C10.4.3.2 Types of communication with Stakeholders


1.    Meetings

One of the most common ways to communicate. They can vary from only one person to several hundred. You need to decide if this is appropriate in your situation and for your audience. It may be a meeting with a Board of Directors in your Head Office or a meeting with concerned local residents in a community centre near to the project.

If you are organising the meeting: have an agenda or a brief summary of what will be discussed. It gives the stakeholders information to take-away and if they see the information in advance, will allow them to come prepared with questions.

It may be useful to attend trade industry meetings or advisory board committees. Here you can collect best practice and identify future risks and opportunities.

Many large Clients hold supplier meetings or forums. These can be an opportunity to engage with competitors and again, collect best practice and identify future risks and opportunities.

This may be suitable for all types of stakeholder.


2.    Conference Calls

These can be useful because you do not have the expense or time of travel. However, it can be difficult to communicate clearly without being face to face and you need to be careful about your tone of voice and the clarity of the verbal message.

This may be suitable for all types of stakeholder, with the exception of the local community as a whole. However, it may be suitable for a few key members of a Local Interest Group.


3.    Email

This is suitable for professionals in your organisation or that of your Client or regulator, but it will not be as suitable for customers (not all will have access to email) or wider groups of the public.

Remember that emails stay on systems for a long time after they have supposedly been deleted. In many instances ill-written emails have come back to haunt people.

4.    Posters

This is one-way communication only, but it can be useful. The message conveyed in a poster should be short and sweet. Do not put thousands of tiny words onto one sheet or no-one will ever read it.

This may be suitable for all types of stakeholder.

5.    Newsletters

Again, this is one-way communication only. With a newsletter you can include a lot more information than with a poster. You have to design it carefully to ensure that people will read it. People may happily invest the few seconds it takes to read a poster, but a newsletter requires more effort on their part and so you need to plan the first page content carefully.

This may be suitable for all types of stakeholder, with the possible exception of regulators.


6.    Informal Methods

The impromptu channels are often more information rich and critical for relationship building. Theses might include fleeting conversations in hallways or bathrooms; drinks after work with colleagues or a round of golf. Be careful not to drop in casual comments that will lead to false expectations.

This is more suitable for internal stakeholders.


7.    Advertising

An organisation may advertise in the press or on TV. This is a powerful and effective way of getting a message to a wide audience. It is also expensive. It helps to keep the brand in the minds of consumers. However, advertising is a one-way channel and needs follow-up, for example, through market research, in order to understand the impact it has.

This may be suitable for all types of external stakeholder.


8.    Packaging

If you produce an item with packaging, this is an opportunity for communication. You can include a statement of the vision and values of your company (e.g. family owned, long established, committed to sustainability etc.), a unique selling point of your product (e.g. not tested on animals, organic, FSC certified) or a celebrity endorsement (e.g. many food items now sport a picture of a celebrity chef).

This may be suitable for all types of external stakeholder.


9.    Internet

Most organisations have a website these days. Some organisations have more than one, with each targeted at a different audience. Websites can promote new products or the organizations’ aim or vision & values.

If you are working on a large project, let’s say you are building a large off-shore wind farm, a dedicated website can provide information to the various stakeholders. You can include information on how you alleviating their concerns and include communication channels for groups to contact you with their comments.

This may be suitable for all types of stakeholder.


10.  Social Media

Engaging with online communities through social media is now also an important part of a company’s overall communication strategy. One example of this is demonstrated by Bernard Matthews. They engaged in discussion groups and blogs on the website ‘Mumsnet’ (a forum for parents to exchange ideas and share tips and advice) and encouraged mothers in 2010 to discuss the value of including turkey in the family diet.

This may be suitable for most types of stakeholder.


11.  Employee Surveys

This is obviously only suitable for employee stakeholders.