You want to be top-of-mind with your stakeholders, so how and when should you be writing them? The key is to be organized—lay out in advance when you will be sending communications, and be sure each communication has a clear purpose and a targeted set of stakeholders so that readers find your content useful rather than just flooding their inbox.
We recommend building an internal policy reputation calendar of communications your stakeholders will receive, providing your organization with a visual representation of its stakeholder communication strategy.
How to Create a Stakeholder Communication Plan
An effective stakeholder communication strategy will help keep the interest of your stakeholders and engage with the right ones. The following steps will help your organization craft a strategy that effectively engages the right stakeholders and achieves your objectives.
Identifying the right stakeholders is the first step in creating an effective stakeholder communication plan. This process is referred to as stakeholder mapping and can be done in five main ways:
- By issue
- By team member relationship
- By an stakeholder engagement matrix
- By a tiered system
- By champion, neutral, or detractor
No matter which strategy you employ, start with a unified system so your team can all work to achieve the same goal; connect with the right stakeholders in a way that will advance your organization’s issues.
Once your team has mapped the right stakeholders, work to set communication objectives. These objectives will help your team and the organization’s stakeholders work to fulfill an overall goal. These objectives should be as precise as possible to elevate the effectiveness of the information communicated to stakeholders.
Establish Methods of Communication
When you are satisfied with the communication objectives that have been laid out, start to establish your team’s method of communication. The method of communication isn’t just for communicating from your team to stakeholders, but also within your team. Determine what information is a part of your strategy and who is going to receive that information.
If you are sending information to an external stakeholder, you may decide to use email or a press release, whereas internal team communication may be better achieved using a private communication platform like Slack.
Use Data To Create the Stakeholder Communication Plan
Preparing information about who your stakeholders are, what your objectives are, and what methods of communication you plan to use are all data points to build your communication plan. Make sure your team uses all of the information gathered to keep the communication plan focused on the set objectives.
Consider setting up your communication strategy monthly, including a column for the theme, key message, stakeholder, and channels to help your team stay organized. Click here for an editable template.
Assign a Strategy Owner
When the stakeholder communication strategy is set up, all your organization needs to do is assign a team member to be the strategy owner to keep the plan on track. If there is more than one strategy occurring at a time, you will need to assign a strategy owner to each communication plan.
Tips to Build a Strong Stakeholder Communication Strategy
When approaching stakeholder communication strategy it can be easy to lose the interpersonal aspects of normal conversation as a result of a strongly structured plan. Always remember the benefits of effective, ongoing, two-way communication. Communicating in this way will ultimately increase understanding, clarify stakeholder preferences and values, and allow further understanding of how their values can and should be involved in policy decisions. Keep the following tips in mind when communicating with stakeholders.
- Transparency: Your stakeholder communication strategy should have clear and actionable objectives. This should also be true for any information you provide to stakeholders. If you want them to take action in favor of your company’s goals, be as transparent as possible in communication, outlining what you need them to do and why.
- Work With Stakeholders: When communicating with stakeholders, ask them how they would prefer to receive information. Determining a communication style and cadence that works for stakeholders only helps develop the relationship.
- Feedback: It is important to communicate with stakeholders about how their interests and issues are addressed and resolved. At the end of the day, you are asking stakeholders to do something that advances your issues. Provide them with context as to how that issue may also match their interests.
- Notes: To ensure the most effective communication and relationship development possible, keep a record of every communication. This will ensure that relationships aren’t lost as team members rotate and that you don’t forget any promises or positions certain stakeholders care deeply about.
Types of Engagement for Your Stakeholder Communication Strategy
The type of information used to engage stakeholders matters greatly. Using the right communication for each circumstance will help keep your organization top of mind.
Here are six examples of messages that should be a part of your stakeholder communication strategy:
1. Company Announcements
Major company announcements are a critical component of a stakeholder communication strategy, and likely will be sent out to your widest audience. Examples of company announcements that stakeholders should receive can range from the launch of a new product to the opening of a new facility.
Coca-Cola sent a major company announcement to stakeholders for the release of its 2018 Super Bowl ad. Download the case study to see how Quorum helped them do it.
2. Policy Updates
Keeping your stakeholders up-to-date on policy issues your organization cares about can help them better engage with your public affairs efforts and prepare them to participate in a grassroots campaign if need be.
A key to success is to keep robust target lists that map stakeholders by categories, such as issue interest, priority, frequency of communication, or geographic region. There may be a multitude of policy areas that affect your organization, but if you bombard stakeholders with content they aren’t interested in, they may be less likely to read and engage with your messages. Tagging contacts by issue area in Quorum helps organizations build lists for each policy area so they can target communication efforts to those stakeholders that have a vested interest.
3. Economic Impact Reports
Data is a powerful way to get a message across to stakeholders, and sending economic impact reports on a quarterly or annual basis offers quantitative insights into the role your organization plays in your industry. Policymakers note they are more likely to engage with organizations that are able to directly demonstrate how their work impacts the lawmaker’s state or district, so be sure to communicate your organization’s footprint regularly. Consider including how many constituents you employ in the district, the number of facilities you have there, or the number of advocates that are active on your issues.
See how Engine uses Quorum to show the number of advocates in a given legislative district with lawmakers.
4. Invites to Events
Along with sharing company updates with stakeholders via email, you may be hosting an event to celebrate your new product, facility, or initiative. Inviting stakeholders to events can give you opportunities to see them in person and spend time in a more relaxed setting, rather than a meeting when you may be making an ask. Events are some of your biggest opportunities to engage with stakeholders in person, so you want to make sure invitations are well-timed with other stakeholder communications. You want to ensure that when the invite hits their inbox they are enticed to open the email. Attempt to strike the balance of enough emails to get your invite out and acknowledged, but not, too many that recipients feel overwhelmed. Send targeted reminder emails based on RSVP lists to ping those who have yet to respond with different messages than those who have stated their intention to attend.
See how Walmart invites legislators and community stakeholders to facility openings with Quorum’s Outbox tool.
5. Updates on Corporate Social Responsibility Efforts
Consumers are placing more value on a company’s social involvement when making purchasing decisions, and thus more organizations are spending time on corporate social responsibility (CSR). From increasing sustainability efforts to aiding communities in need following natural disasters to providing supplies to schools in need of resources, organizations want to ensure stakeholders are aware of the work they are doing in their communities. Share with your stakeholders an update on when you hit a goal to reduce greenhouse emissions at your facilities, or when you’ve hit your goal for hours of community service by employees.
6. Monthly/Quarterly Newsletter
With a monthly or quarterly newsletter, you can give stakeholders a combination of each of the previously discussed types of communication. A newsletter should highlight recent announcements, give a digest of policy activity, and share a handful of data points about the impact of your organization. A variety of content will give recipients a chance to engage with the topics they are most interested in while getting a taste of all the work your organization is engaged in.
See how Destinations International takes an integrated approach to Public Affairs with Quorum.