A stakeholder is any organisation, group, service or individual that has a reason to be interested in what you do. For adoption agencies, this might include local councils, charities and parenting groups. It might also include organisations that have a less obvious link, but that reach audiences that you want to engage with such as libraries, community groups and volunteer organisations.
Working with stakeholders can be an extremely fruitful way of influencing and communicating with potential adopters. Many will be open to sharing information that they consider beneficial or interesting to their audiences via their communication channels. This could be anything from a blog or a piece in their newsletter through to a post or tweet on their social media feeds.
Importantly, stakeholders will have well-established, trusted relationships with people you want to reach. Having their endorsement will really help important messages about adoption get through.
Stakeholder programmes can vary in size – it might be that you end up working with several organisations at once or just one really strong contact initially. Either way the principals of stakeholder management remain the same.
Here’s a basic guide to stakeholder management
- Do your research – before approaching anyone, it is really important to identify who your stakeholders are. Who do you already have strong relationships with and who else can you reach out to? A simple internet search will usually uncover new stakeholders. We know from our research that people involved in altruistic activities, such as those that have done voluntary work have a higher propensity to adopt. So do those actively practicing a religion, and those with previous experience of fostering or adoption. With this is mind, it is worth researching local volunteer organisations and religious groups, for example. To extend your approach, you could also consider looking at local sports groups, libraries and even cafes – even if they don’t have obvious opportunities in their communication channels, they might be open to putting a poster on their notice board, for example.
- Look for communication and marketing opportunities – you can find out a lot about a stakeholder by checking their website. For example, do they have:
- A magazine or newsletter?
- A Twitter feed or Facebook page?
- Any regular meetings / events where they might allow guest speakers?
- Blog – do they allow guest bloggers or Q&A sessions?
- A useful links and contacts page – would they be happy to include a link to the First4adotpion website and your agency’s contact details?
- Organise and prioritise – once you have identified your stakeholders, it can be helpful to collate them into a simple spreadsheet. Here you can:
- Ensure contact details are up-to-date
- Keep track of what communication and marketing channels they have
- Prioritise them in order of relevance and strength of relationship. Remember – existing contacts may also be able to advise you on other organisations and people to approach
- Keeping notes on conversations along with dates. You want to keep relationships positive, and don’t want to be seen as ‘pestering’ by contacting the same person too regularly.
- Making the approach – wherever possible, try to make your approach personal, as generic emails may get disregarded. We would usually recommend calling in the first instance to establish the most appropriate contact, and then following up with an email with more detail. There are no hard and fast rules however – while one person might prefer an email, another might prefer to stick to phone calls or even conversations via Twitter.
- Don’t ask for too much – it is important not to overwhelm people with too many requests for support. We would recommend outlining the types of ways in which the organisation might help to share information, whilst being clear that even a single Facebook post, for example, would be appreciated. It is also worth asking them what they would find useful. After all, if they have a monthly newsletter, they might appreciate having some content to include.
- Create content for your stakeholders: you will increase the likelihood of stakeholders sharing information if you provide them with suggested copy. It means less work for them, and you have greater control over your messaging. This could be a simple tweet or post you ask them to send out or it could be a short story in their newsletter. For example, you could suggest:
- A written Q and A with a local adopter to help explain the adoption process from a more personal and emotive perspective
- A short myth buster piece – a simple list of facts and myths about the adoption process
- A first person piece from an adopter of an older child / sibling group / children with disabilities etc
- A short sentence asking people to look at the First4Adoption website, along with your agency’s contact details – this could go on a useful information or links page if they have one.
It is likely that you will quickly end up with a small bank of content that you can quickly amend and adjust according to your stakeholders’ different needs and requirements. You can also use the materials on the website, including the adoption images. Providing the images are used to talk about the adoption, stakeholders will be able to use them.
- Make the relationship work both ways: to help maintain a positive working relationship, we recommend looking at ways in which you might be able to help stakeholders. A simple thing to do is to follow them on Twitter and Facebook and retweet / share relevant content they post.
If you have any questions, please contact Paul Sutton, First4Adoption, paul@first4Adoption.org.uk or 020 7841 0514.