Public relations (PR) is a function of many facets and PR practitioners are expected to evolve along with the different technologies that they require in order to carry out their functions.
One thing that remains constant in the field of PR is the external stakeholder.
Internal stakeholders such as employees, directors and shareholders come and go, but the public an organisation serves remains a constant.
A PR practitioner would be failing in the execution of their duties if the stakeholder is not kept abreast of the latest news and developments of an organisation. External stakeholder engagement should, however, not be seen as a one-size-fits-all exercise, as stakeholders have different information needs. For instance, the main external stakeholders of a university are most likely to be its students. However, the students are not the only external stakeholders the university has, as parents, guardians and bursars are also crucial stakeholders, but their information needs will vary from those of the students.
In order for an organisation to effectively engage their external stakeholders, it needs to identify their specific information needs. This can be done through short surveys or reviews on websites and social media pages. This will assist organisations in determining what exactly each stakeholder needs to know and what their preferred method of communication is. The PR function is built around communication - an important requirement for the success of any organisation. Regardless of the importance of communication, it can easily be classified as ineffective if it does not fulfil its intended purpose. An overload of general information is not necessarily a good thing. Sometimes moderation is key, provided it’s customised for a specific audience, based on their needs.
Effective stakeholder engagement allows for growth and improvement, as an organisation will know exactly what is required from them, why and how. The practice of stakeholder engagement should be continuous, consistent and should not be taken lightly, because as previously alluded to, people have different information and service needs, and organisations can only keep abreast of these needs by continuously engaging the stakeholder. Take a look at your PR plan and evaluate whether or not your external stakeholder engagement is working for both you and the stakeholder; if not, it’s time to re-strategise and take a more specific approach.
*Aurelia David is a public relations officer in the Office of the Ombudsman