Recently, we at AHA have been working with several clients to develop communications strategies that include social media and issue and crisis components. The clients are in diverse industry sectors and have very different stakeholder groups. For each organization, we had to define what engagement meant for their specific “community” when it comes to traditional public relations outreach and for social media.
That’s an important definition to make – what engagement means to your stakeholders or community. For some, engagement is truly a verb and they are very active in participating – responding and creating opportunities for conversation, discussion and, yes, even discourse. In fact, for some stakeholder groups, discourse, disagreement and even conflict drive them. It doesn’t necessarily mean that their organization or brand is perceived negatively. It does mean that they live in an active world, where ongoing communication is key. In this type of environment, it is crucial for an organization to be proactive in keeping stakeholders up-to-date. It is important to participate in online and real world conversations about their industry, field of expertise or what their organization is doing in areas of concern or importance.
There are many ways that people participate online. Some are more active – like content creators (there can be a real opportunity for your organization to effectively engage with this group), some comment or participate, and some just consume.
Not every organization has a stakeholder group that falls into a nice, neat demographic range. (In fact, with a few exceptions, I can say that for the most part, AHA clients have external communities that are incredibly diverse.) It’s important to have an overall communications strategy, and it’s equally important when you are working out the tactics and tools that you look at the groups and subgroups within your stakeholder group. Facebook contests may work to move some of your community to participate, but others may just be following along and not participating at all.
If a campaign that you recently ran didn’t hit the participation numbers you were expecting, it may be because some of your stakeholders are not participants. Defining what segments of your stakeholder group are likely to participate fully, to comment or respond, or whether they may be following along – even sharing information and telling people about the campaign, contest or event – without “joining in” before you launch is important for measurement. Asking yourself what segment of your stakeholder group you want to connect with and can realistically expect to connect with – and how that will happen – is an important component of the planning process.