🧭 Navigating Tricky Stakeholders 🎯


Navigating challenging stakeholders is often the biggest hurdle in building a community. It's not about your skills, experience, or resources—it's about managing the dynamics with stakeholders.

Stakeholders are defined as those with an economic interest in your business's success. In the context of brand communities, these are typically internal stakeholders, like executives and department heads, whose interests are tied to the community's success.

In our years building communities we have worked with numerous community managers facing difficult stakeholders. These stakeholders can create roadblocks for community programs, making the journey challenging yet ultimately rewarding.

Let's explore some common types of difficult stakeholders and strategies for working with them:

  1. The Detractor:
    Detractors are skeptical about the community's value and may resist investing in it. They prefer transactional programs with immediate business outcomes. Educate them on the community's long-term benefits and seek opportunities to convert them through meaningful KPIs. Respectful Detractors can offer valuable insights, but non-respectful ones may need to be removed from the stakeholder group.
  2. The Distractor:
    Distractors mean well but may lack clarity and focus. They offer diverse perspectives but struggle to provide direction. Engage them for brainstorming sessions but establish structure in your programs independently. Embrace experimentation and feedback while working with them.
  3. The Know-It-All:
    Know-It-Alls believe they know everything about community building based on past experiences. While they support community investments, they may insist on doing things their way. Respect their input but remain firm in your decisions, emphasizing the strategic pillars of your program.
  4. The Impatient:
    Impatient stakeholders prioritize rapid results and may overlook the importance of relationships and values. Resist pressure to compromise on your work's quality and integrity. Maintain control over your work processes and decisions, reminding them of the value of patience and collaboration.
  5. The Distracted:
    Distracted stakeholders lack consistent focus and commitment. They may miss meetings and change their minds frequently, causing confusion. While securing their attention may seem like a win, prioritize building meaningful community experiences over catering to their fleeting interests.
  6. The Enabler:
    Enablers are empathetic but may avoid confronting toxic dynamics within the stakeholder group. Be transparent with them and encourage open communication to address harmful behaviors constructively.

Despite the challenges posed by difficult stakeholders, there are also champions and resource finders who support your efforts. Cultivate relationships with these allies and communicate with them regularly for encouragement and support.

In navigating the complexities of stakeholder dynamics, surround yourself with individuals who make your work easier and reinforce the importance of your community-building endeavors.

This post was originally published in 2021 but has been revised and updated from its previous edition to ensure accuracy and relevance.