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Opinion

Managing Stakeholder ExpectatIons

Externally, the communications environment is more complex. The world has become more transparent and immediate, driven by the digital age.

Companies have always had to engage with vast numbers of stakeholders, but the way in which they manage this has become more public. The need for internal coordination has also become stronger in order to communicate a seamless company culture and view.

Organizations in every sector – private, public and civil society – are facing this new reality. The shift is prompted by an intersection of well-known trends. News is without borders.

The events in one location can have a significant ripple effect on markets and projects across continents.

Digital communications has enabled more people to access and generate information to reach wider audiences.

Increasingly, a company’s communications must fit in the palm of the hand as mobile devices become an important platform for sharing content. In Mongolia, a country experiencing a phenomenal mining boom, cell phone penetration in the mineral rich South Gobi desert region that includes many nomadic herders is 77% and internet usage is 23%.

Mining companies have traditionally had a business-to- business mentality around communications but the attitude seems to be shifting. While companies do not provide products to the final consumer they increasingly recognize the value of making their case beyond business partners and directly engaging in a wider set of relationships.

Their communications approach is becoming more consumer- oriented – with brand equity, reputation management and relationship building front of mind for the professionals we interviewed. This means the communications function is no longer the sole crafter or guardian of “the message”. Together with other functions they are designing opportunities to share the company’s experiences and to build trust with neighbors and potential partners, as well as adversaries.

Social media is also changing the way people engage with companies as platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook create communities who expect to be heard and

influence change. Mongolia’s Oyu Tolgoi (majority-owned and managed by Rio Tinto) copper and gold mine has over 70,000 Facebook fans, one of the most popular sites in the country.

Across the board, executives would like more investment in this area. Most are reluctant to begin engaging through platforms like Facebook and Twitter, fearing that putting a toe in the water opens them up to reputational risk, limitless resource needs and opens up lines of communication with stakeholders who may be critical of company activities.

There is concern about the representativeness of social media technology biased to the young and web connected. While the opportunity for engagement is immense it must tempered with efforts to include opinions from vulnerable groups such as the elderly, illiterate and physically remote communities.

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