Gillette’s merger success helped by talking to staff

Gillette’s
internal communication strategy played an important part in the success of the
company’s recent merger activity, claimed its director of communications at a
conference in London earlier this month.

Paul Fox
played a key role in shaping Gillette’s internal communication strategy when
the company merged with Oral B, Duracell, Braun and SPG in 1998. Gillette
already owned the four brands but the decision was taken to merge to form The
Gillette Company to increase efficiency and to cut costs.

Fox,
speaking at a conference on internal communication, said one of the most
important judgements was when to inform employees.

He
said, "As information specialists we need to be involved from the start of
negotiations. It is valuable information because it has an impact on the
competitive position of the business."

He
stressed that the different companies involved in the merger had to work
together to ensure the message they were giving to staff was coordinated.

Fox
said that a clear consistent message had to be communicated to employees across
all the firms’ business units as well as to trade unions, the media, investors
and analysts.

He
told the conference that the merger or acquisition process should be labelled
"evolution rather than change" because of its more positive meaning.

"We
need to clarify why – why now, where are the benefits, what were the
alternatives and why are we merging with these people." Fox said it is
also important to establish a timetable for the merger process and create
effective feedback channels so staff can put across their views.

Gillette
used the intranet to answer frequently asked questions and to invite specific
feedback as well as utilising the monthly staff payroll to ensure all employees
were informed about what was going on.

Fox
said Gillette had used one of its most charismatic members of staff to talk to
employees about the merger to give it a positive spin. He concluded, "If
you want to get an idea across wrap it up in a person."

By
Ben Willmott

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