A crisis can be described as an event or series of events which often disrupt the regular activities of human beings and organisations. Stakeholder management is therefore very crucial during this period because all communication which is deployed during this period is aimed at keeping the stakeholders informed and constantly updated during the crises to build trust and preserve the image and reputation of the organisation.
Stakeholders are the groups of interest within or outside an organisation which are directly or indirectly impacted by the organisation and its activities. Stakeholders can be categorized into internal and external groups. The ones that are internal are composed especially of employees, while external ones can be clients, consumers, competitors, suppliers and regulators. Here are five ways to effectively manage stakeholders during crisis situations.
- Identify your stakeholders: Start by identifying who the key stakeholders are. It’s not always the top person in an organization; recognize the importance of communicating with many levels of contributors, which is essential to really understanding issues and resolving them. Determine stakeholder groups and understand their needs and the roles they play. You can identify your stakeholders through brainstorming, creating a list of stakeholders, using organizational charts and directories, and the categorization of stakeholders.
- Map out your stakeholders: After all the stakeholders are successfully identified, map them out using the power-interest matrix. This matrix groups stakeholders according to their level of power and interest in the organisation to inform the mode and frequency of communication. Stakeholders can be analysed based on their potential to affect the company positively or negatively during a crisis.
- Leverage on relationship: Developing relationships with stakeholders before a crisis results in increased trust during a crisis. And where there is trust, people work together more easily and effectively. Investing effort in identifying and building stakeholder relationships can increase confidence, minimise uncertainty, and speed problem solving and decision-making.
- Take Responsibility: It is your responsibility to have a crisis communication plan in place ahead of time to help you understand your role as an organisation and take the responsibility to follow the right approach and procedure to communicate and engage with your stakeholders during a crisis. Be readily available to respond to the concerns of stakeholders while a mitigation plan is being implemented.
- Keep Communicating: Establish trust by being transparent about the status of your initiatives. Good communication is essential in order to effectively share your vision and the way forward with all stakeholders. Provide a big picture view and include timelines and key milestones. Listen to the feedback you are receiving and make sure you understand the perspectives, suggestions and concerns of all stakeholders. If stakeholders feel they are being heard, it will go a long way towards establishing trust.
In conclusion, stakeholder engagement and stakeholder management are arguably one of the most important PR activities during a crisis. It is also necessary to anticipate possible crisis situations in order to draft crisis messages ahead of time. Be sure to use all the channels at your disposal to communicate as often as possible. If you are reading this, and you need assistance in creating Stakeholder Management strategies, you can always talk to Global Media Alliance.
>>>The author is an Account Manager, Public Relations, Global Media Alliance. LinkedIn: Eunice Asantewaa Hansen-Sackey