20 20 vision for banks merging now

During a merger, the glaringly obvious considerations include combining systems, core processing and policies. Yet bank leaders must also invest in the vital marketing, advertising and communications that keep customers and employees happy and loyal. Here’s a five-step approach to ensuring customers and employees see you in your best light during a merger.

Communicate from the inside out.

Whether it’s news of a merger or news of a new brand, rolling it out should be done in a specific order: first, market presidents, then advisory board members, all other employees, customers—and finally, the public.

Merger news may be a surprise to some on the inside. Even for those who know about the impending changes, there will be many questions. The unknown makes people uncomfortable—and it makes them fear the worst. You’re focusing on the merger and what it means for the institution as a whole. But they want to know: “what does this mean to me and my job?”

Be sure to communicate, then communicate some more. Don’t assume anything. While you’re at the top of the organization, it’s easy to get blinded by the curse of knowledge. Look again.

1. market presidents
Help them see and embrace the new. If there is a new brand, what does it mean? If you’re simply bringing other institutions into an existing brand, don’t assume the newbies know—or are ready to embrace—the brand they’re going to step into. Help them see its value.

If you have bad news to share with some employees, do it quickly. See it from their point of view and help them exit with empathy and grace.

These market presidents will continue to be the leaders in their respective communities, so they need to know the details. Give them:

  • Talking points—what’s changing, and what isn’t
  • Expectations on how everyone is expected to live the brand promise—inside the bank and outside
  • Easy reference pieces they can use with employees and external audiences
  • Brand and culture standards (dress code, conduct, greetings, email sigs, etc.)

It’s critical for these employees to hear firsthand about the merger. They will be concerned about their positions, their staff and key customers. Be upfront about your plans so they don’t fear the worst.

2. advisory board members
Your advisors have huge capacity to help you share your new message. They already serve as your advocates and ambassadors. Be sure you’re keeping them—as well as your board of directors—looped into your messaging, your internal celebrations and your externally-focused marketing and public relations efforts so there are no mixed messages.

Make sure you’re arming them with talking points and business cards.

Have a launch reception just for them—or invite them to the employee and public events that come next.

3. employees
Schedule launch parties in each market, not staff meetings. A corporate leadership team member should attend each event to conduct an unveiling alongside the market president. This shows employees that their local leader is on board and supports the changes that are coming.

The launch parties should be festive and brand-oriented. Schedule them to ensure no one is stuck staffing the teller line or drive-through while everyone else is getting the news. Gift bankers with nifty new branded apparel, mugs or other items.

This isn’t only about a name and logo. Employees should hear how they can help make the bank successful in their everyday work. Show a specially produced video and provide a cool handout with your why and your brand promise. Create drama and excitement.

Give them the talking points so they can accurately and consistently answer questions from the outside. They also need to know how brand and culture standards should be lived.

4. customers
Customers are next in the communications hierarchy. Here’s how to reach them.

  • Direct communications—They should receive a letter and an email communication signed from both the market president and the CEO. High value or long-standing customers should receive a phone call or in-person visit from the market president.
  • Website—New brand messaging should be posted on the bank websites at the same time. Make it clear and highly visible so customers aren’t confused. Consider offering live chat to support customers who run into snags.
  • Open house—An invitation to customers for an open house can bring people in to visit their local bankers face-to-face and ask questions. A prize drawing is an added incentive. It will reassure them that their local bank is getting an update but the service and caring they’ve come to trust is the same.

In some mergers, there will be big changes. Reassure customers that they are valued and you’re there to serve them. Be clear about what is changing (the logo, online experience, etc.) and what isn’t (the same great banking they know and trust). If changes to products and services will be different, outline them clearly.

5. the public
The local community is best notified through the local media, starting with:

  • Chambers of commerce—ribbon cutting and open house
  • Newspaper, local business magazines and TV stations—editorial board visits and news releases
  • Any other centers of influence that will help you emphasize that the bank’s deep roots in the community will be deeper and stronger than ever

You should also launch a paid multimedia campaign with the market-appropriate mix of print, digital and broadcast. The launch phase is brand-oriented and supports your why messaging. After the campaign is established, you can move to a mix of brand and product-specific advertising.

Share your updates on all your social media channels. Make them friendly, fun and purpose-filled. Update executive and corporate LinkedIn pages so titles, bank names and duties are current and accurate. There’s great value in creating these updates promptly—not just because current information is important, but also because of the viral nature of the updates. Bankers’ friends and business associates will be notified of the updates and most likely share and congratulate your bankers. This social media commotion will help broaden and repeat your message and visibility with key audiences.

get the timing right
Schedule announcements to happen within a week’s time so the effort is coordinated and uninterrupted. This lets you build momentum and create more excitement and impact for your expenditure of money and person power.

With proper planning, your bigger, better institution will be poised for even greater success. Start now.


This article was first published in the American Bankers Association Journal. For more on effective merger communications for banks, see another article on this website: Harness the Power of Brand Champions for winning M&A communications.

For help designing a well-integrated advertising and communications plan for your bank's merger activities, call Martha Bartlett Piland direct at 785.969.6203. You can also order her newest book, Beyond Sticky on Amazon or anywhere books are sold.