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People:

From the above, you can see that the first dimension of your stakeholder map includes outcomes, e.g., protection, permanence, well being, long term success, prevention, fiscal responsibility, and public accountability. The second dimension includes stakeholder categories, e.g., political stakeholders, administrative stakeholders, mandated stakeholders, CSN stakeholders, and public stakeholders. Critical to strategic communication success is understanding this simple point.

·       You never communicate with agencies or organizations. You can only communicate with people.

It is not enough, then, to simply know which organizations and agencies belong in the stakeholder dimension of your stakeholder map. You must focus on the stakeholder categories you developed above and for each agency or organization in each category, identify the two or three individuals within the agency or organization who have the most influence over areas and issues that matter to your agency. If you do not know the names, mailing addresses, and phone numbers of these people, your challenge is to learn that information and replace the agency or organization on your list with the people. For example, your list will now include your state’s Governor, his Chief of Staff, and the person in the Governor’s office who deals with issues related to children and families. For each agency in the Children’s Safety Net, you will replace the agency with its Director and the one or two people who have the most influence with programs and services for children and families. You will replace the name of your local newspaper with the reporter who covers child and family stories, that reporter’s editor, and the paper’s Managing Editor. When you are finished, your stakeholder list for the five categories will only include people. Keep in mind that these lists must be current, since,

·       You can only communicate with people if you know who they are.

Next, for each person in each category on your stakeholder list, put a “1” beside their name if you can appropriately pick up the phone and expect that they will chat with you about a problem or issue of interest to you today. Put a “2” beside the person’s name if you could appropriately call them directly but, if you did call, they would not know who you are. Those people who now have a “1” are your personal contacts. Those who have a “2” are those people with whom you need to cultivate a face-to-face, personal relationship. You need to call, schedule an appointment, and visit with them at their office. The first visit should be for a half hour or less and should not raise any issues or problems. You are simply there to introduce yourself. Try to focus the discussion on how you might be able to support their work, contribute to their success, and work together toward shared outcomes.

In larger agencies and larger communities, it may not be possible for any one person to have or cultivate all of the direct relationships needed to cover all of the stakeholders on the agency’s map. If that is the case for you, divide the “contacts” among your senior management staff. The goal is to assure that at least one member of your senior management staff has a direct face-to-face relationship with everyone on the stakeholder map, especially anyone within your community who is on the map.

However, keep this caveat in mind. Political stakeholders and anyone who is the “head” of an agency or organization expect direct contact with the agency executive. The executive may delegate some assignments and activities to other senior staff but this can be done only if the executive already has a personal, face-to-face relationship with the individual.

Finally, put a “3” beside anyone on your stakeholder list with whom you do not have a direct relationship and who it would be inappropriate for you to call directly. For example, you likely would not expect to directly call the President or the Governor of your state. You should be comfortable calling your (local) state or federal legislators but may not feel comfortable calling those who do not represent your district. There are probably others on your stakeholder list to whom you do not have direct access. For those individuals, your challenge is to develop indirect access or influence.

For example, your agency’s membership in the Child Welfare League of America or the American Humane Association may serve that purpose. At the state level, membership in state associations may serve that purpose. In Ohio, the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) serves that purpose.

The point is this. You can only strategically communicate with people. You can only communicate with people with whom you either have a direct relationship or indirect access. Indirect access can only be there if you have cultivated relationships with people who know the people you need to know and influence.

If you have been working along with the discussion, you have completed the outcome dimension of your stakeholder map. Separately, you have completed the stakeholder dimension of the map. In that dimension, you have the names, addresses, and phone numbers of people with whom you have a direct, face-to-face relationship, those with whom you will cultivate a direct, face-to-face relationship, and the same information for those people (trade associations, membership organizations, etc.) with whom you have developed relationships for the purpose of gaining indirect access to stakeholders on your list. Here, be sure you keep your list current, do pursue the cultivation of relationships called for above, and actively participate in the organizations and associations that give you indirect access to your agency’s stakeholders.

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