You may not think you have stakeholders or that it’s for huge corporates of public sector bodies to think about? I think it’s overlooked in PR programmes, as running alongside campaign activity it can really underpin a campaign.
I advocate stakeholder planning as part of an overall communication or PR strategy, not just as a business development tool or an add-on.
The main reason is that what motivates people to participate or not is an important part of helping us understand what problems to solve, who will buy your product or service, and, in turn, understand our audience better. This means we can create messages that resonate with them and talk to them in ways they can understand the benefits.
So today I share what stakeholders are, and how to build them into your communication strategy and some of the most important questions to ask yourself when trying to understand your customers’ needs as well as how to prioritise who to talk to first.
Let’s dive in!
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Full transcript (unedited!)
I advocate stakeholder planning as part of an overall communication or PR strategy, not just a business development tool.
The main reason is that what motivates people to participate or not is a key part of helping us understand what problems to solve, who will buy our product or service, and, in turn, understand our audience better.
This means we can create messages that resonate with them and talk to them in ways they can understand the benefits.
I think it’s overlooked in PR programmes as, running alongside campaign activity, it can really underpin a campaign.
You may not think you have stakeholders or that it’s for huge corporates of public sector bodies to think about?
So in this short podcast, I share what stakeholders are, how to build them into your communication or PR strategy and some of the most important questions to ask yourself when trying to understand stakeholders’ needs.
Plus, there is a free guide for you if you are interested in learning more or implementing this yourself.
Stakeholders are the people or organisations that are important to your business in some way. They can be individuals, companies or even government agencies. When defining your product or service, it’s important to understand the needs of your various stakeholders and how you can best meet those needs. This will help you to build a product or service that people will want to use as well as beingable to talk about it in a way that is relevant to a wide variety of people..
Managing stakeholders is also a core part of any advocacy campaign or comms programme. So it’s really important to set goals at the beginning of your journey and be really clear about the destination. It can be time intensive activity, but it can also not cost you very much money as a lot of the implementation work can be people to people type work so you can do it face-to-face, you can do it through meetings, et cetera and often it can integrate into your wider PR programe.
Stakeholder mapping is an useful starting point for understanding your customer needs, but don’t stop at just this. But this is not a simple grid. You will need to take your research further to build a complete picture of your customer needs. It can be particularly useful for identifying who your key customers are, and who might become customers if you meet their needs, how to prioritise them too.
Where to start with stakeholder mapping?
This is really about assessing who your stakeholders are for a business or a campaign and sorting and prioritising them. You need to make a long list to start off with and include individuals that matter to your business success and be thorough. Ask your suppliers, ask your staff what they think. Be really honest about this.
But to make the list manageable, the next thing is to try and group these people in a manageable way, ways you can identify them. You might have certain phrases that you use within your business, but we want to group them by the elements they hold common. And then we want to begin to prioritize them. You could also group them according to interests of areas of expertise. For example, this might be things like policy.
This might be supply chain and logistics. It might be that they’re a funder or an investor. They might be an activist in your industry. They could be a key customer. Or they could be members of your staff.
This could be quite a long list, admittedly. So, one of the ways that I like to start with this is to think, “How can I regroup them? How can we split them up?” I’ve got a link in the show notes to a really simple tool that I use with some explanatory notes with it called the Boston Matrix.
Some of you listening might be familiar with the Boston Matrix. It was originally developed by the Boston Consulting Group to identify areas of business growth. But now it’s commonly used for a number of areas. And in this sort of relationship management area, it’s definitely a very overused tool purely because it’s so simple. I love using it.
I like to put things in big buckets.
So, my first big bucket is who do I know really well? Who are the people that are going to be quick wins for me here?
Bucket number two might be people that are slightly further away from your business or cause, but that you have some connection with, you know you need to bring them closer if they are to be informed and useful to you or act as advocates of your initiative..
Bucket number three could be other groups that are on your list, but actually you may not have a connection with. You might have a second or third connection with. So that’s bucket number three.
Bucket number four is everyone else. They might be really important groups of people. They might be somebody in charge of your industry sector in some way. They might be just that absolute ultimate customer or joint venture you want to bring ito a partnership.
So, you’ve got your four buckets and you kind of have an understanding of how important they are just by throwing them in these big buckets to understand better how you need to handle them and communicate with them.
To bring this in further and make it even more useful you might want to even apply a bit of a sliding scale within the buckets. You can get as nerdy as you want with this and as detailed as you like. I like to get quite nerdy with it. But you might want to have a sliding scale within your big bucket that sort of is a one to five sort of how close they are to your organization.
And then you might want to have another scale that says how close would you like them to be?
And then you want to work on what I call ‘the relationship gap’. The difference between where they are and where you would like them to be.
The next step for you is to think about how you want to reach them.
Now, depending on what bucket they’re in, this could be completely different. So, there’s a little bit of work here to think about.
Where are they hanging out?
Where will you find them?
Can you pick up the phone to them? Is it a meeting?
Are they hanging out at your next industry event?
Do you need to reach them through media?
Is it trade publications?
Do you need to be on speaking platforms?
Do you need to be sending them something direct mail?
Do you need to enter into an agreement with them?
Do you want to do some joint planning with them?
Are they on industry forums and round tables that you want to be on?
So, have a think about how you could possibly reach them. You might already have a program of content or PR or marketing, and you might quickly find that actually some of the activity you’re doing, overlaps and you can actually join that together quite simply to reach your goals. And you might also have some gaps, of course but this is useful when you come to prioritise where the work needs to happen.
The next step is to think about what you’re going to say.
I have a whole episode on messaging which you should check out but the key thing to consider here is what do you want to say and why should they care? And then create about five messages for each of your groups of people.
It’s important to also have some way of measuring your relationships status with stakeholders.
Surveys and interviews are good ways to do this to benchmark against. And there are many online stakeholder management tools available, I’ll put a link in the shownotes to a couple. The important thing is understand if the aprpoach to are taking is helping you reach your goals, if it isnt them you need to tweak your programme.
Finally, I’d like to share with you two common pitfalls that I’ve come across, and I don’t want you to make the same mistake.
So, the first one is make sure everyone is on board in your management team.
Quite often, I find that this is not the case. You need to be really clear when you set about your brand advocacy program, where you’re headed, and therefore what your message is. And also because of that, you need to make sure the management team is completely aligned with sharing information with people and also bringing people into the organization or closer to the organization that everyone’s happy to do that with.
My second one is that the individual relationships should not sit with the individual.
Now, again, this is something I come across all the time where someone joins a business to help it grow and help it succeed, and they have their little black book and then that person leaves and those relationships leave with that person. I mean, how crazy is that? So, you’ve invested that time and money and then the relationships leave. This is why it’s super important to have brand advocacy as part of your communication strategy and one of the reasons why it’s absolutely imperative that it’s part of your business planning and communication strategy.