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Why you need to do a stakeholder mapping exercise

You know you need to reach out to your audiences on a whole range of issues and you know you need to do it in the most efficient and cost effective way.

So, how can you do this as accurately as possible? The answer is to carry out a stakeholder mapping exercise.

What is a stakeholder?

Quite simply put, it is someone who has an interest or concern in something. Being a publicly accountable organization could mean a lot of people. It's not just individuals but also groups of people, businesses and other organizations.

What is a mapping exercise?

In relation to communication strategy, this vital process is essentially a simple and effective way of analyzing your business area and discovering potential for development, growth and engagement. It's a way to work out not just who is in your many audiences, but how important they are to engage with and when. You can even help predict likely behaviors based on their segmentation profile.

How can it help me?

When you know who you need to talk to, then it is much easier to know how you talk to them. Using catch-all phrases such as 'the public', 'the media' or 'other agencies' really doesn't help you determine how you are going to craft your messaging in times of campaign or emergency management. Be honest, how many times have you used these terms to describe groups of people in your day to day PIO job?

By creating personas of the type of people you need to communicate with you can start to build a picture of how they would like to get their information from you. This then helps you be more effective, more efficient and ultimately, save precious department budget. Good data helps to drive good business decisions.

A key component of the exercise is being able to identify risk. What would happen if you didn't engage with a certain group but you did with another? What could the potential outcomes be? You can grade people and groups on how impactful and influential they are based upon their profiles.

Who needs to take part?

You need a representative from every area of your business, ideally, to get the best picture of who everyone in the organization is talking to on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis.

As a starter, you can sketch out who you think are the key audiences but you can be sure that someone from another department will have a totally different list to yours.

Don't get caught up on seniority either. Your 911 operator will probably know the key repeat callers that could potentially raise issues that you weren't aware of, or your front desk staff, or people out on the street will have many experiences of contact with community groups, particular journalists or businesses that will need to be communicated with.

Isn't it a whole lot of work?

It doesn't have to be. It's more of a brainstorming session where you really need to get five key pieces of information;

  • Who are they?

  • Why are they interested us?

  • Where do they get their information from?

  • What do we need to tell them?

  • How influential are they?

Once you have this core list together, you can start grouping them and nuance the core messages for each audience.

It's a working, living document that should always be reviewed, but with this as your starting point, your communication strategy will have a firm starting point. After all, what's the point in writing a message if you don't know who you're handing it to?

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