Merger & acquisition series: Part 11/11 – Bringing your audiences along
If you haven’t already, download our in-depth M&A playbook.
Over the course of this M&A rebrand series, we’ve covered everything from selecting a name and crafting a new story, to how to use data to reduce decision-making subjectivity and how to organize a combined portfolio. We’ve taken readers from close date navigation to launch date planning and explored many of the details in between. But we’re not through yet.
Up until now, we’ve focused on the key internal pieces you will be charged with while leading an M&A rebrand—including how to establish an effective team, and how to prioritize employee culture. In today’s post, we’ll turn our view outwards, and explore how to bring external audiences along for the journey.
As the close date and launch of your new, shared brand approaches, it’s important to determine how you will communicate and involve your customers, clients and external partners through the transition process. What channels will you reach them through? How will they be able to engage with you in return? And, most importantly, do you know what it is—exactly—that they need to hear? In the following sections, we’ve broken down the key steps to communicating effectively with external audiences during every step of your M&A rebrand.
Step 1: Control the narrative
These days, consumers are smarter and savvier than ever. If you don’t take control of the narrative when it comes to your M&A, they will—and you may not like what they come up with. In order to avoid external audiences running wild on speculation and rumors, you must take control of the story of change. By proactively communicating and letting consumers know what to expect, you can share the ideal narrative and avoid the need to course correct.
As you know by now, we are big advocates of research. People often forget that you can easily integrate a couple questions into an existing study about what concerns or questions customers might have as a result of the M&A. This can provide valuable insight that allows you to proactively address potential concerns before they ever become an issue. Further, if you have a number of key customer relationships that your business relies on, you can even bring those select few into the process (under strict guidance of confidentiality) to let them know what is happening, collect feedback, and talk through any questions or concerns.
As a general rule, people do not like surprises, especially from companies and brands that they rely on to fill important needs. Help your consumers prepare for change and transitions by communicating early and frequently. The more you can strategically communicate with audiences and involve them in the journey at key intervals, the better.
Learn More: Enabling a Consistent Brand Experience
Step 2: Know your audience
We’ve shared the significance of persona mapping as it’s related to crafting brand experience in an earlier post, but it’s worth reinforcing here, too. When it comes to messaging and communication, a solid understanding of who your audiences are and what matters to them is essential. Understanding the different segments your brand serves—including what they care about, the channels and touchpoints they use, and how they engage with your brand—will help you craft the most impactful messages and communication strategies, tailored to their needs and behavior.
Remember that a truly effective persona study looks deeper than demographics, and instead takes a psychographic approach to segmentation. It’s through emotional, psychological factors like needs, wants, desires, and motivators that true, human connections can be built. This type of in-depth persona mapping can be developed through research, ranging from no-expense-spared extensive quant and qual to more informal exploration with internal team members as casual customer interviews.
While a comprehensive combination of quantitative and qualitative will provide the most robust picture of your audiences, it’s not always possible for M&A timelines and budgets. At a minimum, use in-depth interviews to define basic segments, and ensure you are communicating from an outside-in perspective.
Step 3: Create a comms plan
Establishing a detailed communications plan leading up to and beyond launch day will help you stay on track with strategic audience messaging. A plan will establish a cadence for keeping audiences up to date and engaged in your M&A rebrand journey, and can help ensure consumers fully understand what it means for their experience and interactions with your brand.
As you begin this process, do an audit of what channels you currently use, and which ones are most effective. Remember, the audiences and channels may be very different for each organization involved in the M&A, so this is a great time to collaborate and learn from each other. Additionally, since this is a special moment be sure to explore net new channels and tactics to better reach your audiences.
Learn More: Five Tips for a Successful Digital-First Design
A comprehensive comms plan should be broken down into an easy to digest and implementable timeline, including the following details:
- Who you are targeting
- What the message/content is
- Where and what channels you will use
- When it will take place
- Who (x2) is the internal owner in charge of making it happen
Context is king. Don’t just settle for a handful of overarching messages that get executed across all channels. Tailor the message based on the specific goal and type of communication at each moment. For example, a communication early on in the process might be geared toward easing concerns and answering key questions, so this should be more personalized and detailed. However, as you get closer to launch the message can be much more high level and focused on generating awareness and excitement. Mapping the message to the moment can make the difference between a lost customer and a loyal advocate.
Step 4: Embrace the change
When planning how to communicate with audiences about your M&A rebrand, it can be tempting to fall back on what will stay the same. Maybe it is the same great service, or the same established offering, or the same familiar locations. However, when you defer to only talking about what’s staying the same, you risk setting consumers up to overlook all the positive improvements and changes that your M&A is bringing about. This is a rare opportunity to share what your brand is gaining. Don’t be afraid of disruption. Embrace the excitement of this time. After all, the chance to go through an M&A rebrand doesn’t happen every day. So make it count and aim to make an impact that your audiences will remember.
Thank you for following along with our M&A rebrand series. While M&A’s can be complex and challenging by nature, we hope this playbook helps make it more manageable. Our series may be wrapping up, but we still want to hear from you. Let us know what you thought, and as always, feel free to reach out with any questions.