Mixed Messages and Crossed Wires

To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under Heaven.

Ecclesiastes 3:1

In a recent discussion with a company about to make its first meaningful acquisition The Merger Verger was asked a fairly typical but nonetheless important question:

“What do we tell our people about the merger and do we say the same thing to our own staff as we say to the company we’re buying?”

Messages to your stakeholders should be tailored to address the specific concerns of each group. But do not confuse targeted messages with mixed or conflicting messages. They are very different indeed.

Telephone Wires NYC 1887

For example, saying to one group that the deal is being done to enhance growth and to another that you will be focusing on operational efficiencies would be a classic case of mixed messages. As soon as the word circles back around – which it will, trust the old Verger on this one – you have lost your credibility and may easily lose more than that.

In a quite different example, a buyer might tell its own staff that the new company brings additional products to its existing portfolio but then turn around and tell the target’s staff that the acquisition provides them with stronger channels through which to market their products. Those are not mixed messages. They are differing takes on the same message, both focused on the strategic intent of the merger but aimed with purpose at the two different audiences.


When speaking to diverse audiences your scripts should have the same overarching message as to the rationale behind the merger. With that as your foundation, you can then home in on different subsidiary elements of the story as best meet the needs and concerns of varying audiences.

For Another Time:

What to do when you must have differing messages because there’s good news for one group and bad news for another?

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