Communication, communication and communication, is the key to creating strong ties with the stakeholders of your association. It may sound obvious but knowing who your stakeholders are, and then opening up a solid flow of information between them, is crucial to the success of any association.
As an association management company (AMC) we have a few clients that need to communicate regularly with various stakeholders in order to maintain a strong association. It is best to understand the needs and concerns of different stakeholders in order to help facilitate communication.
A basic set of questions need to be asked when developing a communication strategy with your association stakeholders. Who, why, what, when and how is a good starting point.
Who are the stakeholders for your association? Of course your members are the primary stakeholders, but there can be many others including suppliers to the industry, competitive professions, federal, provincial & municipal governments and more depending on your industry.
“Why?” is an important question. Each stakeholder will have a different need or concern related to what your association does and how it might affect them.
What are the issues that affect the various stakeholders and how does it impact them and your association?
When and how to communicate with the various stakeholders will be important to ensure you stay in front of any issues and get responses when needed to keep the association’s interests front and centre.
Understanding Association Stakeholder Needs
One of our association clients is currently having conversations with the provincial government on an issue that affects the members of the association. Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) have entered the province and has already affected several bodies of water.
The provincial government has drafted a law that prohibits people from possessing or transporting AIS (AIS stick to boat surfaces, trailers and can live in water that is inside the boat). There is the potential for this law to have a negative effect on people wanting to get into boating and could affect the dealer members’ future business prospects.
Understanding the needs and concerns of the provincial government is important in this example as they are responsible for all the lakes in the entire province and preventing the spread of AIS is top of their agenda.
As an association, we need to understand how to work with this stakeholder to help them with their mission but also to protect the business interests of our association members. As our members have a direct link to boaters, there is a strong link between government interests and our member interests.
Association Stakeholder Communication and Relationship Building
The lines of communication have been very strong between the association and the provincial government. The association has provided display space for the AIS program at their annual boat show, allowed them to talk directly to the boating public, educated them on the issue and explained the ease in which you can combat the spread of AIS by cleaning, draining and drying your boat.
The association is also working with the government on ways to decontaminate boats that come out of AIS affected water sources so they don’t contaminate non-affected water areas. The association is in talks with the government regarding the implementation of their new law so that the industry can understand how it affects them and their customers.
The association has clearly understood the needs and concerns of the provincial government and has leveraged their resources to assist in the fight against AIS.
Association Stakeholder Engagement
The dealer members are also stakeholders in this fight against the spread of AIS. Communicating with, and educating the dealers is crucial, as many of their customers will be affected and customers will be looking to the dealers to answer many of their questions and concerns. The association needs to ensure that the dealer body is knowledgeable enough to maintain a positive relationship with their customer base.
This client has benefited by being out in front of the AIS issue with communication and stakeholder engagement being really important.
Every association needs to have a strategy and an implementation plan when engaging with stakeholders to ensure there is clear and concise communication that can support the interest of all involved.