When it comes to gathering data, a stakeholder perception audit must be one of the most valuable marketing and communications tools there is.
The detail and insights you get when you ask stakeholders what they think about you will be both insightful and enlightening. And, by its nature, these are the opinions of the people and organisations who matter most to your organisation.
Perception audits provide a yardstick that informs stakeholder engagement, operational activity, marketing campaigns, customer experience, channel use and the most effective manner to present information, and what kind of information. More importantly, they provide a benchmark for critical review.
You can’t improve on what you don’t know. However, you can make more informed decisions when you have a considered, measured understanding of what the status quo is and how you can improve receptivity of information and engagement.
This insight is a huge benefit to your organisation, but it’s not the only one.
The positive ramifications of asking stakeholders for their opinions may be surprising.
It’s not the inconvenience that some may assume it will be. Rather, participants appreciate an organisation which cares enough to ask their views, is willing to invest time and resource into hearing their thoughts, and is genuinely keen to find out what they have to say to help improve their relationship.
We often hear comments like, “it’s really great to see [the company] taking the time to do this”, and it’s not uncommon for interviews to run over time once participants get in the groove.
While often these audits show areas of high performance, it can also be confronting to hear harsh truths from people whose opinions truly do matter. But the reality is that those opinions are there regardless of whether you hear them or not - at least with an audit, you can work to address them.
As always, it’s better the devil you know.
There is a responsibility to share, and follow through on the findings, and to be seen to be making improvements to the relationship. Those who participate in the perception audit will be interested in seeing what you do with their feedback, and to some degree have an expectation that you’ll do what they suggest.
But that’s not absolute. If you’re challenged by a stakeholder’s feedback, the conversation you’ve already started gives you the chance to follow up and explain why you can’t implement something, or to find a middle ground.
Managing expectations is essential. However, on most occasions there are ways of delivering on the sentiment of the feedback, even if not in full.
There are many things that make up a good stakeholder audit, and providing the opportunity for stakeholders to be heard and give confidential feedback, in a way that also delivers you with a wealth of useful information and data, has benefits for both parties. Quite simply, a well-executed perception audit can be worth its weight in gold.
So many organisations talk about people being at the heart of their business. But how often do they really engage with them in a meaningful, useful way?
By putting your money where your mouth is via a stakeholder audit, you position yourself as a transparent organisation that genuinely cares what your key audience thinks. And that’s powerful.