Communicating with organisations’ ‘publics’ is a key part of corporate social responsibility and fundamental to the success of any organisation.
While forward-thinking businesses have always appreciated the importance of keeping stakeholders informed and connected, some are less convinced and believe they can operate under the radar without any fear of being exposed or held to account.
The arrival of social media has called time on this outdated view – consumers now take organisations to task on public forums if they feel ignored or not consulted on decisions that impact them.
Often it is during a period of change when organisations look to their stakeholders for support, yet have neglected to nurture these relationships over time, so success is limited.
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The biggest challenge when it comes to managing stakeholder relations is defining who is a stakeholder and segmenting them into groups of interest and priority. While the neighbour who lives down the street may have little interest to you as a customer or specifier, he or she could well become a priority A audience if you were considering expanding your premises.
Our work with organisations managing complex stakeholder relations, groups and messaging has enabled us to develop robust processes to track engagement programmes matched to business objectives.
We structure stakeholders based on interest and influence and plot them in terms of priority. For example, those with low interest and low influence are kept informed, whereas others of low interest and high influence are powerful stakeholders with whom we need to engage with.
Once the stakeholders have been identified and prioritised, we define the message which means it is important to develop the most compelling reasons for engaging. Understand the motivations of your stakeholder groups and it is easier to plot how you are meeting these needs. For example, a community nearby a wind turbine might be worried about visual impact or noise, however they may be more interested in understanding what benefits they will gain from the project. Only by knowing their concerns can you tailor the messaging that is most likely to inform and influence.
This leads on to the best channels of communication and this again comes back to knowing your stakeholders. We work across a number of platforms from social, press and print as well as community groups and briefings to ensure we control and tailor the message as well as the delivery.
Understanding the need for stakeholder management and engagement is fundamental to management buy in. While some forward-thinking leaders feel it is the right thing to do, others may need convincing. Without doubt partnerships between businesses and stakeholders can drive sustainable communities, strengthen sectors and provide a focus for shared values. On the flip side, not having stakeholders who value an organisation can have a damaging effect on reputation.
If you embark on stakeholder engagement it needs to be meaningful. Be clear in what you set out to do and demonstrate that you are following this through and you will build trust even if the message you are imparting is not always positive.