For most external relations teams, managing relationships with a variety of audiences and stakeholders is at the very core of what they do. Systematic and regular touch points are how relationships are tested, along with keeping a close eye on stakeholder activities through media and political channels. Intelligence and engagement help inform stakeholder mapping, which is a vital activity for measuring reputation and progress against strategic or campaign objectives.
Lockdown has, however, changed the game. In the past 12 weeks, engaging with stakeholders in person is no longer an option, which Vuelio research revealed was MPs’ preferred method of engagement. Furthermore, with COVID-19 now dominating the narrative, the progress of building stakeholder voices on our behalf is likely to have slowed or even paused indefinitely.
So, how do we keep hold of our relationships and build new momentum behind our engagement goals? The answer is to firstly accept where we are. This is a new normal which means looking at our stakeholder map and relationships through a new lens and resetting the foundations:
Return to the basics of stakeholder mapping: are your stakeholders still interested in your priorities and can they influence them in a positive or negative way? Can you see this in their activities since lockdown began or do you need to accept their score or place in your map has changed?
Broaden your channels
If your stakeholder map was not informed by social channels before, it definitely should now. Many key stakeholders are connecting with their audiences through social channels – this could be you. At the very least, social activity can help inform the interest axis on your matrix right now, and can provide true insight into thinking. Our sister company Pulsar has been mapping the new normal using online conversation, which clearly shows the power of social.
Build digital relationships
If our usual ‘get to know you’ conversations were based on activities your stakeholders have done or plan to do physically, you now need to find a replacement. Discussing great social posts your stakeholder may have created or even passing on content sources and data you have found useful at this time, can help build the relationship. Being a beacon of knowledge in the new normal will help entrench your value with the stakeholder.
Consult on communication preferences
Reaching out to your key stakeholders and asking how you can connect with them seems obvious. However, it may not be something your stakeholder has thought of. What different options can you offer: a regular newsletter? A regular informal virtual catch up or a structured online briefing? Do you understand how their workflow operates (does a member of their staff process incoming digital communications, for example). And are you aware of preferred timings (Do they like to catch up on reading on Friday mornings so you know when to follow up?).
Success IS possible
It doesn’t have to be that the old plan has failed or is paused indefinitely. Establishing new metrics of success can keep your organisation progressing right now in stakeholder engagement activities.
Ready to establish new goals and make the most of the stakeholder landscape in lockdown? Find out how the Vuelio Stakeholder Relationship Management platform has helped our clients do just this.