19 April, 2013
Earlier this month, Meningitis Trust and Meningitis UK merged. They aren’t the first and they won’t be the last.
When organisations join together, there is scope for significant positive change and innovation. But there is also plenty of room for things to go wrong, not least as a result of the way the change is communicated.
Good internal communications are of course essential. It sounds like common sense, but when senior managers are under immense pressure and are having to make difficult decisions, it is all too easy to let rumours and speculation get out of hand.
Having to think about external stakeholders adds a whole other dimension. Understandably, service users may be very concerned. Commissioners, funders, supporters and partners may also lose confidence.
For all audiences, you need a very clear and detailed plan. You need to know exactly what you’re going to say and when, you need to find ways to listen, and you need to make sure both partners are working jointly to deliver consistent communications.
At the planning stage, there are two options. For some, the right strategic decision will be to keep things steady, take people on the journey with you, reassure that it’s business as usual and emerge as a safe, stable organisation.
For others, where there is a desire for the merger to be a springboard into new or different territory, the communications plan needs to be about transforming, ramping up and innovating. This becomes an opportunity to think creatively and ensure your comms pushes you towards your new goals.
We’ve worked with organisations that have done just that. For them, merger communications has resulted in renewal: great profile, increased support, new service developments, fresh partnerships and real culture change.
No two mergers are the same so there is no standard approach or set of answers. It is always a time for hard work, objectivity and sound decisions. It can also be a time for ground-breaking ideas and pioneering developments.
If you’re thinking about a merger, our guide provides an introduction to merger communications.