Top-notch stakeholder engagement is hard. It takes a thoughtful strategy to execute effectively. In our experience, a substantial portion of this comes down to your communications efforts.
In a world of countless distractions and competing online sources to wade through, it’s even more important to break through with your communications. There are many ways to do this, but it takes a concerted effort and a focused approach.
All of this starts with planning. When thinking about your communications strategy, we recommend considering several factors. We’ve laid out some ideas below.
Start with the audience (your stakeholders)
If you don’t understand who you’re communicating with, creating a compelling communications strategy is going to be extremely difficult.
Communications professionals need to tailor their messages and channels to resonate with the various stakeholder groups they’re tasked with engaging. Stakeholders can include association members, investors, patients, volunteers, or the public. Understanding the unique needs of each group is a critical first step in building any effective communications plan.
There are many approaches to audience research, and it should include a mix of tactics. We recommend things like 1-1 stakeholder interviews, 1-many surveys, and online research (tools like Google Trends or SparkToro are a great place to start).
We can’t emphasize the importance of understanding your audience enough. It informs what content will resonate, how often to communicate with them, and how to properly manage your subscriber lists based on what’s most appealing to your audience.
Growing your list
Some organizations add contacts to their lists internally only and don’t allow the public to subscribe. If that’s you then you should explore integrations with the existing CRM system to ensure that new contacts are added to your email platform.
If you want to allow anyone to sign up to your list then planning sign-up forms should also be on your todo list. Decide what information you want to collect on the forms and what should happen when someone subscribes. A general rule of thumb is that the fewer fields on a form the more people will subscribe. You should send a confirmation email to new subscribers to welcome them and you can also link to previous messages from this email to give them something to read before they receive your next scheduled message.
You don’t have to know upfront all the different types of subscriptions you’ll be offering. Most email platforms let you start with one and you can expand from there as you have more content.
Consistency in your communications approach helps build trust with your stakeholders. While there are best practices for different channels, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to how often you should be communicating. This will largely be dictated by understanding your audience and the goals of your communications strategy.
If you’re an election body, you may only need to communicate with volunteers once per quarter or once per year. But if you’re a healthcare provider, you’ll likely need to communicate with your stakeholders on a far more regular basis (and you may even need the ability to send mandatory communications for important information that bypasses unsubscribes).
It’s widely understood that humans connect with and better retain information when it’s part of a story. It’s in our nature. We’ve been leveraging storytelling for thousands of years to pass down knowledge, traditions, and survival skills.
When information is presented in a logical, fact-based way, it doesn’t engage our emotions, senses, or imaginations. When presented as part of a broader narrative (i.e. a story), it can. And yes, we know this article is not a great storytelling example, but this is deliberate. Do you want to read some stories? Check out our case studies to learn how our users are succeeding with Envoke.
We recommend injecting storytelling into your communications approach as much as possible. This is a powerful skill that will set the best communications professionals apart from the rest. Try to weave characters and a clear narrative into your messaging, and you’ll have a better chance at resonating with your audience.
Measure and adjust
Most communications professionals have been here: you come up with a creative approach or message and it falls flat with your audience. Creative ideas are important, but they should be rooted in data.
Understanding how your communications perform and adapting when necessary is arguably one of the most important factors in effective stakeholder engagement. If you’re flying blind, you’re going to have a hard time getting your message across.
The ability to adapt based on what the data tells you is an incredibly important skill for communications professionals. We can’t get too attached to our tactics or messages that we fail to understand when changes are needed.
Which platform to use?
To put these ideas in practice, you need a tool that lets you manage the various components: subscriptions, email creation, and analytics.
The obvious candidate is Mailchimp. They’re the market leader by number of users. Then there is Constant Contact – another popular email software. And there are dozens, if not hundreds of others but there is one thing in common with most of these vendors: they are focused on marketing and sales, not on communications. Communication professionals deal with stakeholders, not prospects.
Also, as you’re looking for an email solution keep in mind that your organization may have a data storage requirement to keep data hosted on Canadian servers. Even if this is not a critical requirement for you, it’s worth remembering that the USA Patriot Act permits U.S. law enforcement officials to seek a court order allowing them to access the personal records of any person without that person’s knowledge.
If you’re interested, you can get a free trial – no credit card required, full support included – of the Envoke platform to check the email editor and other features or get a live demo to chat about your requirements.