elieve it or not, children are the best communicators. There are no filters and their sense of wonder enables them to ask questions and to say what they mean. For the past 25 years, the world has lived in the bubble of a communication revolution with the birth of the internet and in many ways has also acted like children in trying to figure out how to talk to each other. We are still only 6 months old in terms of our growth in using new communication techniques, we’re getting there but have a long way to go until we communicate truthfully and with respect.
In the mists of this loud and noisy birth, the landscape of communications and stakeholder engagement for companies has changed significantly. There are now so many voices with social media platforms that their stakeholders, predominately their consumers, can make or break them in one keyboard stroke and in many cases, it has nothing to do with their service or product.
A case in point is the Adani Carmichael Mine project where companies are now refusing to work with the energy giant due to public pressure related to coal and climate change. Siemens, who was awarded a contract to deliver rail signaling systems a couple of weeks ago, are now reconsidering the contract due to 30,000 emails protesting the project landing in their inbox.
In 2020, the social license to operate for many companies will be at the forefront of their communications with their stakeholders. It’s easy to argue that consumers are the most important stakeholders because they bring in the revenue and because there are so many of them. For instance, there are many more consumers than other stakeholders such as board members or suppliers. A company may have a product or service but if it does not have a consumer it cannot exist or sustain itself. For many companies, consumers are their greatest assets and they need to be managed but now, in the 21st century, the world has changed where your consumers can be influenced by outside stakeholders.
In the past, the consumer became the nearly fanatical focus of marketing, particularly in marketing communications however, there are now an entire host of stakeholders’ companies need to understand. 20 years ago, the focus on consumers, shareholders and the board were all most communication departments had to think about but today, especially with social media, stakeholder engagement can be anyone who has a keyboard and as is happening right now, they have the power.
Stakeholders now comprise of multi-dimensional bubbles filled with consumers, competitors, employees, the media, investors, government, suppliers and unions just to name a few. And like it or loath it, social media has now made stakeholders the entire community with most of them not even consuming the product or service. Gone are the days of having company values for the sake of it, now a business must live by and follow through on those values and engage with not only their 1st, 2nd and 3rd tier stakeholders, but the entire global community.
For many companies, the birth of the internet and the communication revolution we are now going through has brought them back to the fundamentals of communications and stakeholder engagement. Gone are the days of privacy and hiding behind closed doors. Businesses now need to be open and transparent, admit to their mistakes, ask questions, and say what they mean and like children, they should not lie otherwise they’ll be caught out in one shake of the rattle.