By Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE
Consistent and customized communications are critical to the success of any program you are leading. The way you manage communications will help keep the project top of mind, ensure alignment of objectives, encourage feedback and process improvement, and articulate the value of the initiative. I work with many clients who are building Strategic Meetings Management Programs (SMMP), and one of the communication strategies I use is to customize communications by stakeholder group.
Customize your communications based on the stakeholder audience
An initial step in developing a communication plan is to understand who the stakeholders are with whom you will be communicating. Using the example of an SMM program, the typical stakeholders/departments are:
- Internal Clients
- Occasional Planners
- Meeting Agency Supplier Partners
- Hotel Partners
- Travel Management Company (TMC)
With such a diverse list of stakeholders, it is important to tailor communications that each will find relevant to their needs.
For example, inside your organization, the Chief Procurement Officer (CPO) will be interested in different information than the Travel Manager, which will differ from what the Director of Security desires. Depending on the target audience, you may focus your communication on savings metrics, meeting volume, supplier utilization, process improvements, Return on Investment, brand consistency, duty of care, or crisis management, to name a few common topics of interest. Let’s break down the stakeholders of an SMMP and their main areas of interest:
- Internal Clients: Return on Investment, brand consistency
- Occasional Planners: Meeting planning support, process improvements
- Procurement: Savings metrics, supplier utilization
- Legal: Contract clauses that reduce organizational risk
- Finance: Budget management, meeting volume
- Travel: Duty of care, group air travel, leverage small meetings and transient travel
- Security: Crisis management, protect intellectual property, business continuity
- Meeting Agency Supplier Partners: Adhere to Service Level Agreement, understand process
- Hotel Partners: Client business needs, contract addendums
- Travel Management Company (TMC): Group air requirements, small meetings support
Additionally, for communication with suppliers, I prepare a plan based on type of supplier and how essential they are to the success of the program. I often tell clients they should ask the supplier for their opinion regarding potential process changes: how will it affect them, what have some of their other clients done in similar situations? On the other hand, I also advise suppliers to have regular update meetings with their key accounts. They should propose the agenda, format and timing. With all the other stakeholders their client is worried about, they will likely agree to the proactive approach! Here are some other examples of supplier communications:
- Monthly or quarterly conference calls open to all supplier partners regarding process, procedures and any current changes to the general business of the organization, e.g. new products, mergers, spin-offs. There should be time set aside for an open Question and Answer session on the call.
- Quarterly Business Reviews (QBR) for top tier suppliers. These meetings not only review performance metrics and Service Level Agreements (SLA) status, but also include discussions on process improvements and industry trends. These reviews can be done effectively as a blend of virtual and/or face-to-face meetings.
- On-Boarding new suppliers should entail especially frequent communication. At the beginning, this could be weekly, perhaps even daily, based on the scope of services being provided. The more in-depth the initial information is transferred at the start of the relationship, the more likely it is that the on-boarding of the new supplier will be smooth and successful.
About the Author:
President of Bondurant Consulting, Betsy Bondurant, CMM, CTE offers a unique 360° perspective with over 30 years industry expertise in hotel sales, meeting & trade show management, and procurement operations. Betsy is considered a Subject Matter Expert in the area of Strategic Meetings Management. In 2016, Betsy was recognized as one of the Top 25 Women in the Meetings Industry by Meetings and Conventions Magazine.