We are nearly five months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and in-person meetings of any kind are still few and far between. For public affairs professionals, the shutdown has meant establishing a new approach to developing and fostering relationships with elected officials and other key stakeholders. No longer can companies rely solely on the traditional, face-to-face tactics long accepted as the preferable way to conduct stakeholder outreach.
In adjusting to a “new normal,” we have been leveraging technology to connect with stakeholders virtually. This approach has proven both efficient and effective and has become a key tool we use to help protect and advance our clients’ interests. Our public affairs team has identified the following best practices which you may want to consider when engaging stakeholders in the coming months:
Stakeholder outreach is still necessary.
Companies are facing unprecedented challenges to their business operations and may need to evolve from a people, operations and technology standpoint to thrive. Building and maintaining strong, mutual relationships and keeping open lines of communication with key stakeholders is perhaps more important now than ever.
Be sensitive to local conditions.
Monitoring local conditions is critical. Be prepared to shift your outreach strategy if an area experiences a spike in COVID-19 cases or if other urgent priorities require immediate attention, such as civil unrest or a natural disaster.
Virtual meetings are more accessible.
Without the time and cost restraints of travel, people are more likely to be available to join a short meeting, and it is easier to bring together a group of geographically diverse participants. Think about including stakeholders who may be able to contribute valuable insights, but would not have been available to join an in-person meeting.
Have a plan to address technical issues.
Designate someone on your team as your tech point person to conduct a technical check-in with stakeholders in advance of the meeting and troubleshoot problems if they arise. Offer a call-in number in meeting invitations as a backup in case Wi-Fi connectivity issues interfere with a participant’s video conferencing capabilities.
In-person meetings will never go away.
Virtual meetings offer cost savings and time efficiencies, but cannot replicate the visual cues and social presence that come with face-to-face interaction and are so important in building trust. Ultimately, in a post-COVID world, these approaches will complement each other and be integral to a comprehensive outreach strategy.
Connect with us to learn how we can help you more effectively engage with stakeholders.