Marketers can find themselves scrambling as they try to manage every detail of (re)branding and communications to employees and customers during a merger or acquisition. It often makes sense to expand the team by reaching outside of the marketing department to multiply your power.
But who can help?
There may be some colleagues in the HR department who can deepen your bench and help bridge the silos that often exist. But they may be stretched really thin, too.
Recruiting influencers—not the usual suspects—within your organization may be just the right play.
They may not be in the corner office, but they can have great impact because they have the trust and respect of their peers.
We once worked with a rebranding client who had multiple locations across time zones: from coast to coast and Hawaii. The marketing team was small and there were no marketing boots on the ground in all the different locations. So attempting to create a company-wide launch event would not be feasible.
Getting the GO-TOs on board
Together with the marketing team, we identified that the office managers were the gatekeeper GO-TOs for anything dealing with logistics and all-around morale. So it seemed they might be the right people to enlist for this important message rollout. It was also apparent that as we introduced new stationery, business cards, collateral, signage and other branded items and messaging, the office managers’ hands-on help would be vital to a timely, well-synchronized rollout. So that’s where we started.
Once recruited, there were virtual meetings where we shared plans and solicited input. Since they had their fingers on the pulse of the people in their locations, they were able to share insights about nuances on the local level that the leadership were unaware of because they were too far removed from the everyday local office culture.
With this opportunity to learn and share, we created a package of relaunch elements that were on-brand—yet customizable—at the local level. Office managers could decide upon the type of event, time of day and swag for their launch party that would also include virtual greetings from the C-suite. Employees learned about the vision, reason for rebrand, talking points for customers and information on the organization’s long term goals.
After the launch events, a series of communications to employees kept them feeling confident, informed and included. This also ensured that every employee interaction with customers would feel authentic and appropriate for the new brand.
Many hands make light work
Don't go it alone. Get internal champions on your team and go for the win. Here are 3 ways to engage and activate the influencers in your organization for a powerful rebrand or blended brand rollout:
1. find them
Your recruits should be people who have the respect of their colleagues and their supervisors. And they are not necessarily those in traditional leadership positions. Since they will be representing your brand all across the organization, these attributes are vitally important.
You may know who the influencers are in your own organization. They might be branch managers, the volunteers who always raise their hands for employee events or the most active voices on your internal social media.
If you’re merging or acquiring another institution, it may be more challenging to identify their influencers if you don’t know them yet. Work with their HR, marketing or community engagement staffers to find out who those influencers are. You need these new teammates, too. Start including them from the outset and they’ll pave the way for easier brand and culture blending.
2. enlist their help
Start with a casual conversation about the planned updates you’d like their help sharing. Gauge their interest, then if they seem to be a good fit, confidentially share as much as you’re able and ask them to join you.
Since you’ll be asking them to take on new duties, make this assignment prestigious—and worthy of bragging rights. Give the rollout task force an official title and brief job description with written points about their roles and responsibilities. This should be something they can note at employee evaluation time: they stepped up and took on some important additional work to help in the success of the organization.
3. give them the tools they need
Once you’ve assembled the rollout team, gather them together for some discussion and listening. You’ve invited them because they have influence and respect. So share your ideas but spend plenty of time hearing what they have to say. They’re there to help make the brand rollout effective and empowering, and their insights are valuable.
Their tone and level of enthusiasm will be emulated throughout your organization. If they embrace the new brand fully, the rest will follow. If they second guess or only engage half-heartedly, they’ll torpedo even the strongest rebrand.
The org charts will likely change. Diplomacy and sensitivity are crucial aspects of all these discussions.
After you’ve heard their input, give them what they need:
- clear communications about responsibilities and deadlines
- budget and time to implement their events
- regularly updated communications as details and timelines change
- first-hand looks at all the customer- and prospect-facing marketing and advertising that’s planned before it airs
- access and responsiveness to their questions and needs that pop up
It takes a team!
It can feel daunting to find the most effective ways to reach and engage employees who will be affected by big changes. Doing it across a large organization or geographic footprint can be even more challenging. So expand your team with influencers who can help lead you to brand victory.
If you'd like more on M&A branding and communications strategies, watch our on-demand webinar: Merging financial brands • 5 steps to smooth transitions that build love and loyalty • We have more! A well-laid plan for M&A communications is essential. Read another article with more guidance for merging financial institutions first published in the American Bankers Association Journal here: 20/20 Foresight for M&A communications planning. Banktastic is the financial marketing and branding agency for banks, credit unions and financial companies.
Tug-of-war photo credit: Anna Samoylova