Reviewing your website: stakeholder management

This is the second post in a mini-series on website assessment and review.

Anthony Haynes writes: In the previous post I outlined a model, designed to be used by and with non-techies, to support website review and management. The model uses three criteria: stakeholder management; navigability; and design.

That publishing a website represents an exercise in stakeholder management seems obvious when one thinks about it. But, in practice, the point is all too easy to overlook. The temptation is to focus too strongly on the question “What do we want to say about ourselves?” at the expense of “Who wants to know what about ourselves?”

So merely remembering to look at one’s website through the lens of one’s stakeholder constitutes a step in the right direction.

I defined ‘stakeholders’ for organizations in our core market (membership organisations, awarding bodies, and learning providers) as follows: (1) members: current and prospective members; (2) membership organisations, awarding bodies, and learning providers; (3) communities: local communities; and communities of practice in the field(s) in which an organisation is active; and the public more widely; (4) media, including social media and influencers; (5) government and policymakers; (6) owners and investors (where applicable); (7) suppliers; and (8) the environment.

Strengths and weaknesses in general

In a moment, I’ll provide an example of good practice. First, though, a few generalisations arising from studying numerous websites in our market.

The stakeholder group best catered for is the first. It is rare for websites not to provide plentiful, readily accessible, information for members, on such issues as the benefits of membership, eligibility criteria, and events for members.

Probably the least well catered for are the last two in the list. With regards to the environment, it’s not difficult to find policies and statements of intent. Much harder to find is detail on the metrics: how is environmental impact being measured? How is performance changing.

In my judgment, paucity of such data can create a vulnerability: it leaves the organisation open to the charge of greenwashing (in other words, appearing to say the right things without putting them into practice).

All organisations have suppliers. Our clients are not manufacturers, so they don’t use much in the way of raw materials: but they certainly procure services. Insurance, accountancy, IT, catering, design, and, of course, talent acquisition.

In a sense, an organisation is only as good as its supply chain. It is therefore important to ensure procurement is efficient and effective. Yet websites that facilitate that process, by for example explaining to suppliers how to pitch and what the organisation’s procurement processes and requirements are, are notably rare.

It is as if some organisations simply don’t want to be sold to – a short-sighted policy, surely: not all sales approaches are nuisance calls!

Good practice

One website that I suggest performs relatively strongly on the stakeholder management criterion is that of the Royal College of Anaesthetists:

An awareness of diverse stakeholders is clearly built into the design of the website. The impression this gives is that the RCoA is a communicative one. Stakeholders that it focuses on include not only members of the anaesthetist profession, but also prospective members.

Most notable is the attention given to the public, with helpful and informed content directed at patients and an awareness, running through many parts of the site, of ‘non-medical audiences’. Generally, when it comes to communicating with non-specialists, performs rather better than many.

I’m not saying the stakeholder management here is perfect – perhaps a step-by-step application of our list of stakeholders above might yield development opportunities – but it certainly impresses as highly professional.

Next up: the navigability criterion.