How to talk about insurance M&A

Speaking to Insurance Inxpo

This is the third post in a three-part series about communicating during insurance mergers and acquisitions. If you missed my earlier remarks, please check them out here.

In my previous posts, I talked about why and what in M&A communications – their importance and some specific things companies need to address.In this post, I’m going to explore how insurance organizations should communicate during M&A.

When two organizations come together in a merger or acquisition, there’s a blending not only of different people and skills sets but also cultures. Even the most suitable matchups on paper require some adjustments.It’s a lot like marrying someone who seems perfect for you. He or she might have all things you’re looking for in a spouse and life partner, but when you start your life together you each see things that you have to get used to – or want to fix. If you want to avoid offending your spouse or being frustrated, you’ve got to communicate what’s important for each of you!

Insurance brokers and companies similarly look for good partners as they conduct M&A as part of their growth strategies. That growth can be geographic – expanding into new markets or strengthening their presence in existing markets. Growth also can come through adding capabilities or greater depth in current services. Ideally, M&A enables companies to check both those boxes. In either case, chances are the firms coming together are in different locations, possibly on the other side of the world. What’s critical is that communicators reach and engage their audiences, no matter where those audiences happen to be.

Communicating to distributed audiences, across many time zones, is tough. It’s impossible to be everywhere at once – in person. Not that a lot of executives don’t try. I know insurance industry leaders who rack up tons of miles every month flying to visit their companies’ offices. In between those visits, however, communications must be conducted by other means.

Here are the ways I recommend that organizations communicate during M&A:

In-person. Face-to-face communications are best for small groups. Especially in the early stages of a merger or acquisition, it’s important to have leaders in both organizations visible and available to listen to employees’ questions and concerns. Smaller group settings work well in person because communicators can see the audience’s level of engagement. Large audiences enable shy people to hide or tune out. That’s not desirable when two organizations need to get everybody on the same page, especially at the start of a business integration.

What about those other times, when in-person isn’t feasible? Road warriors, take heart. There is a highly effective method of reaching and engaging audiences when you can’t be with them face to face.

Live video. Without a doubt, when you can’t present to an audience where everybody is in the same room, the next best thing is live video. I’ve written previously about the in messaging, and live video is the most authentic form, next to in-person communications. But how can you know that the viewing audience is also engaged by what they’re seeing and hearing? That’s the power of social tools. They enable presenters to interact with the audience and keep people from tuning out. Analytics applied to audience behaviors also can help you shape future messages, because you can measure the impact of the presentation on engagement. That’s something not easily achieved even in face-to-face communications.

Follow-up communications. There’s a good piece of general advice for public speakers that applies during M&A: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, and then tell ’em what you told ’em.” After an in-person or live video presentation, following up with additional materials is a powerful way to reinforce the message. Additional broadcasts delivering messages on air are important, too, for the same reasons I mentioned above. “Once and done” just isn’t going to work when it comes to engaging and informing stakeholders about a business integration.

Everybody in the insurance industry who has a stake in a merger or acquisition wants to achieve success. By thinking carefully about communicating and delivering messages in the most effective ways, organizations give themselves a great start on that road. Let me know what you think and how your organization would like to communicate better. Thanks for reading!