Stakeholders are people too. And their day-to-day concerns creep into their professional lives.
Stakeholder maps are the bedrock of so many campaigns. After all, if you want to change a conversation around a topic you need to know who’s involved. And yet, too often stakeholder maps become stakeholder prisons. We begin to believe that the issues of the campaign are the things that stakeholders should care most about. Worse still, we start to believe that this thing we care about is one of the main things that our stakeholders care about.
But they don’t. At least not all the time.
Stakeholders, or to give them their proper name, people, are just as fluctuating in their priorities as the rest of us. They too flit from finding donations for mufty days to sorting out household bills. In between dashing to the loo between video calls and cooking dinner, they also care about the issues you care about. Sometimes.
Campaigns, however, treat them as if all that other stuff doesn’t exist or matter. But it really does.
Over the weekend, Camilla Cavendish used her FT column to complain about companies using Covid as an excuse for poor service. This column came about because of poor experiences with two high street banks. Just a couple of days later, Emma Duncan used her Notebook in The Times to call out companies using “the Covid excuse”. That’s two pieces in the opinion pages of high-profile media complaining about the same issue. And it’s not a stakeholder issue. It’s not sustainability or regulation. It’s not governance or funding. It’s a consumer issue, faced by people every day who are calling companies to sort out bills and bank accounts and broken appliances.
Corporate communicators need to break the wall that stops stakeholders from being seen as people. All the messaging in the world, however beautifully framed it might be, will not win over a stakeholder who through personal experience (or that of their friends and family) has a dim view of your company.
Now, it’s not practical to cover off every eventuality, but if you work for a company that has a customer service call centre, do you know if you’re pre-recorded message is using the Covid excuse? Because resolving that might help shift your stakeholder reputation metrics as much as anything else you’re doing right now.