Announcing Your Merger Publicly

Announcing Your Merger Publicly

A client recently asked for advice on the public announcement of their merger (after internal communications are completed).

What’s the best protocol?

Here are a few collective lessons former clients shared when we asked them for advice:

  1. Clearly Communicate the Benefits – Negotiations Committee members and insiders may have been working on the merger for months and have a deep understanding of the value-add, but those hearing about it for the first time will need to be brought up to speed. How are you able to achieve your mission better with your partner? How will your constituents benefit? Explain the community benefits as well as internal improvements or efficiencies. Be clear, concise, and passionate.
  2. Clarify Who You Are Now – Do you have a new name? mission statement? CEO? Board? Expanded or refreshed programs? Make sure you outline what’s changed, what hasn’t changed, and why. Share your excitement and, if you’re doing a public event, include speakers representing different stakeholder groups (staff, Board, clients, and funders if appropriate).
  3. Explain Your Journey – People will be interested in how you got to this place. If you’re contemplating a public announcement you have likely built trust and respect with your collaborative partner. Your audience is closely observing how you interact with each other so tell them how you feel. If the process started out a little rocky, don’t be afraid to share how you overcame the challenges and concerns and are now excited about the next chapter.
  4. Surprises Aren’t for Everyone – Plan an intentional “quiet period” when you are having confidential conversations with key donors and other stakeholders who need to hear the news before it is publicly announced. This can take time. Enlist a few board members to help since your list will likely end up longer than you initially thought. Remember, philanthropic funders and key donors talk to each other, so you’ll have to be intentional about your list and give yourself enough time to contact everyone. A well-thought out plan will prevent the crisis that results when someone feels left out.
  5. Leverage the Opportunity – What’s your “ask” when you have everyone’s attention? Do you need more volunteers? Is there a new calendar with events to register for? Should people visit your new website? Sign up for a new newsletter? Is there a new hashtag? Are you giving people the opportunity to support you financially? If you’re planning an in-person event, do Board members have talking points for key supporters? A merger announcement can build announcement for your cause; use it wisely.
  6. Have a Spokesperson – Know who gets the tough questions and be consistent about directing inquiries to them. This is a better strategy than ad libbing and spreading fallacies, even if operating from the best of intentions.

Have you used other strategies in your public announcement? We’d love to hear them!