organizations, which may affect the success of the M&A on short and long term.
Each and every change is accompanied by some sort of uncertainty. Within organisational changes personal attitudes and perceived behavioural control have a significant impact on the willingness to change. Assuming that the impetus for change must come from the bottom up principle; connect, engage, effective communication and participation is the adagio. Efficient communication and pro-active participate is far easier if there is a good basis of trust and acceptance. (read The Speed of Trust : Covey).
Having said all of that, if we all understand that the speed trust is a real accelerator and hygiene factor #1, thereby understand that you need to earn trust as a token of appreciation for your performance and integrity acting, we know what to do first within our scope of change management:
- Gain trust within the organisation.
- Be peaceful, understandable, and reachable and show empathy.
- Be as open minded as possible and do it as soon as possible.
- Anticipate to every question raised and say if you do not know the answer (yet).
- Deliver the (latent) needs.
- Be consistent and if you are wrong, instantly repair it.
- Show your audience what you're doing.
- Do not tell your story, but what people are looking for and want to know.
- Your audience consists only of experts, they will recognize dishonesty.
Success on your challenging journey!