Communicating to employees the finer details of a £2 billion merger between two banks is always going to prove an internal comms challenge.
It was the tricky situation facing communications professionals at Sterling Bank in late 2013 as it announced a landmark deal with Umpqua Bank.
The response was precise, methodical and yielded a fantastic response from employees. Here’s how it was done.
After a difficult time during the years of the credit crunch and the global recession, Sterling underwent substantial rebranding in 2011 as its marketing and communications divisions integrated together for the first time.
Marty Dickinson oversaw the rebranding exercise after joining the bank as Executive Vice President-Marketing/Communications/Corporate Property Services.
She told PR Week US: “When I arrived, we brought them together.
“A key part to me joining Sterling was knowing we had the ability to do that because if we were going to rebrand, we needed to integrate the marketing and communications departments so they could tell the story of the bank and show examples of how people live the brand internally and externally.”
The bank operates across five states in the US and has 2,600 employees.
The rebrand saw the bank’s intranet – known as The Source – shoot to prominence – offering reliable real-time, two-way communication and information.
Marty explained: “We used a multi-faceted approach. Through our rebranding effort, we rebuilt the validity and necessity of our intranet (The Source) as our core channel of internal communications.”
This move was perfectly timed.
It paved the way for the crucial collaboration required to successfully deliver key messages to colleagues after the announcement of the merger in late 2013.
Marty said: “We did an entire page on The Source dedicated to the announcement of the merger.
“The theme behind the merger was that Sterling and Umpqua are more alike than different. In addition to The Source, we distributed merger packets and a series of conference calls with leadership out to our associates.
“We wrapped up a road show of town halls in December, where leadership had gone to markets for six weeks and met with employees for nothing other than Q&As to talk about what is happening.”
The team has created an employee-led communications and marketing strategy, a vital guide to delivering effect comms until the merger is complete in the middle of 2014.
Marty added: “We are going to do an internal culture campaign for both sets of employees, so they can get to know one another.
“In Q1 2014, we are also kicking off another series of town halls, but this time they will have leaders present from both Sterling and Umpqua.”