Stakeholder engagement, like managing the media is usually only thought about when things go wrong. Normally, PR and engagement professional only get the call when the complaints are flowing, or media have set up out the front - ok we love the excitement of crisis management BUT there are HUGE benefits of having a plan that guides your engagement and communication activities.
Organisations regularly set and review objectives and goals for the business but rarely do that link those with engagement and communication activities. If you are using a website, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, newsletters, emails, community events then you are communicating with an audience, potential client/customer or stakeholder.
Completing a situation analysis (fancy way of saying the who, what and why you are communicating) will give you the ability to better target your resources and develop a plan which sets out activities that cover the when and how.
For example, you might be about to lodge a development application with the local council but it's likely to raise objections from the community. This is no way a full strategy, but it gives you an understanding of the steps to take:
Communication objective: to reduce the likelihood that objections to the proposal are lodged with the council and gain support for the project.
Who are you communicating with (stakeholders): Councillors, neighbours, local community groups, council officers, business groups and media.
What are you communicating to stakeholders: Information about the project, benefits (economic, social, environmental).
Why are you communicating with stakeholders: To seek feedback from stakeholders potentially for input into the design, reduce likelihood of objections, provide accurate information about the project, reduce misinformation spreading.
Once you have set your goals and know who, what and why you are communicating it is easier to determine the best channel to use to achieve those goals set out in your activity plan and outline your key messages.
In the above example,
When and how to communicate with stakeholders: prior to lodging the development application - a briefing to Councillors, host a drop in day with a presentation/images/maps for neighbours and interested community members, conduct a survey, seek feedback forms, place information on your website and social media, host a visit to the site, have experts available to answer technical questions, attend a council meeting to address the public and provide information to relevant media explaining the project.
These basic principles apply whether it is for a specific project or when developing a communication strategy for your business.
If you have a project or want to develop a communications strategy and plan for your business, contact Mara for a chat, we'll help put you on the right track.
Take a look at Mara's 60 second communication strategy review tool.