Stakeholder Management for the Information Age

Organizations today have to constantly build, manage, and leverage relationships with everyone from business partners to its Twitter followers in order to protect their brand and reputation. FiscalNote clients like Microsoft, Toyota, and Johnson & Johnson must consider and respond to issues and stakeholders that cross borders, cultures, and languages – creating the need for innovative solutions and tools to manage this complexity.

Given these challenges, how do you manage the complexity of identifying, engaging, and maintaining relationships with key stakeholders? Here, we offer 4 ideas we’ve learned from our client partners.

 

  1. The democratization of social influence
    If you are like me, you know the feeling of not being able to recall the name of that friend of a friend whose sister-in-law is married to the CEO of a partner company. What’s his/her name again?The late David Rockefeller – former CEO of Chase Manhattan Bank – is famous for amassing a Rolodex with over 200,000 3-by-5 inch index cards with information of his vast network of contacts. Rockefeller’s detailed records of foreign heads of state and other policy influencers not only created opportunities to expand his business overseas but also allowed him to become a key voice in US foreign policy.As the world becomes more connected with technologies like social media and smartphones, issues involve a greater range of non-traditional stakeholders. In the past, key issue influencers were generally elected officials, esteemed academics, or other similarly accomplished private individuals. Today, anyone with reach and rapport on a myriad of web platforms like Twitter or Facebook has the potential to influence public opinion on key issues ranging from gun control to personal data privacy from their mobile device or desktop.

 

  1. Not all stakeholders are created equal
    Stakeholders play a variety of different roles on issues depending on factors such as their occupation, experience, or general gravitas. Depending on the issue, stakeholders may be potential allies or stubborn detractors.While identifying and recruiting powerful allies can create positive momentum for an organization’s desired goals, inability to identify and monitor key detractors can lead to unanticipated obstacles and challenges. Furthermore, engaging with stakeholders that don’t have the potential to significantly move the needle on an issue can siphon away resources that can be used on more impactful players.Organizations may consider and use different frameworks for the prioritization of engagement with stakeholders. One example we continue to see is a popular framework called the Influence / Alignment matrix (see Fig 1). This type of framework can help you identify the right stakeholders to move your issue forward.

    Fig 1: Influence/Alignment Matrix

    Fig 1: Influence/Alignment Matrix

 

  1. Different stakeholders require different engagement strategies
    Once you’ve identified the right stakeholders for your issues management strategy, it’s important to tailor an engagement strategy based on the stakeholders’ roles and responsibilities on the issue.While communication over social channels like LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook may be great ways to engage and mobilize large audiences, the most successful organizations find that a mixture of both digital and direct interaction can be utilized to engage with different types of stakeholders.

 

  1. Measure and optimize your channels
    Just as marketers meticulously measure all the different ways they attempt to communicate the business value of their products and services, stakeholder management in the modern age requires careful measurement of all engagement efforts.Measurement of efforts can both help fine tune existing campaigns — fly-ins, digital advocacy, summits, letter writing, etc. — but also allows you to double down on what’s working and stop what’s not.

 

FiscalNote assists clients like Walgreens, Toyota, and AT&T with its vast coverage of insights and analysis on private, public, and community influencers in over 20 countries. As the nature of public affairs changes, organizations will need to innovate and implement new processes and tools to identify, engage, and manage stakeholder relationships throughout an issues management process.