1. Identify the Stakeholder
Concentrate on the stakeholders who can influence your reputation. This ensures a close focus and avoids wasted effort and resources. Lobbyists use this approach when they target influential stakeholders such as retailers, customers, investors, institutions or interest groups to force companies to change their products, processes or policies. The way to a good reputation is to select and speak persuasively and openly with stakeholders who are interested, motivated and prepared to listen and respond to your story.
2. Develop an external perspective
It’s both important and difficult to see the world from different perspectives. Many companies do not know how to do this, and cannot see themselves as they are seen by others since they do not hire or keep people with these abilities. Most of your stakeholders will have a completely different view of your company than you have and you need to be aware of this perspective. Once you do understand what creates and shapes your stakeholders’ views, you can build an effective reputation strategy.
Messages must be effective and relevant to the needs of the stakeholder. Successful lobbyists make their messages relevant by addressing known social, economic or human interests, and in differentiating by tone, form and style, as well as with other filters such as social, technical, economic, environmental etc. The messages must make an impact or they are just words. Keep each message relevant to each stakeholder and aligned with the stakeholder drivers wth regular testing and monitoring.
4. Discuss, don’t declaim
Few people like someone who doesn’t seem to listen to them, especially when they demand that they should be listened to when they speak. This is why stakeholders don’t enjoy being talked to when they are not being recognised. Advocacy, advertising and declamation are old and divisive ways to communicate. The ubiquitous and one-way email reinforces them. The benefits of debate, discussion and dispute, which are interactive and oriented to cooperation and consensus, allow a great corporate reputation to emerge.
5. Truth is not reality
Believing truth to be reality is the mistake most often made in reputation and issue management. It’s caused by confusing what you believe or trust with what you see, perceive or hear, as well as by the fear of contradicting senior managers. Those confused in this way will never make reliable decisions and are best advised to go into politics, where the difference is less noticed and servility is axiomatic. Use research, statistics and data sparingly as they are free agents and will go where they want.
6. Emotion beats reason
Decision-makers are often called upon to decide issues that are not clear and where both sides have good arguments. However, it is wrong to conclude that making the pros and cons clearer will drive people towards making the ‘right’ choice, and it’s fatal if your opponent introduces an effective emotional component to the argument. This is why good lobbyists tend to reduce campaigns to simple emotional slogans. An emotional link will strengthen a rational argument where the addition of facts will not.
(Image: The Choeur d’Hommes Liederkranz and the Musique Union of Ranspach-le-bas.)