When asked to accurately describe the ‘core innovation’ I champion in the crowded world of digital public relations and issue management, I define it as follows: A system that leverages social media channels towards large-scale engagement of stakeholders in debates around controversial projects or policies. Now, let me explain…
If the word ‘stakeholder’ means something to you, chances are you are concerned about the social, environmental, public affairs or reputation issues affecting your company or institution. Stakeholder Engagement is a buzzword now, that can be crudely explained as the process of consulting and communicating with all the groups affected directly or indirectly by your business activities (including their social and environmental impacts).
At the moment, a lot of what is called stakeholder engagement is done small-scale and painstakingly, through town halls, focus groups, questionnaires etc. All this for good reason, as true participatory processes that seek consensus around complex issues take time and energy.
But some industrial or political issues are sweeping in scope and require the buy-in of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, to proceed. Traditionally, it was mainstream media that brought these issues to the public’s attention but this is no longer sufficient for two reasons. For one, today’s networked citizens want to voice their opinions on such projects, not just hear about them. And indeed, social media has become an outlet for reactions including fear and outrage at possible impacts. For the project promoter, this means that there is now a need to enter the fray and engage in the many discussions that have been started. Otherwise, false information may go uncorrected and, what’s worse, citizens may feel that those advocating for projects don’t care for their concerns or ideas.
For all of the reasons cited above, a parallel model of online stakeholder engagement was conceived and deployed in Canada by several leading industrial players since 2011. I am proud to say that I was involved in the design and deployment of these pioneering projects and can now share the essential tried and tested elements of the ‘recipe’ in the presentation below. Your questions and comments are welcome. You can contact me here.