Dynamic Communication: From Questions to Respect

If you are not already engaging in meaningful, regular two-way communication now, before you institute web 2.0 tools, then your stakeholders probably won’t be quick to use your web 2.0 applications. Why?

I remember the building that I tried to organize into a tenant union that just wouldn’t organize.  Only one or two tenants would ever show up for organizing meetings, and even then, they defended the lousy landlord to me saying that he “would never sell us out.” (But oh, how he did!)

Why didn’t they care? Why didn’t they even want to listen? Because my organization, the “outside agitator” showed up in without any prior relationship and asked for a relationship. Why should they trust us? Had we seeded the ground for this organizing drive with informal conversations with leaders, hosted “house parties” to start the conversation about the landlord, or shown respect for their opinions and incorporated those into our organizing drive? No. Absolutely not. I went in, as the organizer, and told them that the landlord was planning to take advantage of a legal loophole to raise their stabilized rents and threaten their stability.  I made all the wrong moves, and it was no wonder that the tenants roundly refused to listen to me or even give me the time of day.

It’s not, as repeated in the movie Field of Dreams, “if you build it, they will come.” Rather, “if you engage already, then they will come (online).”

What do I mean?

You must be currently engaged with your stakeholders before implementing any web 2.o engagement strategy, or your social media strategy will fall short of expectations. Your stakeholders will only participate if they feel listened to, respected, and considered important. And they will feel this way if you create (or have) a communication strategy that currently fosters these feelings. If you’re not sure, here’s a communication checklist:

Questions to Ask Before You Implement Social Media

Questions to Ask Before You Implement Social Media

Thinking about it another way, how do you engage dynamically with your stakeholders and incorporate their ideas into your organizational development. If you don’t, create a chart (or list) of the ways in which you can begin to move your stakeholders from passive supporters to eager enthusiasts that can become your online Joiners, Critics, Collectors or Spectators. Once you implement a social media strategy, you want your stakeholders to participate, “evangelize” about your organization, and fully engage with your organization and others about your organization online. Remember my last post that profiles who is online?  The way you can motivate your stakeholders to become part of the small percentage of Joiners Collectors, Critics and Spectators is by creating a real relationship with them prior to implementing your social media strategy. When you do implement it, you’ll offer them a natural transition and outlet for continuing your conversations with web 2.0 applications.

Here’s a sample chart I’ve created to  jump start your efforts developing a dynamic communication strategy:

Beginning the Conversation with Your Stakeholders

Beginning the Conversation with Your Stakeholders

Don’t expect them to show up at the organizing meeting when they haven’t been asked what they think. Take the time to build a real, two-way communication strategy before you begin to use web 2.0 applications. Once you’ve created that communication in your offline or web 1.0 world, then you can easily continue the conversation online, in your organization’s web 2.0 world.

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