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The Passionate and Passive Stakeholder: Why They Work So Well Together

By: Samantha Wong

Every business model has both passive and passionate stakeholders; these two types live on opposite ends of your communication spectrum—appealing to one more than the other can make or break your media strategy. 

Stakeholders: Passive vs. Passionate
Passive stakeholders are the wallflowers of your business. Although they mostly fly under the radar, they’re still relatively up-to-date on your company’s most significant developments. They’ll make guest appearances in meetings every now and then but will rarely complain about the choices you make—which constantly keeps you guessing whether or not they’re content with the work you’ve done.
Passionate stakeholders, on the other hand, need to be in the know. Even the most minute piece of information is important to them. They’re both your brand’s biggest fans and worst critics. They’ll make the time for you, despite having jam-packed schedules and multiple ongoing projects. They’re the type to always give you notes on every product release or announcement.
These two types of stakeholders are far from the same. And it seems virtually impossible to satisfy both of their needs—but as is the case with all business models, you have to. So how do you satisfy one stakeholder breathing down your neck and the other who trusts that you have everything under control?
It can be polarizing to create a catch-all stakeholder communication strategy, especially when the expectations and deliverables for both are diametrically different. They each have varying levels of interest, influence, and involvement.
While they may seem like the most unlikely duo, understanding their communication needs can greatly inform how your company moves forward.
Passive Stakeholders: Keep it Low-Key
Communicating to your least active stakeholder requires a bit more finesse because they’re the ones that are less invested in your daily operations. It’s all about pinpointing the most important piece of information and conveying it to your group of passive stakeholders.
Having passive stakeholders trains you to be a highly-efficient communicator who asks the need-to-know questions: What’s the timeline of the project? What are the set-out goals? What are the tasks and responsibilities?
It can be tempting to provide in-depth breakdowns and datasets which display your professional prowess. But even if your numbers make you look great, they may not interest your typical passive stakeholder. Limit your narratives to what matters to these stakeholders the most. Specifically, what’s been released, what’s in the works, and what they should keep an eye out for.
Keeping your passive stakeholders updated provides transparency without the fatigue that comes with information overload.
Passionate Stakeholders: Go All Out
Once you’ve pinged your passive stakeholders on the most salient touchpoints, the next hurdle is your passionate stakeholder—the data-obsessed pro joint at your hip.
Passionate stakeholders’ preferences for information benchmark how detailed your stakeholder communication plan can be. Here’s where you can flaunt the statistical breakdowns and comprehensive data points.
Feel free to create strategic reports, complete with figures and link-outs. In fact, ask them to define the extent of information they expect from you. And after numerous correspondences, don’t forget to check on them. They may realize that they only need five charts instead of 20.
These are the most active participants in your stakeholder communication plan. So it bodes well that you check in on them regularly to confirm their preferences. This way, you don’t waste your time and you’ll also come off as an attentive communicator. It’s a win-win.
The Catch-all Communication Strategy
An effective stakeholder communication plan makes way for constructive partnerships and successful products. By boosting stakeholder engagement, you avoid communication silos that can greatly limit not just your media strategies, but the potential of your company’s performance.
Clearly defining the opposite ends of your communication spectrum can be the key to an A1 stakeholder strategy.
And who knows? A passive stakeholder is one great product feature away from being a passionate stakeholder.

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