Whether you work in-house, freelance or in an agency, here are my ten principles of effective stakeholder relations which I believe make for better practice and greater success. Some state the blinding obvious, others are more challenging.
Establish your mandate – be clear from the outset what it is you are being asked to engage stakeholders about and scope your engagement process accordingly
Engage appropriately – there are different levels of engagement with differing expectations from stakeholders based on what is the purpose of engagement. Whether it is to inform, involve or collaborate, each requires an approach that will achieve the desired outcome.
Give the right information – material information provides the basis for stakeholders and your organisation to make sound judgements about the things that matter to them, and take actions that influence the organisation’s performance. Duff information out, leads to duff intelligence back.
Keep your message consistent – informing stakeholders with a consistent message and the right information needs to be systematic and defensible. The minute one stakeholder hears from another, a different message or more material information than they were originally informed by you, could lead to conflict, distrust and a breakdown in relations.
Be open and balanced – providing balance in an organisation’s views is a challenge for many communicators moulded in the cast of only portraying their organisation in a ‘positive light’. One-sided sunny views doesn’t foster trust. Organisations need to respond to stakeholder issues that affect its performance and communicate their responses in a manner that meets the needs and expectations of its stakeholders so they can take informed decisions. If you disagree or dislike a response you have received, then articulate your views to mitigate or answer the issue.
Get your C-suite onboard – stakeholder engagement is a valuable tool for risk/opportunities management that can lead to the avoidance or minimisation of costs and the creation and optimisation of value. So why don’t chief executives and the senior management team always get it? Maybe because we fail to explain the value and effectiveness of stakeholder engagement. You are the voice of the organisation, an ambassador for your organisational leader who really needs not just to understand the value of your work but to back it 110%.
Better together – Organisations and their stakeholders recognise that today’s complex issues cannot be solved by any single actor. They require a coordinated effort with multiple stakeholders contributing to innovative and sustainable solutions. That’s the raison d’etre for stakeholder relations. The language of collaboration has to be meaningful as there are too many examples from politics of faux unity in the vain hope of success.
Project management is core – for many public relations practitioners, the focus of stakeholder relations is about what is said to whom, etc. However, a fundamental skill in managing multiple relationships within limited resources is your ability to project manage.
Mind your ethics – you are a professional, i.e. a member of a professional body with appropriate standards of conduct. Ensure you keep your ethical practice up to date and remind everyone you talk to just how much you regard professional standards (start with a line on your email signature about professional membership and your commitment to professional development).
Evaluate your stakeholder relations – at least annually, have you considered ways of evaluating your relationships with stakeholders? Whether quantitatively by survey or qualitatively by interview, use an independent researcher to provide you with assurance that you are doing your best or at least find out where you can improve. Of course, you feel that you do that all the time but not every stakeholder will express their views to the same standard as you.
At the end of the day, why is effective stakeholder relations important? Because it can offer awin-win goal for all.
If you are interested finding out about how to be more effective stakeholder relations, CIPR Scotland has a Freshly Brewed workshop which is an introduction to managing stakeholder relations and provides best practice advice on how to manage engagement with stakeholders in order to achieve organisational goals.
This event is being held in Aberdeen but if you would like to see it delivered nearer to you, contact the Organiser to register your interest and preferred location.
Freshly Brewed is a series of half-day training sessions that address a different PR theme each session. Each has been designed in response to feedback from the membership survey to reflect what our members want. Each session counts as 5 CPD points.
This year’s The Media in Scotland Conference will ask What Does the Digital Future Look Like? A big question for the media and PR industries.
We all know the future is digital, but what does that mean for the mainstream media, and how are the different industries changing their operations to guarantee future success? And the big question that is on everyone’s lips: Do newspapers have any kind of long-term future?
Expert speakers will tackle the tough questions that face the media in Scotland including:
- Jeff Moriarty, Chief Digital and Product Officer, Johnston Press
- Brian Wilson, Columnist, The Scotsman and West Highland Free Press
- Douglas Fraser, Business Editor, BBC Scotland
- Shaun Milne, Editor, Advance and Stream Content (Digital Publishing), STV Group Plc
- Professor Raymond Boyle, University of Glasgow
- Graham Bryce, Group Managing Director, Bauer Media, Northern England and Scotland
- Craig McGill, Digital Strategist, Weber Shandwick
- Sheena McDonald, Journalist and Broadcaster (Chair)
Date: Wednesday 30 April 2014
Time: 8.30pm to 1.00pm Venue: The Scottish National Galleries, The Mound, Edinburgh, EH2 2EL
Cost: £99 + VAT – 10% discount for CIPR members
CIPR Scotland’s second annual conference, Future PRoofing, took place on 11 March. Practitioners from all areas joined us for insightful presentations, discussion and debate on some of the key issues the industry is facing when it comes to keeping pace with professional developments.
Our speaker slides are now available for you to view.
•What the future PR team might look like – Keynote speakers: Nick Jones, Head of Digital for Visa Europe and Lynda Redington, Head of Corporate and COO at Lexis.
•PR professionals of the future – John Heuston from City of Glasgow College and David Martin, Manager, Key Industries Sectors Manager, Skills Development Scotland
•Leadership – David Watt, Director of the Institute of Directors (Scotland)
The 2014/15 CPD cycle opened on 11 March and there’s no better time to think about how you will approach your own CPD than now.
I’ve been listening to what members say about their approach to CPD. For many, they do actively seek out training and learning opportunities, especially those provided by CIPR Scotland. Then there is the updating of MyCPD. For many that is a rush as the annual cycle deadline beckons. How do you approach your CPD?
Well this year, get a head start by sharing your experience with PR students at Edinburgh Napier University. There are two PR modules on the Communications, Advertising and Public Relations programme where your insight can prove beneficial to students in their understanding of PR theory, practice and management.
This year, I’m particularly keen to bring in practitioners who can give insight to campaign planning, execution and evaluation. The modules are delivered on Mondays through to 29 April. Usually, guest speakers give a presentation for say 20-30 minutes and then take questions for another 20-30 minutes. We can make it as concise or as comprehensive as you want it to be.
How does that help my CPD?
Well, making a presentation on a CIPR-recognised degree course will attract up to 10 points on Stream 2 – Supporting Others:
This stream covers activities in which you using your comms and business skills and knowledge to help others or to make a contribution to the development of PR profession.
Stream 2 activities include writing books and papers on PR; lecturing or providing training on communications (unless you are paid to do this); using your communication skills to support a charity or small business; providing mentoring, coaching or work-shadowing; or participating in a communications focused group or committee, with the CIPR or another body.
All it takes is a wee bit of time to think about some examples of work you have undertaken. Students are thirsting for knowledge and understanding about professional practice and you are the best-placed person to provide that. Maybe you’ve been working on a particular communication programme or campaign and can give an overview from start to finish on how it went. Students want to learn about what works and what could be improved. You can use visual aids or just ‘talk the walk’. Why not contact me to find out more.
With a greater focus by the CIPR and employers on CPD, now’s the time to set yourself the goal of becoming an Accredited Practitioner, maintaining that status or reaching for Chartered Practitioner, the gold standard for the PR profession.
I predict that it won’t be long before employers will insist not just on membership of CIPR as prerequisite for a communications role but that you are at the top of your abilities as recognised by Accredited and Chartered status. I for one don’t want to be caught out in the job market of the future, so staying a step ahead of the game is key for me. I hope you think so too.