Almost all advocacy relies on the ability to communicate with stakeholders, engage them on your issue, and move them to action in the most effective way possible.
Yet, as every advocacy professional knows, you have to build the army and know where it is heading before you can advance it. And that’s not always easy.
The latest Phone2Action webinar focused on exactly that, inviting seasoned professionals to explain how to identify and manage stakeholders, map your key contacts to understand where they can be influential, create an activation strategy, and take other crucial steps to leverage your network to its fullest degree.
“It’s important to know who those people are, how they are connected, what influences them, who they influence and how they like to be talked to,” said Stephanie Stouffer, director of strategic accounts at Phone2Action. “There are quite a few different layers.”
Identifying relevant stakeholders may not sound difficult, but it can be overwhelming. Company employees and association members can number in the thousands, and that’s just one pool of potential stakeholders.
Stouffer encourages organizations to think about stakeholders in concentric rings. For example, an association might put its member companies in the first ring. The second ring might contain employees at those companies. And so on.
A stakeholder list can also be guided by who you are trying to influence, but that can present its own challenges. Congress, with 535 members and staff numbering more than 15,000, is itself a massive pool. When it comes to identifying who to target, much will depend on the issues your organization cares about and the type of campaigns you run. But there are ways to focus down.
“The organizations I worked for … targeted specific committees,” said Sam Morgante, a veteran government relations consultant. “Typically you can narrow this down to two or three committees in the House and one or two in the Senate.”
Map Your Key Contacts
Understanding the influence of your stakeholders so you can leverage your network to where individuals can do the most good is also critical. For example, if you are targeting lawmakers on a few House committees, as Morgante suggests, who can most effectively approach those lawmakers?
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has a membership of more than 300,000 worldwide, as well as state associations and almost 600 local chapters at its disposal. “We already have a built-in pipeline for creating an advocate community,” said Meredith Nethercutt, director of member advocacy.
Yet one thing the organization does is assign one SHRM member to get to know and interact with each member of Congress. “We activate those as a key group of stakeholders whenever an issue arises, whether its geographically in a specific state or around a specific committee of jurisdiction in Congress,” Nethercutt said.
She added that technology can be a big help when it comes to understanding where your stakeholders hold the most influence, knowing what they can do for the organization and managing those relationships.
As Morgante observed, your organization’s network is constantly changing. “After there are congressional elections, people leave, people come and people move on,” he said. “What you’ve got to have is a dynamic process and you’ve got to have some way to be able to track people and to input new information.”
Build Your Strategy and Leverage Your Network
Creating a strategy to maximize the value of your stakeholders takes planning, but it is always worthwhile. They key is to map your key contacts to where they can have the most influence.
Scott Morrison, a customer success manager at Phone2Action who spent years in government affairs, describes a scenario in which his team would gather around a white board and create a plan. Which lawmakers and staff would be targeted on Capitol Hill? Which organizations would they engage off the hill?
When the mission is clear, determining the messenger in each case becomes important. “We would think about who are the right people … to unlock those folks,” Morrison said.
A system for mapping your key contacts, including their relationships, where they hold influence and what they are willing to do for your organization can be a huge asset.
“Going through the process of trying to take information that is inside everyone’s mind and bringing it out in a way that you can track it, manage it and then use it when you need it … is critically important,” he said.
Watch the full webinar How to Effectively Manage, Analyze, and Map Your Key Contacts.
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