When Discover Goodwill of Southern & Western Colorado began exploring the possibility of merging with Goodwill Industries of Denver, the organization’s leadership interviewed several Denver PR firms who could help manage the communications surrounding the merger. Given our expertise in crisis communications and nonprofit PR, Goodwill selected Pushkin PR as their Colorado public relations partner.
For many of the nonprofit and professional services organizations we work with, mergers can be difficult to navigate, as potential changes to operating structures can create a climate of confusion, apprehension and even fear among employees, stakeholders and clients. Our job was to help Goodwill manage expectations throughout the nearly year-long merger process and ensure key audiences received timely and relevant information to help them navigate the merger. It was also important to keep the public informed at key points throughout the process and share the news of expanded programming and services that would result from the two organizations joining forces.
Additionally, the organization was in need of a crisis communications plan to help them prepare for any fallout that could arise if rumors started to spread before the official announcement. Finally, while most people know about Goodwill’s retail stores and donation programs for clothing and household goods, Goodwill also supports job training and other programs that the public is less familiar with. Our team had the opportunity to help Goodwill share the impact of these programs and educate stakeholders about the Goodwill mission while telling the merger story.
When it comes to being prepared for any type of crisis communications situation, our team believes that the best defense is a good offense. We immediately got to work drafting a crisis communications plan for the organization to ensure they were prepared should an emergency situation arise. When developing the plan we focused on:
- Identifying the crisis response team and roles.
- Developing an organizational protocol to manage a communications crisis and a checklist to guide the process.
- Drafting key messages for a variety of potential situations that would allow Goodwill to respond quickly and efficiently.
- Outlining communications channels that would need to be activated in case of a crisis to best communicate with team members, stakeholders, clients, the media and the general public.
- Providing best practices and training materials for spokespeople and social media usage to ensure information is effectively communicated.
After creating a crisis communications plan, it was time for our team to get to work on a strategic communications plan to support the merger and transition. When drafting the communications plan, we began with two goals in mind. The first goal was to make sure that internal communication was clear, consistent and transparent. The other was to raise awareness about the merger among external audiences. Ultimately, we wanted to make sure that stakeholder groups could feel confident that their questions were answered and their concerns were addressed.
The communications plan we created featured:
- A situational analysis focused on identifying the communications challenges, opportunities, target audiences and goals
- Objectives and strategies to guide our work including:
- Internal communications
- Partnership communications
- Brand building
- Media outreach
- Digital communications and social media
- A planning timeline to guide our efforts throughout the merger process
Using the communications plan we created as a guide, Discover Goodwill and Goodwill Denver successfully navigated all of the communications challenges associated with the nearly one-year-long merger process. Employees, partners, customers and other stakeholders were informed at every step, making sure we minimized any potential fallout. The successful merger was announced through a series of targeted, one-one media interviews in Colorado Springs and Denver with the merged organization’s new CEO. We secured positive media coverage including CBS Denver, The Denver Post and the Colorado Springs Business Journal. Comments on social media were entirely positive, as was feedback from Goodwill management, board members, and community partners. In the end, our best measure of success is a happy client. Mission accomplished.