October 26, 2015
Does Your Stakeholder Communication Have Rhythm?
“What do I do if one of my key stakeholders feels out of the loop?”
One of the emotionally-charged questions I get asked by nonprofit leaders (accompanied by a big sigh of exasperation) is: “What do I do when I have a board member (or team member, volunteer leader, fill in the blank with a key stakeholder) who is really upset because they feel like they’re out of the loop? I’m doing ALL that I can to communicate, but they’re not reading my updates!”
The energy from a disgruntled champion has enough force to knock the most consummate professional back on his/her heels. You’re operating at a fast, highly efficient sprint, yet inadvertently, someone in your tribe feels left behind. Spam filters, missed meetings and the overwhelm of information-overload could be one of many reasons. If you find yourself in this situation, pick yourself back up and re-establish your rhythm – your communications plan rhythm, that is.
Your communications rhythm is a pulse. A consistent beat. A strong, regular, repeated pattern of speaking, sending and sharing. You have many stakeholder audiences and a defined rhythm will help you easily decide and deliver the right information to the right group at the right time. Here are several strategies to find your communication rhythm and keep your audiences happily dancing.
1. Set the Beat: Define Your Rhythm
Intentionally create the beat so everyone can dance to the same tune. For each stakeholder, plot out the format, consistency, content and purpose for what you’re currently communicating. Use the chart below as a guide. Ask yourself and your team if there are any gaps? Do you need to create new channels for a certain audience, or repeat the information consistently? Define the rhythm that best meets all audience needs.
Next, analyze the quality of new information when it hits your desk:
- How important is the information?
- Who needs to know this information?
- What about the format, the timing and delivery of the information to this audience? Can we use an existing channel – or do we need to create a new one (i.e., urgent email, phone call or social media posting)?
- Do we need to repeat this information in another manner and at a later date?
2. Invite Your Audience to Dance: Share Your Rhythm
Share this information with your stakeholders and set expectations about what you are delivering and their responsibility to receive the information. Have a conversation about how you’re communicating and the vehicles you have established. Secure their agreement and active participation. For example, tell your Board if they miss a monthly meeting, they need to READ through the update. It’s their responsibility to take the initiative to find out what they missed.
3. Keep the Dance Going: Repeat Your Rhythm
Execute your plan and stick to it. If you have to cancel a meeting or skip a delivery, make sure each audience member knows why and any action items or next steps. Measure progress and the effectiveness of your communication channels. Ask your team and stakeholders what’s working well and what could be working better? And the next time a stakeholder gruffly approaches you for “not knowing what is going on,” you can share with them what they missed and invite them back to the dance.
Have questions? Contact Visceral, we’re here to help!