Stakeholder Communication still poses a Challenge to the Business
Stakeholder communication should be part of integrated marketing communication
What is stakeholder communication? Stakeholder communication in simple terms means the exchange of information by the business to share relevant information and reach an understanding with its various stakeholders. A stakeholder is any person who will be affected if the business achieves its objectives. Stakeholder communication now often forms part of an integrated marketing communications (IMC) plan and is no longer about sharing information only. It is important for the business to obtain feedback from its stakeholders to be able to evaluate its stakeholder communication and to properly respond to any feedback. The real challenge is to consistently communicate with various stakeholders who often have different and opposing interests using different communication tools. The business should build a relationship with each stakeholder which forms the basis of stakeholder communication.
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What contributes to effective stakeholder communication?
Effective stakeholder communication should accommodate the following:
- The business should be motivated and committed to its stakeholder communication
- The business needs to be perceived as credible and trustworthy in the sharing of information
- Stakeholders should contribute to the communication process by means of feedback even though the final decision would still be made by the business.
- The business should engage and collaborate with stakeholders to understand their needs, interests and concerns.
- The business must understand its stakeholders. Tailor-made, coordinated and consistent messages should be communicated to each stakeholder group.
- Any differences in perspectives between the business and its stakeholders should be negotiated to reach agreement.
What communication tools can be used to engage with stakeholder through stakeholder communication?
The following are well known stakeholder communication tools:
- Conferences, seminars and workshops
- Working groups and/or committees
- Face-to-face meetings with one or more stakeholders to share views and receive feedback
- Partnerships with various stakeholder groups
- Stakeholder advisory panels and community liaison groups
- Use of mediators, facilitators, interviews and surveys
- Social audits to evaluate social responsibility
- Sustainability reports (as from June 2010 all South African businesses who are listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, are now obliged to compile an Integrated Report to replace sustainability reports. This was done to, among others, improve interactivity and to include all stakeholders).
- Social media tools such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Slideshare and blogs, to name but a few.
The above communication tools can assist businesses to improve stakeholder communication by getting to know their stakeholders, their needs, and preferences. Tailor-made and understandable stakeholder communication can also contribute to the business’s’ credibility.
van Huijstee, M & Glasbergen, P. 2008. The practice of stakeholder dialogue between multinationals and NGOs. Corporate Social Responsibility and Environment Management 15:298-310.
Johansen, TS, & Nielsen, AE. 2011. Strategic stakeholder dialogues: a discursive perspective on relationship building. Corporate Communications: An International Journal 16(3):204 – 217.
Laasonen, S. 2010. The role of stakeholder dialogue: NGOs and foreign direct investments. Corporate Governance 10(4):527-537.
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