Genuine transformation requires genuine stakeholder engagement
Peta Quirk is the strategy partner and co-owner of independent strategic consultancy Brand Council. She argues that when it comes to tangible transformation, it’s critical to understand each of your stakeholders’ genuine needs, not just their current perceptions of your organisation.
All too often, businesses invest in a rebranding exercise to refresh their brand strategy, visual identity, or communications without engaging with their key stakeholders. As we have seen in the press recently, a rebranding project without effective engagement can be disastrous. Nothing kills internal culture faster than an insincere rebrand. When it feels superficial it will aggravate underlying issues rather than bridge the gap between the current and ideal brand experience for staff, business partners and customers alike.
In contrast, a qualitative deep-dive approach to stakeholder engagement as part of brand strategy development enables organisations to unlock extraordinary opportunities for growth, innovation and, most importantly, collaboration.
Collaboration is a necessary ingredient to putting your purpose into practice. Any purpose-driven company needs to know that they have long-term and engaged stakeholders within and outside their organisation who understand their corporate purpose, vision, and their role in the plan to get there.
A robust process of genuine consultation with proper research design not only provides insight for the project, but enables the establishment of important baseline measures, uncovers key change indicators, sets accurate KPI’s for success, and provides useful relationship guidance to support the change process.
If stakeholder engagement is done right, it has three key benefits:
- You’re instantly improving the relationship. In spending time asking what’s important to your stakeholders, you’re demonstrating that you value what’s going on in their world.
- You gain improved clarity around what matters. This means there are less surprises. In organisations, big or small, no one wants surprise or contradiction. Clarity helps to avoid economic, strategic and, in some cases, political surprises and ultimately drives efficiencies. It also opens the door to overcome any preconceived misconceptions that may exist.
- You’re creating a genuine knowledge exchange, which leads to trust and, in turn, better long-term relationships. If you’re extracting this kind of intimate information from your stakeholders, then you are granted the opportunity to share more honest updates with them. Genuine knowledge exchange leads to trust – which allows parties to grow and evolve together.
With no expectation for immediate perfection, company leaders have full permission to explain the process they are on and invite their stakeholders to come with them on the journey.
Our client Paul Baxter QSO, commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW couldn’t have said it better with regards to a stakeholder diagnostic we completed for his Executive Leadership Team.
“Understanding what our external stakeholders thought of us, what they wanted from us and how they want us to engage with them has been fundamental to setting our forward strategy of how and where we need to engage better. Just the act of asking them has improved our relationship and has helped shape early discussions about how we can work better together. We have to work with our partners and stakeholders to be successful so having a better understanding of where they are coming from is key!”
Quite simply, if you don’t understand the needs and desires of your stakeholders, you’re developing a business strategy based on assumptions, and that’s a very risky place to be.
That’s why effective internal and external stakeholder engagement ultimately helps organisations to not only develop a real and enduring brand purpose, but also to effectively put their purpose into practice.