No Longer in the Driving Seat
It’s old news that comms doesn’t “own” stakeholder relationships anymore. Maybe we never did own them all – it makes complete sense for folks across the business to manage relevant relationships. For instance, your teams on the ground at your manufacturing site will certainly be better equipped to discuss the intricacies of their emissions with environmental NGOs than your average communicator!
The Challenge: Stakeholders View Corporations as Single Entities… But it Can be Hard to Act Like One!
The challenge comes, though, when the team who manage your supply chain, and the folks from Sustainability/CSR are all in dialogue with the same bunch of NGOs. How do you ensure consistency of messaging when, in some cases, folks don’t even know that their colleagues are engaging the same external stakeholders as they are?!
This can be particularly tough when the internal stakeholders don’t sit in the same office, or work for the same business unit, or even in the same country. As organizations become increasingly complex and siloed, it becomes ever more difficult for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing – one organization even told tale of business partners bumping into each other at the Capitol on their way to meet the same congressmen!
Enabling internal collaboration
In an ideal world, we’d have perfect visibility into every corner of our own companies. Business partners would share detailed notes of every stakeholder interaction they had, so that their cross-functional colleagues could be perfectly aligned and on-message while engaging the same external groups. For many of us, though, this level of integration would most likely occur in some parallel universe in which annual budgets were doubled, and the working week ended on a Wednesday! Business partners are busy, and often disinclined to take time out to share information across silos.
1. Narrow the scope of participation: Don’t demand an integrated approach for every stakeholder relationship. Leading communicators identify a finite number of their most important stakeholders, and limit the demand for intensive cross-functional collaboration to those to those relationships.
- CEC members, use this framework to determine the extent to which internal collaboration is required at your organization.
2. Don’t overinvest in technology: Going out and buying a CRM system for stakeholder management isn’t a solution for every company. Assess the complexity of your relationships – if your relationships are relatively simple (ie. requiring little internal collaboration) then don’t overinvest – email exchange, word documents, and even simple conversations can go a long way. If your relationships are more complex, across a wider range of internal touch points, then consider a more dynamic solutions (CRM systems, wikis, and the like).
- C EC members, check these principles for enabling peer collaboration