Ward to the Wise

Stakeholder Relations: Active Listening

are-you-listeningThe significance of listening to and understanding the concerns of stakeholders is often overlooked when planning major initiatives.  Creating opportunities to engage directly with stakeholders and openly communicate with them about their concerns is half the battle when trying to build support for major projects. Successful, pro-active stakeholder relations campaigns recognize this factor and implement strategies that reduce barriers and provide for two-way channels of communication.

Lending Stakeholders a Voice

Town Hall Meetings Elected officials have long recognized the value of Town Hall meetings with their constituents. Town Halls provide them open, visible forums to talk about their priorities, share information on critical issues and hear directly from those they serve.  Smart organizations undertaking major initiatives involving multiple stakeholders understand the importance of these kinds of open public meetings in engaging stakeholders. Community Open Houses Community open houses are beneficial to both companies and stakeholders. They allow organizations to build visibility; make formal project presentations; provide detailed information from experts, technical specialists, etc.; display project-specific materials; and candidly answer questions from stakeholders directly impacted by the initiative, as well as those of others in the community who may be indirectly affected. When it is an honest, in-person, straight-forward communication and demonstrates a company’s solid commitment to hearing stakeholder concerns, the open house can be an invaluable element of your stakeholder relations program.  But, when community meetings are designed to give the appearance of open dialogue but do not allow community members to openly ask questions their peers can hear, learn from each other in the forum, or are flocked by the company representatives bombarding them with company messaging, such an event is at best a farce, and at worse a pure act of manipulation that is likely not in keeping with the values the company claims it lives by.  And when this happens, those who can affect the outcome, take notice. Other Venues Other venues such as local festivals and community/charity/sports events can be equally beneficial in soliciting stakeholder input. They attract large, diverse audiences that might otherwise not be reached.  Exhibiting project materials and staffing booths at these kinds of events creates visibility for major initiatives, fosters stakeholder communication and works to build positive relationships within communities. 

Creating and Promoting Active Communication

Websites are another highly effective means of communicating with stakeholders to solicit input and address questions or concerns. They allow stakeholders to choose how they prefer to communicate. Some stakeholders really want to talk in-person to a company representative, while others may prefer to communicate via email.  Providing contact phone numbers and email addresses (of actual company representatives) on websites sends the message that the company is vested in hearing from stakeholders and engaging them in their planned initiatives. Do you need help communicating with stakeholders about your major project or initiative? Contact us. We can help create opportunities to really hear your stakeholders, so you can plan your initiative with the least resistance and protest possible.

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