It is difficult to part with old habits. Even in everyday association work, it is not always easy to overturn familiar structures. When you decide to introduce stakeholder engagement to your association, it is important to prepare everyone for the new way of working and communicating on the digital platform.
Prepare members for interactive collaboration
With the introduction of stakeholder engagement, classic hierarchies and the associated top-down communication will change. Instead of only communicating from the board or the central office to the association members, all stakeholders can equally and simultaneously communicate and discuss.. The decisive factor here is, above all, a positive basic attitude towards the change from all those involved. Therefore, make your members aware of the individual added value of the change at an early stage. For example, they can better represent their interests and communicate them to the association’s networkthan with traditional communication structures. All those involved should be aware that stakeholder engagement is a joint project. This not only strengthens motivation, but also the feeling of being part of a community.
Good preparation: Introducing a platform for stakeholder engagement
The foundation has been laid – you have spread the right attitude to your colleagues. Now, before you get started with the stakeholder engagement platform, there are a few small steps to take. First of all, communicate the benefits and goals of the project. However, don’t just clarify the “why?”, but also address the “when?”, “how?” and “what exactly?”. So let members know that the introduction of the platform is approaching with a short email. This should contain at least the following information:
- Time/area of introduction
- Reasons for the introduction and advantages of the platform
- A small preview of the basic functions
- Contact persons for questions about the platform
Above all, make clear what you and other stakeholders can expect on the platform. A stakeholder engagement platform helps to engage all stakeholders and improve workflows. Features such as contribution history, document storage and scheduling are key parts of the platform and help with goal-oriented association work. The better members are informed about these added values, the better the platform will ultimately be accepted.
After the preparation is before the preparation
Once you have prepared your members for the transition, the next step is to create content and prepare the platform itself. Put together a core team of motivated colleagues who will help you with this undertaking. In this team, test basic features and create the first groups on the stakeholder engagement platform. Also post the first content that illustrates the features: A post, a survey, an image gallery, files and so on. This way, colleagues can already see how the work on the platform might look when they first enter the network. This reduces their reservations of having to become active on an empty platform. The core team, with its experience, should be made available to answer questions about the platform. Also prepare materials such as a “first steps guide”, a small handbook (alternatively a video) and a platform etiquette to support the stakeholders. The latter is used to set basic behavioural guidelines for the platform.
Launch your interactive platform and support users
When you have launched your stakeholder engagement platform, your tasks will shift to engaging the community. Welcome the first users with a post in which you call for active participation. Use this post to also refer to the information materials that have already been saved. You and the core team have a role model function, especially in the early stages. Demonstrate your ideas of stakeholder engagement: Create activity on the platform by, for example, regularly publishing contributions, initiating discussions with members or moving the joint editing of documents onto the platform. To ensure that all users are satisfied, you should seek feedback on a somewhat regular basis. Also keep an eye on the atmosphere on the platform. Are certain members holding back or not answering the network? Get in touch with these potential critics and find out what their criticism is about. This way, you can initiate improvements or workshops and training at an early stage. Stakeholder satisfaction and engagement go hand in hand.
So it is particularly important to focus on community management in the introduction and launch phase of your stakeholder engagement platform. But you should also manage the community in the further course to keep the platform active.