• Daisy Powell-Chandler

Corporate reputation - WHO should you ask? (how to draft a stakeholder map)

You have decided to measure the reputation of your organisation. And you even know what measure you want to track. Congratulations! You are already doing better than most. Next up: WHO should you ask?

an audience seen from behind in black and white
Photo by davide ragusa on Unsplash

I’ve written before about why it matters to have a crystal clear view of who your audiences are. In short: you can’t deliver a powerful message unless it is tailored to the audience – which means knowing those people really well, instead of trying to speak to everybody achieving nothing.

How do you choose your audience? It starts with your purpose, with what you are trying to achieve. In charities and in medicine it is common to talk about mechanisms, action pathways, theories of change. This is the next step after you have identified your purpose. How are you going to achieve that aim? For example, if you want to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans you might choose one of many different approaches such as:

- persuading politicians to ban plastic bottles

- mobilising volunteers to clean up rivers

- lobbying drinks companies to introduce alternative packaging

Even if you just choose the first one of these (pushing for a ban on plastic bottles) there is more than one way to achieve the aim. You can speak to politicians and civil servants directly, you could publish relevant research, you could start a petition, mobilise the public… and so on and so forth. Each of these requires contact with different groups of stakeholders. The same is true for an FMCG or fast food chain.

Begin by drawing out, on a board or a flipchart, your theory of change. Now add the groups of people you need on-side to achieve each step. Want to be known for having the best ingredients? You will need great suppliers. Want to increase market share? Add in customers of other brands. To make you map even more useful, as you add each group include a note about what you want each group to do or think or say.

This rather messy picture is the start of your stakeholder map. Tidy it up and circulate it to your team. Ask who you have missed. Is there anyone who you don’t need now but will want help from in the future? Do some audiences appear multiple times? Once you have a fairly stable diagram, this is the moment to share your map more widely and ask who in your organisation has contact with each of your key audiences. Add this information to the map as well.

The resource that you have created is brilliant for all kinds of purposes. Hang it in your meeting room or above your team desks to focus the mind. Who are you talking to? Have you forgotten key groups? Is your language appropriate? Is your call to action appropriate for what you want from that audience? Your stakeholder map will tell you what to ask in your reputation research but it can also act as a tool to streamline your communications and keep your entire organisation focused on your purpose.