A recent study revealed that, in spite of the significant investments companies are making to build relationships with their stakeholder communities, only 13 percent report satisfaction with their engagement outcomes. How can there be such a disparity?
Perhaps the answer is that effective engagement, whether online or in real life, is just a bit more difficult than it seems. True engagement with our community is well worth the effort. Here are four pitfalls to avoid for high-impact community engagement.
1. We don’t count the costs of disengagement. Quite often, my clients realize that they are disengaged from key stakeholders the moment they miss out on an opportunity that they could have easily seized had they been more engaged. It is fairly easy to count the costs of a missed opportunity. The harder thing is to estimate loss from the would-be opportunities that never manifest because we are disconnected. Engagement is profitable. Profits come in many forms: peace, relationship equity, new opportunities, influence, impact and money – all worth the investment.
2. There is no strategy. Effective engagement is partially organic and partially synthetic. We build robust, sustainable and profitable stakeholder relationships when we declare a long-range intention or strategy before tackling tactics.
Strategy is both wholesome and profitable to employ high-level thinking when it comes to the foundational elements of community and stakeholder engagement. Decide and define: Who you are; What you are called to become; What legacy will you leave. Indulgence in this type of intimate, strategic thought about the individual or organizational ‘self’ ultimately defines the ways in which our strengths, passions and values poise us for service. When we plan first, we are empowered to defining and authentically deliver our best. The organic elements of engagement naturally flow from this beginning.
3. Our people cannot find us. Once we know who we are, what make us special and what we have to offer, get help sharing your story. It is tough to do and share at the same time, so ask for help getting the word out. Friends, colleagues and communications/PR consultants can offer a fresh perspective on who should be made aware of you or your organization. Remember that being highly successful in any endeavor requires that you attract some and repel others. The magic is in making sure our people, the folks that like what we are about, can find us.
4. We do not hear our stakeholders. The first three were all about us. Here comes the flip: Engagement begins when we start listening to, and serving, our stakeholders. To serve we must hear; to hear we must listen. On a personal front, this listening time might be regular breakfast or dinner with family. From an organizational or community perspective, this listening may take the form of periodic surveys, town hall meetings, keeping the pulse of online communities or good old fashioned one-on-one conversations. Regardless of the form, the end goal is to really hear stakeholders’ desires and priorities. True engagement with people is about making their priorities yours.
We can maximize stakeholder engagement by honoring its profitability, creating a plan and listening to serve. So let’s go! Get on out there, engage and change the world. Our community is waiting.