ISSUE MANAGEMENT AND SOCIAL ACCEPTABILITY : SIX REASONS WHY COMPANIES CANNOT DIALOGUE AND LOSE THEIR PROJECTS
It has now become unavoidable for corporations to build strong relationships with the communities where they plan to implement projects. In fact, recent history showcases many examples where major projects such as mines, pipelines and plants ended up only generating concerns, resulting in the projects being rejected. The problem is that many companies are not really able to establish the legitimacy of their approach with communities. Establishing a dialogue with stakeholders has therefore become a prerequisite for meeting the minimum conditions for social acceptability. Unfortunately, companies are often incapable of doing this and these 6 reasons highlight the main root of the problem :
1. Large corporations have complex internal processes.
Dialogue requires a constant, direct, and fluid exchange between parties. This is virtually impossible with large organizations. The need to validate everything internally (the corporate ladder) and the overbearing influence of the legal department invariably lead to endless bickering. While precious time is being wasted, the external stakeholders’ concerns tend to evolve, driven by an ongoing media frenzy. By the time an issue is addressed, several other concerns have already been raised. Timing is everything.
2. Organizations adhere to a strict management framework.
As a result of a complex administrative process, management of time and priorities in large organizations are not aligned with the real concerns of citizens. When Ms. Black’s question at five o’clock on a Friday afternoon does not strike you as important enough to deserve at least a personalized acknowledgement of receipt, is it any wonder that at best she would think that she is being given the run around, and at worst that you have something to hide? That is a shame because everyone in town knows who Ms. Black is!
3. Projects revolve around complex areas of expertise.
Whenever there is an external request, it is always the same. On one hand, the company’s PR department is keen to ensure that the problem is understandable to the average citizen (Ms. Black). On the other hand, the engineers and the legal advisors refuse to support any simplification measure that might open up the possibility of liability. Arbitration consistently favours technical arguments at the expense of global understanding. The devil is in the details…
4. Corporations are biased.
Your project is nearing perfection. It will provide many important economic benefits, respects the environment and you have the answers for any expressed objections. Unfortunately, prioritizing issues exclusively through the eyes of the company underlies a confused strategy. Dialogue, as well as the road to social acceptability, requires a real assessment of the respective stakeholder’s concerns. This is more intricate than a mere financial framework. Moreover, these concerns are not always rational.
5. Companies are unware of the culture and dynamics of a particular community.
The fact that you have met with high-profile individuals through government and stakeholder relationships, does not mean that you have gained an understanding of the social and economic needs of the community where you’re planning your project. Quite the contrary, in fact. This deep misunderstanding of local dynamics and particularities will eventually undermine the level support you sought from those high-profile individuals.
6. Social networks and digital literacy are foreign to the organization.
Social networks have become the main tool used by concerned citizens to gain knowledge and discuss projects within their communities. Unfortunately, few companies have learned how to leverage this resource to their advantage. Many organizations have chosen to either hide behind a traditional corporate approach or simply ignore these networks, mostly due to a fear of losing control. The root of this problem is linked to a company’s lack of knowledge of the social web and its culture. The issue is that hiding or underexposure in itself does not allow an organization to circumvent danger. The reality is that your absence will only open the door for biased and unfounded opinions. It puts the organization on defence before they ever had a chance to provide the relevant knowledge to the concerned stakeholders.
Don’t stress, we have a solution!
Pilote groupe-conseil is an agency with expertise in issue management and public affairs. Our sense of social acceptability that is decisively modern and firmly rooted in the reality of companies led us to develop our True Dialogue™ management tool. This tool is a comprehensive turnkey solution designed to help organizations respond to the challenges they will meet, while creating the conditions for a successful project. Would you like us to come and present our solution to you? Contact us!