Rigorous communications plan protects reputations during building company’s acquisition
Our brief was to manage the internal and external communications around the acquisition of a successful Australian Tier 2 building company by the world’s sixth largest international contracting company. Concerns existed around the potential reaction of employees, clients and other stakeholders to the change, which involved a merger and subsequent transition from a well-respected, local family-run business to foreign ownership. Areas to be addressed included:
- Limited knowledge of the new owner
- Potential for resistance to change, centred around fears of a change in culture or management style and continuity of employment, preservation of entitlements, changes to leadership and the introduction of new operating protocols
- Possible client concerns regarding continuity of relationships or changes to financial or operating principles
- High potential for project staff to be poached by competitors
- Potential for industry competitors to make negative comments about the acquisition and destabilise positive perceptions
- Negative perceptions of foreign ownership / foreign investment in Australia.
A communications strategy was developed to ensure employees, clients and subcontractors would respond favourably to the acquisition as one that benefits the national building and construction sector. As well as positioning the acquiring company as a desirable owner, it aimed to promote and protect the Australian company’s brand through the change of ownership process and highlight its ongoing successes. Its other focus was to assist the transition to the new organisation for employees and key stakeholders and address any concerns around the change, and to reassure clients, government and industry there would be minimal disruption to business. An important element was to ensure company directors were well prepared for the announcement, with comprehensive supporting materials including key messages, Q&As, speaking notes for employee briefings, scripts for client and stakeholder calls and pre-drafted advisory emails. With the local company wanting to take the lead on the announcement of the sale and advice to employees and clients, it was vital that the communications plan and materials demonstrated the rigour expected by an international publicly listed organisation – without this, it was likely the acquirer would have driven the process.
All the leader-led delivery of engagement and communications activities ran smoothly to plan, with business risk contained and limited concerns from key stakeholders.