Build Relationships with Stakeholders

Once you've identified your key stakeholders, it's time to begin building relationships.

Start now.  Begin introducing yourself to policy makers immediately with the understanding that relationships take time to establish and build.

Be visible.  Be visible in the community and at meetings. Re-introduce yourself and say hello, and let policy makers get to know you BEFORE you need them to know you (e.g. in a crisis).

Be attentive.  Listen for community needs and think about whether and how the library can meet those needs.

One of the best ways to advance a relationship is to meet face to face. This can be the hardest part, but it's so important for sharing your message. And you need to meet stakeholders in person, because that is how they connect you with your library. Here’s how to make that connection:

Think first. Before you set up a meeting, think about what the people you want to meet with care about. Then, try to connect your library with their interests. For example, if you are meeting with a city council representative, does that person sit on any committees that affect the library? Have they been an advocate for youth? You can provide them with information about youth in the community they may not know. You can also tell the story about how your library is essential for the youth in your community.

Find a mentor. If you've never participated in this kind of meeting with a stakeholder, ask to attend a meeting with a trusted colleague or two. You can pay attention to what they do, how they speak, and how they describe the importance of your library and its role in the community. Afterwards, ask questions that will help you be prepared for meetings when you are on your own.

Make the contact.  Now that you’re ready to arrange your own meeting, make the phone call, send the email, or stop by the stakeholder’s office. Briefly introduce yourself and explain the reason you are making the contact. If you have a common acquaintance who helped set up the meeting, mention that. If you’re a constituent, mention that as well.

Persevere. Leaders have many people contacting them for the same reasons you are. Be understanding if they can't meet with you right away, or if the meeting you did schedule gets canceled or postponed. Don't give up! Find the right balance between persistent and annoying. The worst thing you can do is be impatient or rude. You may have to try several times before you are successful.

Make yourself memorable. When you finally do get through, help your contact remember you and your library. Be cordial. Don't forget to bring business cards. Bring a fact sheet with pictures of your library. Don't overwhelm with text, but have something that is clear and succinct.

Follow up. Send a note or letter thanking the stakeholder for the meeting and reinforcing points discussed or agreements made.