The evolution of digital communication is changing the dynamics of how people are communicating with organizations and government regarding important issues.
Technology changes the way we communicate
Significant technological changes that are paving the way for changes in the way we engage with stakeholders:
Computers and the Internet
- Personal/mobile computing and the internet have combined to change the way we live and work. Almost everyone is impacted by the speed and availability of data, the ability to share resources such as news or work documents, and opportunity to be able to perform different tasks (which previously required in-person interactions) from anywhere there’s an internet connection.
- These changes gained a foothold quickly in some areas but more slowly in others – but the trends point to almost every connection to the outside world becoming accessible online.
The Web goes social
- One of the biggest changes in recent history is the increased ability for people to stay connected.
- There are hundreds of services, platforms and websites that allow people to connect locally, regionally and globally.
- These accessible channels have opened up opportunities for people to voice their opinions and engage in discussion on almost any issue or topic, leading to the evolution of online communities and interest groups, as well as a host of tools and platforms for gathering and sharing those opinions and interests.
- Advances in the ability for organizations to manage data and computing off-site rather than on individual PCs has fuelled the growth of online networking and collaborative work.
- Web based tools for syncing, co-editing, exporting, backing up, storing, and archiving data takes the burden off organizations when it comes to the exchange and management of critical communication and information.
Evolving dynamics of stakeholder engagement
It’s less common to see open-houses filled up with concerned citizens and stakeholders. Instead, people are taking advantage of technology to offer their opinions from the comfort of their homes and offices via channels such as web forums and online surveys.
And while some aspects of consumer facing stakeholder engagement are transitioning from off-line to online, technology is also impacting big changes on the organizational side of the equation. Advances in web based software and database management are allowing proponents and public consultation professionals to engage with stakeholders more frequently, effectively, and thoroughly.
More and more stakeholders are being consulted, more communication is being documented, and more stakeholder information is linked, searchable, exportable, and being reported.
Stakeholder and citizen expectations have changed too!
The public now expects that companies will have online engagement tools, that every stakeholder will have an opportunity to voice their opinion, and that citizens will have a say in what the local government will do with their tax money.
New Opportunities to Meet Expectations
Along with the expectations thrust upon companies, groups, and governments by the public comes the reality of being able to effectively manage increased levels of stakeholder communication and engagement.
Accessible social networks such as blogs, forums, Facebook, Twitter, etc. and emerging dedicated online stakeholder engagement platform solutions are making this reality far less daunting than it would have been in the past. Organizations and governments now have the opportunity to manage the stakeholder engagement and public consultation process much more easily.
Proponents should look at the evolution of communication technologies as an opportunity to connect with stakeholders. With the ability to more easily and effectively organize, manage, and report on stakeholder communications, the path to stakeholder engagement and trust building is only a few clicks away.