Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Handling Negative Stakeholder Feedback

Any company, no matter how professionally run, will from time to time have to deal with negative feedback from their stakeholders. Some of these feedback will come in the form of direct emails or, if the company is unlucky, on some social network website.

While not all feedback can be addressed via templated responses, there are two principles which I believe are essential ingredients in an effective response.

Firstly, the stakeholder's unhappiness must be acknowledged as genuine and the company's response must directly address his concerns. If the response is to be made on a social media website, it is often more effective for the company to address the response to the stakeholder. A common mistake made by companies is to provide a general response to the concern raised. By making a general response, the company "trivialises" the stakeholder's concerns and this is likely to instigate the stakeholder to continue his "attacks" against the company.

Secondly, companies must avoid addressing the concern at the "tactical" level. The concern must be elevated and linked to universal principles like fairness, safety and corporate social responsibilities. Doing this will avoid a drawn out PR battle as it is very difficult for an unhappy stakeholder to argue against universally accepted principles. (I will write more about this in time to come)

Hence, to address negative stakeholder feedback, a company must do two things - (a) acknowledge the stakeholder's concerns; and (b) elevate and link the concern to a "universal principle" before offering a solution.

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