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Posted by Sarah Brown on 23 Sep '13

How to win friends and influence people

{img_title} Stakeholder management seems to be more and more critical as society becomes more and more over communicated. Recently in very different circumstances it has become clear that many organisations have not worked out who they really need to communicate with, what they want to achieve and hence what they want to say.

Several times in the last few weeks I have found myself scribbling a stakeholder map on the back of a sheet of paper and explaining that it is critical to identify who cares about you and who you want to care, who is important and who it is nice to get support from but is not really important. As times become even more uncertain for charities and social enterprises it is critical to have the support of key people. It may mean that the decision to cut funding is not taken so lightly or is delayed, or just that they make sure you get as much warning as possible. 

Often the stakeholders that are critical are those that may influence those who you work with, rather than those you directly work with.  For example,  if you identify that a regulator of your clients is important but isn't interested because maybe they don't even know you exist then if you can communicate to that regulator that you do in fact have an impact on the results of the organisations they monitor then they firstly will become interested and secondly may even become an advocate who says "why don't you talk to XXXXX they can help you improve in this area". Often this requires understanding what social impact or results are important to them so that you can measure them. Consequently stakeholder management can be a long term activity, you may need to adjust what you record to gather statistics. The scary thing for me is that too often anecdotally charities have strong messages which would be important to stakeholders but there has been no thought about what needs to be tracked or who needs to communicate these messages to ensure everyone who is important knows.

Stakeholder management is not PR or advertising or even having the right website - it needs a coordinated strategy and plan including everything from who you invite to your AGM to who gets your ezine, annual report and who you meet in person or invite to your strategic planning or consult on new projects. It is not enough to send the same information to everyone - people only have the time to respond to what is relevant to them.

Just for me, please just take time to do a map and think how you can get those who are important to also be interested and active supporters. Email me if you want a template to do a stakeholder map. My scribbled maps just aren't the answer.