Stakeholder Mapping: Understanding Your Audiences’ Natural Habitat

One of the most powerful shifts you can make to sharpen the focus and impact of your communications activities is in how you think about audiences.

Traditionally, in a communications plan, you’ll see a list of audiences presented in a linear fashion. Very often, it looks like a massive laundry list of everyone we might possibly want to communicate with to achieve our goals.

The problem is that audience definition is the critical pivot point in a strategic communications plan – it sets the stage for creating audience-centric messaging and tactical planning. The quickest way for a communications plan to go south is through a poor definition of audiences, and the number one problem in this area is having too many audiences with no structure to define their priority status or function.

That’s where stakeholder mapping comes in. Stakeholder mapping is a powerful technique that helps you think about how your organization connects to and through various audience groups. At its core, this model builds on the idea that stakeholder essentially “live in a natural habitat”. That is to say that the audience groups you want to connect to already organically co-exist with other audiences or stakeholders – and as such, you may consider creative ways to reach your audiences by leveraging those naturally occurring relationships.

For example, if you want to reach entrepreneurs, you might connect to them through entrepreneur development organizations, banks or advisory groups such as lawyers or accountants. The key is that the source and framing of the communications entrepreneurs will receive will depend on the use of stakeholder channels. That sets the stage for the creative and strategic exercise of thinking through strategies to leverage networks to create high impact, effective and efficient communication.

For more on this topic, check out our Results Map Best Practice paper on stakeholder communications and our “What’s at Stake: Managing Stakeholder Communications for Results” presentation