Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
10
Jul 17

Effective Stakeholder Management

The phrase “Everyday’s a school day” is often thrown about in our office, because genuinely one of us learns something new, if not a multitude of things, every single day. In this post I’m going to run through three theoretical concepts that I came across during my year in DIT.

Stakeholder theory, network theory and resource dependency theory relate directly to the role of an event manager. This was one area where the crossover between event management theory and event management on the ground was really evident to me.

I feel that being cognisant of these three concepts will really benefit me as an event manager. This is because one of the primary tasks of the job is to keep a lot of people happy while producing an event (your event’s stakeholders), with the end goal of creating an event that generates happiness among attendees.

 

Firstly, events aren’t possible without a huge bunch of people working together. The client that approaches the event management company is usually the person or group that wants the festival to happen. From there, the event management company engages a number of suppliers to get everything needed to produce the event.

The client will usually have a venue or site in mind, and it’s our job to source the content and produce an event that meets the vision for the event.There might also be volunteers, sponsors as well as regulatory bodies involved.

Stakeholder Theory and Networking Theory

Freeman (1984) proposes that stakeholder theory encompasses the relationships that the event management organisation has with each stakeholder involved in an event.

Taking it a step further, each of these stakeholders might already have established relationships with each other. In Ireland, this is especially true, given that the industry is small and many suppliers are monopolising certain niches.

It’s likely that if you’ve work in the industry, you’ll get to know almost everyone pretty quickly. The relationships already established between stakeholders in a network is considered within network theory.

Who are the Stakeholders?

There are a lot of stakeholders involved in any festival or event. Researchers have proposed various typologies that account for the various stakeholders.

Getz, Andersson & Larson (2007) suggest that for a given event or festival, different stakeholders fall into one of six categories. These categories are Regulators, Facilitators, Co-producers, Allies and Collaborators, The Audience and The Impacted and Suppliers.

  • Regulators might include local government bodies, the Fire Brigade, or the An Garda Siochana.
  • Facilitators are those stakeholders that help the event to go ahead, such as sponsors, members of the media that advertise the event or governmental bodies who contribute funding to the event.
  • Allies and Collaborators are those that share information or experience and may help the organiser to create the best possible event or festival.
  • Co-producers are differentiated from Facilitators as Facilitators may not have an operational role on the event, but they do share their knowledge. Co-producers can include volunteers or staff that help produce the event or festival.
  • Suppliers are all of those companies that provide infrastructures, power, lighting, décor, food and whatever content is needed to make the event happen.
  • Finally, The Audience and The Impacted are a large group, comprising all of those people that are affected by the event. This might include local people living nearby or those paying taxes to the local government, who might in turn decide to contribute funding towards the event.

Resource Dependency Theory

As discussed, no event can take place without a huge amount of collaboration.

We have great relationships with our suppliers and they’re a wonderful bunch. We rely on them to supply us with what we need on event day and to make sure that everything provided is of a high quality and meets our standards. We nurture our relationships with our suppliers because we need them. None of our events would happen without their products and services.

A co-dependent relationship exists between event management companies and their suppliers, as with any business. Our suppliers depend on event management companies to get a good proportion of business. At the same time, event management companies depend on suppliers to source  whatever is needed to create a great event experience.

Without a good directory of suppliers, an event management organisation has nothing to offer to potential clients. When operating in events, it’s really important that you build strong relationships with your suppliers as they are the backbone of any event. On extremely busy weekends, a wide range of events take place all around the island, you’ll be competing with a huge number of organisations to get what you need for your event from these same suppliers.

Build up good relationships with your suppliers

Getz (2002) suggested that a primary reason for the failure of festivals is that their organisers fail to get the supplies they need to run their event.   

So, what can you do to ensure that you’ll get what you need?

Share the love with your suppliers! Understand resource dependency theory and the significance of your suppliers and treat them well. Tell them when they’ve done a great job.

Lawler & Yoon (1996) suggest that when two actors within a network of stakeholders, e.g., a supplier and client (event management company), engage in frequent interaction with successful outcomes, positive emotions emerge. This generates value within the relationship. Building upon this value across time makes the relationship stronger and benefits both the supplier and the event management company in the long run.

The survival of your event

Event organisers can’t survive on their own and most definitely can’t produce an event without engaging the help of third parties. There’s a lot of literature focusing on the importance of building relationships with other players in the event network (e.g., Getz, 1997; Long 2000; Watt, 1998).

Effective stakeholder management is key to this. A Supplier or Facilitator (as per Getz et al.’s 2007 typology) can very easily decide to supply his or her help / contribution to a competing initiative and avoiding this is essential for the sustainability of the event or festival. The ultimate challenge lies in establishing the event or festival so that it has the support of the community. This means it’s less likely to be abandoned during difficult periods.

When a festival or event has this level of support, it becomes what's known as an institution within a community. “Institutionalisation” is a smart strategy for organisers to engage in if they want to reduce resource dependency.

Do any annual, well established festivals or events that take place in your local community come to mind? Usually, such festivals and events are so important to the locality that they have huge support from community members.

Locals can’t imagine a time in which such an event wouldn’t continue and certainly wouldn’t let their event or festival decline without trying to sustain it. Such events or festivals often help define a place, in that they come to mind when people mention a place.

When I say I’m from Tralee, for example, the Rose of Tralee often comes up in conversation, as do Puck Fair in Killorglin, Listowel Writer’s week and even the Ring of Kerry Cycle. Each of those events are recognised globally and they’re important for the people of Kerry. They put the place on a global platform. Not many events and festivals reach that status, and for those that haven’t, sustainability is the invariable challenge.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that the effective management of relationships is important for all festival and event organisers.

Building good relationships reduces uncertainty and contributes to the long-term success of an initiative, because collaboration will improve and the threat of resource dependency becomes less pertinent.

Your stakeholders aren’t limited to your suppliers, your client and the regulatory bodies in your locality. The people of the community are significant stakeholders, their support generates positivity. Having local support will have a positive impact on the longevity of your event or festival. It’s also often local people that engage with those who come to your event, for example local hotel and B&B owners as well as those working in cafés, bars, restaurants and shops. 

Identify your stakeholders, define their objectives and strategise so that you’re meeting as many stakeholders’ objectives as possible, while keeping in mind the original vision for the event. Stakeholders will invariably all have different demands.

The event manager’s ultimate end goal is to create an experience that generates happiness.

To reach that goal, you need to understand the importance of keeping the people who help you to make this happen happy along the way.

 
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