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Building the Knowledge Management Network: Best Practices, Tools, and Techniques for Putting Conversation to Work by Nancy Rhine, Cliff Figallo

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Chapter 9. Conversing with External Stakeholders

To paraphrase the poet John Donne, no company is an island. Businesses rely on their customers, suppliers, shippers, and investors. Nonprofit organizations rely on funders, donors, constituents, and supporters. All of these groups are stakeholders in the organization's success. The easier it is to communicate with people in these external (but integral) parts of the organization, the more effective they can be in their relationships to it. To continue—just as in any online community—the communication must be perceived as mutually beneficial by both sides.

Donors want to know how their giving is being put to use. Supporters want to volunteer their advice or influence. Customers look to companies to support the products they sell. Some customers even want to be involved in the product design process. To win (and keep) their involvement, the company needs to understand how these stakeholders think, plan, and make their decisions. The company needs the insight that stakeholders can provide to help it make its decisions.

These vital communications can take place in several ways: The company can open channels and invite its customers to talk to it directly; the company can share what it knows with its stakeholders; and the company can help its stakeholders share what they know with each other. All of these actions can benefit the company by forging stronger relationships with customers and constituents. External conversations can take place ...

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