Once a priority issue has been identified, stakeholder mapping is the first step in developing an issues management strategy. Any group that can impact the issue outcome is considered a stakeholder. A comprehensive list of all potential stakeholders should be created, including allies and opposition stakeholders.
In developing the list, it is important to think out of the box. Just like politics, issues can make strange bedfellows! It is often helpful to think in terms of broad categories. Typical categories include media (traditional and social), trade associations and other professional organizations, NGOs, consumer groups, regulatory agencies and legislative bodies. Don’t limit yourself to groups that have historically engaged on the issue. In fact, groups that have not historically engaged the issue could become potential allies or potential enemies.
In the early stage of strategy development, quantity, not quality, is the objective. After identifying all potential stakeholders, your focus should be on potential allies. The goal is to identify a core group of key allies that are likely to become coalition partners. Key allies will often have a history with the issue, but not always. The fact is, they may not have even considered the issue and may be unaware of its potential impact on their organization or their stakeholders. By engaging key allies early in the strategy development process, you expand the diversity of your strategy development team. This diversity can be valuable as you design your strategy development process and is a critical component of good issues management strategy development.Once you have identified your key allies, turn your focus to opposition stakeholder research.
For each stakeholder, you need to determine the status quo (where they stand on the particular issue and why) and where you would like them to ideally (and realistically) end up on the issue (desired future state). The next step is to evaluate and prioritize the opposition stakeholders. Prioritization can be accomplished using the matrix below. In the ideal world, with unlimited resources, you could focus on all stakeholder groups. But, the reality is, resources are often limited. As such, develop comprehensive strategies to mitigate the impact of high priority opposition groups. High priority groups are those that are likely to engage on the issue and whose engagement would have a significant negative impact. For each high priority stakeholder group you will need a strategy that moves the group from status quo to your desired future state for the respective group. For the groups that are high impact / low probability, draw up contingency plans and monitor them closely. High probability / low impact groups should be monitored. Low probability / low impact groups can be ignored. How do you determine stakeholders? How do you decide what stakeholders to partner with and which ones to focus you issues management strategy on? Subscribe to the Nelson Strategic Consulting Blog to get future posts via email.