The essential seven tips for handling M&A comms

By Chris Calland

Tuesday 30th April

A shorter version of this blog was originally published in PR Week on Wednesday 24th April.

“The company is being taken over and you’ll never see me again”.

As an opening line, it grabs your attention.

But if you were the leader of a business that was being sold, it wouldn’t exactly set the right tone for staff and stakeholders (unless they really did want to see the back of you – in which case you have a bigger communications challenge on your hands).

This is all because at the heart of getting M&A comms right is realising that far from being dry, purely financial events, these are actually inherently human and emotional processes.

That is especially the case with family businesses, but it matters to any organisation being acquired or embarking on a merger or takeover, as there are employees who have given their all (often over many years) who will be apprehensive about what a change of ownership structure means for their jobs. Similarly, there might of course be investors and shareholders, as well as regulators, industry peers and politicians, who could all be worried about it might mean for them and the wider market.

So here are my essential seven tips for an organisation embarking on an M&A:

First, make sure you understand how you are perceived by your peers, supply chain, customers and staff, by the media and by relevant wider stakeholders. Undertaking an audit to inform this is a critical building block in working out what type of messages you need to convey when announcing the news.

Second, identify the most relevant and influential media, opinion formers and decision makers when it comes to the deal. This will likely include regulators such as the Competition and Markets Authority, leading trade media, and industry commentators. Essentially, you want to make sure you know who is going to want to have their say on the transaction (or even try and stand in its way), so that you can factor them into your strategy.

Third, you need detailed messaging for not only the various scenarios of how the deal might play out, but also the different ways in which you can convey the news. For example, scripts for announcing to staff in person, crib sheets for calls to customers, clients or stakeholders, reactive Q&As for hostile questions from journalists, draft social media posts to close down speculation or misinformation.

Fourth, sequence the announcement properly. You don’t want staff morale plummeting because they hear about it second hand, so make sure employees are the first to know. But don’t leave it too long before communicating with customers, clients, suppliers, and investors because news travels fast – and they will want to hear it from you. Prioritise contacting your most important stakeholders before a more general roll out and especially before the news starts to appear in the media.

Fifth, be prepared for leaks and negative reaction. The above-mentioned audits should be used to identify what type of hostility there might be to a deal, so that you can prepare the necessary strategies and materials. And for particularly sensitive M&As, it is worth having a 24/7 crisis response team on call too.

Sixth, have a dedicated press office and stakeholder management team in place in the run up to, on the day of, and in the days following the announcement. This is so that the leadership can concentrate on running the organisation, whilst any incoming media and stakeholder enquiries can be triaged and escalated as appropriate.

Seventh, don’t forget about monitoring. Again, this should be carried out by your press office and stakeholder management team, and it should cover social media as well as news media and political and regulatory reaction (if relevant). The point is to move quicky to counter any misreporting or falsehoods.

Ultimately, if handled well, then an M&A is a moment where the spotlight is shone on you to explain why you are a great organisation, how the deal builds on your strengths and why with this decision you are positioned for a bright future.

But if handled badly without proper communications support in place, it’s a lightning rod for everyone who bears you a grudge to complain vocally that this is a terrible move by an organisation in trouble that won’t benefit anyone (other than perhaps the senior management).


At Pagefield, we understand the complex challenges that come with navigating Mergers & Acquisitions and have supported many of our clients through business-defining deals. If you want to find out more about how we can help you and your business, please get in touch at

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