The importance of stakeholder engagement.

Wattle flower or CoronaVirus?

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Releasing a ‘wattle flower’ logo that unfavourably compares to the very particle of the virus causing the current global pandemic, was not the most suitable move made by the National Brand Advisory Council earlier this year. When considering this to be part of a $10 million dollar rebrand for Australia, the blunder brings to light the importance of stakeholder engagement. 

The intended purpose of the logo was to promote Australia, the wattle flower, in an iridescent gold, was the drawcard brand for international markets . Since the unveiling earlier this year, the logo has copped extensive criticism due to unfavourable comparisons to images of the Coronavirus particle. 

A “unifying nation brand that inspires the world to buy into Australia's people, place and product”. This very statement identifies two stakeholders; the Australian people and Australian businesses. The first lesson of corporate governance and social responsibility, is that everyone is a stakeholder. It is the responsibility of each organisation to appropriately identify their key internal and external stakeholders.  

When considering the failure of the project for the Australian people, there was an inability to effectively communicate the story behind the wattle flower. Poor reasoning does not work with the average Australian, particularly with Government related projects. Contributing further to the failure was the timing of release. Mid global pandemic, travel restrictions and lockdowns in place, and the release of a logo to target international markets. Furthermore, a design that closely resembles the very particle of the virus causing the pandemic, resulting in substantial criticism from the Australian public

So, what about the stakeholders who would use the logo in question? The design was believed to favour one industry in particular, mining. Au is the symbol for gold on the periodic table, and the council who commissioned the logo just happens to be led by mining magnate, Andrew Forrest. This factor has a direct negative impact on businesses in other industries. 

When considering just two stakeholders and their feedback, it is evident that there was significant under-communication and a lack of consideration. Development of a stakeholder engagement strategy has the potential to avoid such issues in the development of projects. 

It is important to have a clear purpose and vision for what you’re looking to achieve and to effectively communicate this purpose with the various stakeholder groups. To do this, organisations must determine the tools they have available to inform, consult or collaborate with stakeholders. Once the most appropriate methods are selected, set out the messages to convey and the best way to gauge and respond to feedback. Your engagement strategy should also prioritise monitoring outcomes and reassessing plans where necessary. 

Effective stakeholder engagement is the key to success for any organisation. There is always an extensive network of stakeholders that organisations communicate with in their operations. Under-utilising engagement subsequently halts the development of valuable relationships. Having a consistent approach to making decisions is crucial to achieve quality results, and a stakeholder engagement strategy is one of the valuable tools used to achieve this.

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