When I was looking for inspiration for our latest article, I turned to our popular desktop calendars we send to clients, suppliers and other stakeholders every year. For 2022 we decided to share some tips relating to our services and one that really sticks out for me – mostly because it’s at the heart of so much of our work – is getting stakeholder mapping right.
Before you start communicating with people, you need to find out who they are, where they are based, what their interests are and their contact details. Pre-internet this was a challenge but these days there’s a wealth of information out there waiting to be discovered.
Stakeholder mapping is not sticking pins in a map (which I confess, I did think was the case many years ago), it generally means creating a comprehensive database of anyone who may have an interest in your organisation or specific project. That could be customers, suppliers, staff, partner organisations, media, residential and commercial neighbours, parish councils, planning officers, district and county councillors, MPs and many others, depending on the nature of the work.
Although a simple spreadsheet is a good starting point, using a free tool such as Google’s My Maps is incredibly useful to visualise the data. For example, if you’re trying to communicate with staff about travel plans, wouldn’t it be useful to look at a map and see how far away from the workplace they live? Likewise, if you want to influence local councillors regarding a project needing planning permission, it can be beneficial to plot which areas they cover.
Generally, the media should also feature in your stakeholder list. Think about whether you want to target the local press, regional, trade, national (if you have a good enough story) or bloggers and influencers. Take the time to research the contacts you need as that will be key to the success of getting your message out there. And please, whatever you do, don’t send your news to a list of a hundred journalists who won’t have any interest in your story. Targeted communications always work best.
There are plenty of databases available to purchase but if you can put the time in, the information is usually available online. It’s worth noting that journalists move jobs frequently and the data isn’t always kept up to date. I recently took a call from a company trying to sell us a media database that asked for someone who’s never worked at Maxim – it hardly inspired confidence in their product.
Once you’re confident you have a good database to work from, make sure you keep it that way. Update it after elections (national and local), keep an eye on journalists moving roles (Twitter is great for this) and check contact details are current.
I’ve worked with some organisations that like to prioritise and label their stakeholders in terms of importance but keep in mind that could be damaging if it was accidentally shared. Nobody wants to be at the bottom of your list.
Once you’re confident in who you’re sharing your message with, you can start to think about what you want to say and when – but that’s a topic for another day.
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