A new stakeholder landscape

Click here to download a copy of Reputation Inc's research report, "A new stakeholder landscape” in which we explore how COVID has completely changed the way organisations listen, map, manage, motivate and maintain relationships with their key stakeholders,

A new world is unfolding. People expect businesses to fix major societal challenges, not make them worse. New generations of employees will increasingly only lend their time to companies that share their values. Investors scrutinize corporate cultures and ESG ratings as thoroughly as financial statements. Suppliers refuse to work with companies that can’t live up to their own ever stringent codes of ethics and compliance. Regulators are struggling to regulate increasingly complex and democratized industries. Meanwhile geopolitically the dominant force is shifting towards Asia and the stabilizing power of multilateral institutions is waning.

In this world, the true understanding of your stakeholders matters more than ever before. A robust reputation built steadily over time through real action and proven delivery will increasingly determine whether your organisation has the right to exist. It’s not your shareholders, your board, or your executive committee but your stakeholders who make that call.

It has never been more timely to consider these essential questions that will determine the very existence of every company in the future:

1.       Who will the company’s future depend on?

2.       What do they care about most?

3.       Are we addressing what they care the most about in the best possible way?

Simple questions. But do you have the answers? For every segment of your audiences across your key markets? Do you need to take a stance on all relevant emerging issues or is it enough to deliver high quality products and services to your customers and generate a stable sustainable return to shareholders?

The answers depend on so many variables and even with the best research capabilities it will be impossible to answer them fully at every moment in time. But those at the forefront of the corporate affairs, sustainability and reputation management profession have a responsibility to try. At least to shape as good as a possible picture of the prevailing stakeholder landscapes, influencing forces and emerging issues to better guide corporate decision-making.

"The new world demands new approaches to stakeholder management and engagement. Novel, inquisitive ways to uncover trends and learn from those who are shaping new paradigms. And to carve out the rightful position of each company in addressing matters people really care about."

We have seen countless studies proving the business case of stakeholder capitalism/value. We’ve seen luminary leaders proclaim the importance of purpose and many examples of grassroots initiatives triggering companies to change. Now is the time to make use of all the available technology, all the communicative creativity and business drive to better listen to and engage with our stakeholders.

Having learned from major businesses and experts, here are a few guiding principles to start from:

1. Stakeholder Strategy & Context:

Lay the foundations for creating a new or refreshed stakeholder landscape by looking inside

and outside your organisation to establish the priority topics of your company’s commitments and the issues that will matter to its future success.

2. Stakeholder Governance:

Empower stakeholder relationship managers across functions and geographies. Build common understanding and share learnings regularly.

3. Stakeholder Landscape:

Share and aggregate insights on shifting stakeholder dynamics across the business. Stakeholders don’t see your business’ silos, why should you?

4. Stakeholder Profiling:

Understand who your current stakeholders and future influencers really are. What are their expectations, how are you doing in their eyes, what would make them support you more?

5. Stakeholder Engagement:

Engage stakeholders in novel ways, on topics that matter to them and on platforms they value.

6. Stakeholder Capability & Skills:

Empower and train everyone in the business to take better ownership over their relationships and contribute to long term reputation value.

7. Stakeholder Monitoring & Evaluation:

Continuously leverage strategic intelligence about your stakeholders to inform better business decision making.

These are but general guiding principles for success in a changing world. The task is challenging, but most organisations find they already have strong insights and capabilities in house. All it takes is a more stakeholder focused shift in mind set and a purposeful approach to managing and engaging stakeholders in a more meaningful way. Your success depends on it.

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