Stakeholder Relations: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You
Underestimating the importance of knowing the issues of communities you need to engage in support of transformational initiatives has caused many large projects to go awry, fail, or at a minimum, stall. Successfully engaging with communities and community leaders is such an obvious strategy, it hardly seems worth mentioning. But countless examples of failed initiatives point to the lack of understanding of how to critical it is to understand the issues and concerns of the communities in which you operate or plan to operate.
Get to Know the Community
Before launching any community outreach initiative, schedule introductory meetings with the staff at local organizations such as chambers of commerce, economic development organizations and visitors’ bureaus to learn about the community, its issues, concerns and future plans. Next to elected officials, these groups are the most valuable source of local information. Share with staff members details about your project/initiative and seek input from local civic/business organizations regarding potential project support (and opposition), as well as opportunities that offer involvement or support of local initiatives.
Identify Opportunities for Visibility
After you’ve identified key community organizations, researched when and where they meet, and identified organization leadership, the types of programs or presentations they host, and charity/civic events they sponsor, reach out to organization leadership/officers to offer project presentations, discuss sponsorship opportunities, etc. These venues attract a broad local audience and allow you to spread the word about your initiative, answer questions regarding your plans and activities and demonstrate your interest in and consideration of local issues.
The information you glean from having a presence at local business/civic meetings and events is invaluable. It can inform management, drive your future plans, allow you to begin building relationships with community leaders and establish you as a concerned corporate citizen. There is no shortcut to successfully engaging with communities. It requires a focused, strategic approach, implemented with consistency.
Want more information about Ward’s stakeholder relations capabilities? Contact us. We can help you engage with communities important to your initiative.