Our team at the Huddle Up Group has worked with more than 50 communities and sports organizations on strategic planning initiatives. Inevitably, we find that the organization’s stakeholders don’t have a good understanding of its mission, or the value that the entity drives back to its stakeholders.
In the case of CVBs or sports commissions, community leaders as well as elected officials often don’t understand the tourism or economic impact the organization delivers to the destination. In the case of event rights holders, it is often true that the membership holds a belief that only elite athletes matter, when in most cases it’s the younger athletes in the pipeline that make their sanctioning body thrive.
While this challenge in stakeholder messaging is quite common, a significant amount of education needs to take place to turn the tides. Below we offer three (3) actionable items to use in enhancing your messaging to both internal and external stakeholders:
(1) Value Proposition – Create an education campaign to roll out both internally and externally. This quarterly road show would be presented in a 60-minute coffee workshop (or webinar) format. The organization’s staff would present on the value of their work in the sports and events marketplace. Using measurable data points is recommended, such as economic impact, number of new athletes brought to the sport, etc. The first of these meetings each year should be held with the organization’s staff and board (internal) to ensure the entire family is singing from the same “song sheet.” Additional presentations should be made to various external stakeholder groups (examples: chamber leadership, civic clubs, high school athletic directors, hoteliers, restaurant association, sports venue managers, club leaders, elite athletes, members, etc.). It is important to reiterate that the staff utilize outside supporters (example: a board member) as partners in the delivery of these meetings in order to give the presentation some volunteer driven validation.
(2) “6&6” Lunches – Where the education campaign noted above is aimed at larger community groups, we also recommend a program to reach smaller and often times more influential individuals. We often recommend to our clients the creation of a quarterly “6&6 Lunch”. These lunches employ six existing stakeholders (examples: a board member, athlete, or sponsor) to each invite one guest from the business community (six stakeholders, six guests, “6 & 6”) to attend an informative luncheon on the importance of the organization’s work. A major key here – these lunches are purely to educate more potential supporters, not to put an ask on them. Educate key leaders now, ask for their influence later.
(3) Trumpet Successes – In all cases where the organization is involved in the successful production of an event or program, it should become a priority to trumpet that success. This can be done through traditional channels, such as a press release, and also through new media outlets. Further, where a significant milestone is reached (such as an anniversary or record athlete registration at an event), it is critical to use that platform to promote the good work of the organization. In any case, the information sent out should include specific data points where possible, and ideally would be more “story telling” than press release in order to be relevant to all stakeholder groups. What we mean here is that you need to relate the message to the audience in a way that makes an impact on them. Instead of citing the economic impact of an event, talk about how many police officers that money could pay in a given year. Instead of talking about the record number of teams that participated in a tournament, talk about how many players and fans there were and compare that to a “sell out” of a local stadium or entertainment venue that could be filled by that many people. The key here is to talk to people in a language they understand, and that language may not be economic impact or room nights or an athlete head count.
The goal of any organization is to be viewed as the "go to" entity that people want to work alongside. In order to achieve that status, the organization needs to be able to define its goals, measure its work, and communicate their successes. Define what a win looks like, and when you hit the target, communicate victory to your stakeholders in a language that they consider relevant, and in a forum that they trust.
© Huddle Up Group, 2017