Where once we could undertake discrete stakeholder communication strategies – talking up profits to shareholders for example while talking about low prices to consumers – the wall of sound created by mobile media has ensured that every message gets to every stakeholder in some way, shape, or form. Often what started out as a clever piece of propaganda to a specific target audience can end up as a self-inflicted wound that can be fatal.
Retail business more than at any other point in history must not only balance the needs and wants of all stakeholders, they must tailor their culture, operations, and communication to embrace them all.
What this means is that all communication needs to be approved prior to broadcast (because narrowcast no longer exists) by examining it within a filter for whether it makes sense to all stakeholders. Thinking through the angles of how a message could be seen – as distinct from how you intend it – can save stress at the very least.
Many stakeholders today for retail organisations can fit into multiple groupings. I could be a staff member, a shareholder, and a consumer for example. My partner could also be a regulator or government employee or financier.
Most stakeholders get the complexity and are open to reasonable arguments that take a balanced view and don’t sound as if they are skewed very heavily in favour of one stakeholder group, to the detriment of the others.
The best in the world are aware of this and manage their communication skilfully. Apple has no problem producing great profits and being the world’s most valuable company by a consumer who sees this as validation of a brand they adore for what it does for them.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, firing thousands of staff and asking for government handouts at the same time as announcing global profit gains is not a formula for endearment with anybody.
The content, the timing, the tonality, and the balance are intertwined.
In a world where it increasingly too easy to race to publication too fast, taking a moment to reflect on how a message will be seen by all stakeholders is worth its weight in gold.