Ultimately, your reputation is based on how closely your actual business activities are aligned with what you say about yourself. Just as important, your reputation is based on the stakeholder relationships you build.
Your stakeholders help to ensure that the way you want to be viewed is consistent with how you actually are viewed by the general public, the media and by elected officials. If you’re out of sync with your stakeholders, they may not be willing to speak on your behalf when you need them. And it’s a lot easier to have your reputation damaged when you are standing alone, as opposed to standing among friends and supporters.
So When Things Heat Up, Just Who Does Speak On Your Behalf?
To their detriment, many companies narrowly tailor their view of stakeholders to comprise customers, shareholders, employees, the trade and business groups that represent them and a handful of legislators typically in districts where business facilities are located.
That’s why, when companies get into trouble – a product recall, a merger or acquisition that is viewed as undesirable, a federal investigation, litigation, disadvantageous legislation, a reporter conducting an unfavorable story – they run the risk of real reputational damage, even going so far as to threaten their license to operate. The cost can run into the hundreds of millions of dollars, if not billions…We’ve seen this countless times over the last decade.
How many companies have gotten into reputational trouble that you believe they should have been able to avoid? The question is: If YOU get into a similar situation, can you say with absolute confidence that the outcome will be any different?
Building Your Stakeholder Base
Especially if you provide services or products that are routinely in the public spotlight – and the list is endless these days – it is critical to start building relationships with key influencials who can help you shape a situation before you are getting flipped out of the frying pan and into the fire. And then work with you as strategic partners to consistently manage and improve your situation as events unfold. If they are truly strategic alliances, what would stop them from wanting to help you, if you have presented a compelling case in the first place?
The Cash & Cary Mindset
The problem is that most companies view civic, policy, academic, and opinion leader stakeholder development through the same TRANSACTIONAL LENS that they view their customers or consumers. They try to buy credibility and not build relationships. That may work with trade associations because they represent the industry you are in. However, it won’t work with a lot of alliances that are critical in today’s policy environment.
Relationships take time and a commitment to building trust and rapport. Moreover, most companies fail to realize that they can build stronger relationships through value-added activities than just by cutting a check…
Do You Have the Right Stakeholders?
Don’t wait for trouble to come knocking at your door. Especially in these tough economic times, stakeholders have multiple suitors and no matter how influential an organization may be they only have a limited number of “chits” to expend. So if they view their relationship with you as simply a check presentation exercise, their support may quickly disappear just when you need them the most.
Even if you think you have a good stakeholder base, have you actually taken the time to conduct a thorough environmental scan of your stakeholders to ensure that you have multiple thought leaders and opinion leaders matched to every one of your primary issues?
Intelligent Management Inc. can take the guesswork out of building a comprehensive base of stakeholders, on a state-by-state basis, or on a national scale. We can work with you to comprehensively scan your issues and define critical stakeholders to help you build the relationships you need,
BEFORE YOU NEED THEM…
We welcome the opportunity to provide you with a no-cost assessment of your stakeholder base to help you identify gaps and opportunities. Call us at 203-727-7868, or visit our website at http://joshuaslavitt.com.