Mergers and acquisitions offer significant opportunities to profit, to grow your company, and to deliver better value to shareholders. They can also radically change the working environment in which your employees do their jobs. If you’re planning to sell your business, your employees can make or break the deal. They may be your most valuable asset. The right investment banking firm is critical, and can help guide the process. How you communicate the merger may also significantly affect post-merger integration, so it is well worth your time to cultivate a post-merger integration plan. Talk to your M&A firm about the most effective comms strategy for your company.

Build a Communication Team—Then Integrate Them Into the Process

Cultivate a team of communications experts whom employees like, trust, and will listen to. Then integrate them into the process so that they understand the merger and its potential benefits. Hiding information from the comms team, or giving them only vague talking points to work with, can backfire because it allows the rumor mill to control the narrative.

Get Legal Involved

There will almost certainly be legal considerations associated with each comms statement, especially if there are NDAs in place. Encourage your communication team to work with the legal department, and ensure they run each statement past legal well before it’s time to publish the statement. Your comms team should feel empowered to push back. Sometimes legal gives advice that’s subjective, not rooted firmly in the law. Put simply: Legal should be limited to giving legal advice, not communication objectives. Both parties should treat one another like experts in their respective fields, and work together to cultivate a comms plan they can both live with.

Develop a Plan for Communication

Your communications will be most effective when you control the narrative. You might need to reveal more than you want initially, but doing so will pay off if you do a good job. Share as much as you can as early as you can, and be prepared to answer questions and objections. Ultimately, your employees want to know how various changes will affect them. An empathetic approach helps you stay on message while addressing these concerns to the greatest possible extent.

Make Communication Personal—and Convenient

The most effective comms strategy involves lots of in-person contact, including town halls where your team can ask whatever they need to. This doesn’t mean you should delay things till everyone can come together, especially during a pandemic. It also does not mean you should require off-site employees to come in when doing so is inconvenient. Develop an in-person communication strategy, and supplement these messages with Zoom meetings, emails, internal messages, and other convenient offerings.

Use the Tools You Already Have

Budgetary constraints during M&A are very real. Despite this, many companies feel pressure to invest in websites and other expensive communication tools. Instead, lean heavily on the communication tools you already have—your Slack channels, employee newsletter, or regularly scheduled internal meetings. You don’t have to radically change the way you’re doing things to communicate effectively, if you’re already communicating effectively about other things.

Develop a Social Media Plan

Your social media posts should be consistent with what you’re telling employees. If you’re emphasizing job security, for example, your social media page shouldn’t emphasize that you’ll be bringing in a new team. Think of social media as the next stage in the unveiling of your merger, and plan your communications accordingly.