For decades, communicators have asked for “a seat at the table,” meaning a chance to have input in consequential business decisions. It’s a call for recognition that communications should be recognized for its value to the business and must be about more than just “issuing” a press release at the end of a strategy execution.
This past week, I was flattered to have a literal seat at a table, at the front of a meeting room as part of the respected national health care business and finance conference convened by the McGuireWoods law firm, alongside an attorney from New York City, an attorney from Houston and a business consultant from the Washington, DC area. Organizers recognized that in health care, like in virtually every industry, a successful communications strategy can support business objectives and help ensure the intended outcome.
This panel focused on the immediate future in health care, which will be filled with change – particularly mergers and acquisitions of “distressed” companies and properties. Other panelists provide an up-to-the-minute snapshot of the industry, from hospitals to clinics to senior living communities. I tried to complement their remarks, and best practices advice, with some takeaways for the attorneys, investors and advisors in the audience.
Here are some key points to get you thinking:
-Place a high priority on communications, as change is hard for all audiences. Getting in front of change will make it incrementally easier
-Get communications resources involved early, under the shroud of NDAs, to identify audiences and their needs. Both sides of a deal can work together, in confidence, to help ensure consistent messaging once a deal materializes.
-Don’t let the fear of rumors and leaks lead to silence. In fact, timely information is what can help avoid rumors and leaks.
-In the event of a merger or acquisition, it is imperative for audiences to understand why it’s happening and how it will benefit the long-term. That means being honest and clear. I told the story of a CEO who took a “because I said so” approach to communicating a merger. That didn’t work, audiences revolted, and the deal had to be called off.
-Attorneys, finance types and communicators should work together, as illustrated by this panel.
Sometimes, those who don’t attend conferences question their value. In this case, if nothing else, the statement made in this panel should speak to everyone in health care, transactional work and beyond. Communications deserves that seat and can be as much a “make or break” factor as legal or financial strategy.