When Big Changes Are Coming, Be Prepared to Explain When & Why
The challenges will be daunting when your company faces a sale, a merger, an acquisition, layoffs, lawsuits, relocation or many other situations.
Depending on the deal, there’s likely to be a significant amount of due diligence to be completed. On the checklist? Financial matters, issues of technology or intellectual property, impacts on customers and sales, material contracts, employee/management issues, pending litigation, tax matters, government and/or corporate regulations, insurance, corporate liability, environmental issues, marketing strategies, and on and on.
But wait! Don’t forget communications! Creating a communication plan for external and internal audiences should start early in the process, long before the deal is done. To successfully implement major changes, your company needs to reassure its employees, customers and all stakeholders that this is a great opportunity for them. And if the news isn’t so great, you still need to be out front to explain what the changes mean.
If you botch your big announcement, your transition could be hamstrung by resentful employees and suddenly impatient customers who want more answers. They could put up resistance to the change and undermine your successful transformation.
8 Tips To Prepare Your Communication Plan
Share a clear vision for the future.
What is the path ahead? Explain why the change is being made. Short of a complete closure, there is a way forward. Share your vision and how the change will positively affect the organization in the long run.
Provide as many details as possible.
Of course, you can’t share all the details. People understand that. But in memos and in person, share what you can and explain why you can’t reveal more at this time. Be positive and transparent, not defensive.
Acknowledge the uncertainty that such deals raise.
Show that you can appreciate their concerns in the way you address them. Be empathetic and supportive. Try to answer questions before they are asked, including the essential “What’s in it for me?”
Provide regular communications.
This is not a one-memo-covers-it situation. From Day One of your communication initiative, keep employees and customers informed in regular updates. Explain what’s new and don’t be afraid to restate information you shared earlier. Not everyone heard or will remember what you said on Day One, or Day Seven.
Be consistent, candid and on point.
Stick to your message, your vision. Avoid the “but that’s not what you told us a week ago” feedback.
Empower your communications team.
As you develop your plan, make sure your communications team will speak with one voice. Prepare talking points to help all team members articulate the vision and the details. Empower your executive team and managers to answer questions whenever they come up, not just in formal settings.
Use multiple formats to share information.
When you roll out your news, do it in a variety of ways. An auditorium meeting, smaller group sessions, video message, FAQ handout or email, and posting on your intranet are all great ways to share good information with your employees. Personal meetings or calls with customers will be effective and appreciated.
Stay on top of social media.
On top of everything else on your plate, and it will be overflowing, monitor social media and be ready to set the record straight if the discussion presents incorrect information. Don’t debate those offering opinions, but where facts are not accurate, provide the correct details in a positive voice.
Bonus list: Say you’re involved in an acquisition, here are some questions to anticipate:
- What company is acquiring us?
- What do we know about them?
- Why are we being sold?
- What will happen to my job, my department?
- What will happen to my pay?
- What will happen to my healthcare benefits?
- What about my 401(k) and stock options?
- What will happen to my vacation and PTO time?
- Will I have a new supervisor? Who?
- Will I have to move to a new location?
- Who is now in charge?