Stakeholder relations is the practice of forging mutually beneficial connections with third-party groups and individuals that have a “stake” in common interest. These relationships build networks that develop credible, united voices about issues, products, and/or services that are important to your organization. On its own, a single voice can fall flat for many reasons, from a lack of credibility to a lack of volume. The result can be a failure to elevate the profile of an issue, sway opinion, or drive action. On the other hand, a chorus of voices can harmoniously crescendo, reaching desired audiences with the right message at the right time.
Who should do it?
The short answer: everyone! Whether your company operates in the financial sector or in healthcare, or you are a non-profit association, there are key groups with whom your organization could align to help influence your position on a given issue or need.
Examples of potential stakeholders include:
- Business Associations
- Industry Associations
- Regulatory Groups
- Environmental Groups
- Consumer Groups
- Advocacy Groups
- Medical/Health Associations
- Community Groups
Where should it be done?
Depending on the scope of your organization, stakeholder relationships can be developed at all levels: nationally, regionally, and locally. Whether it’s to advocate for public policy on a big issue or manage reputational risk, it is always beneficial to have allies in your corner.
When to get started?
Chances are you wouldn’t ask someone you just met to be a job reference, or help you out on moving day. Similarly, developing close relationships with key stakeholders doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, there are a number of steps required before an introductory meeting can even occur. You should expect that it will take time to educate a stakeholder on your position, establish common ground and build trust and rapport. This often involves being the first to add value. “Dig your well before you’re thirsty,” goes the old saying. Start digging.
Why do it?
There are many instances where partnering with third-party organizations can be advantageous. For example, an allied stakeholder can help educate decision makers and their influencers, add credibility to your lobby effort, demonstrate widespread support for your position, and neutralize the position of your competitors. They can also generate third party opinion, leverage resources, and attract like minded organizations.
Cultivating a roster of supportive, like-minded, credible organizations is both a hedge against risk and an opportunity to disseminate support from multiple sources. In today’s fast-paced, hyper-connected communications environment, these allies are more important than ever. Online and offline research and listening activities can identify both high-profile and backroom influencers, as well as potential allies and opponents.