M&A Communications: Finding Harmony When Styles and Cultures Clash

Health care mergers and acquisitions come in many shapes and sizes, just like brides and grooms. And much like planning a wedding, clashing styles and cultures can make for a bumpy ride when preparing for the “big day.”

As communicators, we see this play out a number of different ways. Large systems or companies may invest in start-ups to solve pressing problems or drive innovation. Sometimes the partners think and operate so differently it’s hard for boards or team members to feel confident the two could live peacefully under one roof.

In more horizontal transactions, the two partners might bring similar missions but wildly different leadership and communication styles.

These differences don’t mean the deals can’t work. In fact, both organizations can benefit from the differing strengths brought by the other partner. But getting to the altar may require a few additional steps.

To smooth the way for the “big day,” consider adopting these “traditions” to help present a cohesive message and earn support from your stakeholders.

Something Old:  Examine the historical context for each organization and how it shapes communications. Acknowledge significant differences in context and styles. Be honest about the differences, talk about them and agree to develop a plan to address any serious concerns that could hinder the success of the deal.

Something New:  Going forward, think about circumstances where it’s most critical for leaders to be aligned. Reach agreement on a fresh, new set of messages to communicate those themes. Agree to stick to the messages in those situations and hold each other accountable.

Something Borrowed:  Borrow from the strengths of both partners to create a set of guiding principles outlining how the new organization wants to communicate and show up for its audiences. Spend time practicing the principles together – encouraging partners to experiment with adopting some of the other organization’s strengths.

Something Blue:  And finally, just as blue represents good faith in a marriage, make time to nurture the new partnership and foster trust. Communicate often. Ensure a two-way dialogue and provide multiple forums for individuals to have their questions answered. Create regular opportunities for leaders to come together – formally and informally – to strengthen the relationship and demonstrate the collaborative behaviors they want to see across the new organization.

Planning a deal? Contact Lovell to learn how our Transactions Practice can help you find the right message.