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Why your stakeholder database is much more than it seems

It may look, smell, and walk like a database but your stakeholder database can be so much more than that.

 Here are some simple reasons why you should start looking at your database differently and appreciating it for what it really can be.

 It’s your record

Well, of course – right? A database, by its very nature, is a record system.

But it’s more than just a box-ticking exercise. It’s a permanent and evolving reference of every interaction you have had with your stakeholders. You’ll be forever grateful for the perfect database when it’s easy to track not only what you did and when, but how you did it and what results it produced.

 It’s your data source

Data is one of the most valuable and, strangely enough, underappreciated resources of the digital age. A wealth of insights from digital tools can be generated with the click of a button, a convenience that simply was not available in the past.

A database is not just a repository of data, it’s your trusted data source. It’s a mine, filled with nuggets of gold waiting to be discovered! Sentiment analysis and keyword tagging are just some of the innovative reporting facilities included in many database packages.

Using a database tool that provides this type of reporting will enable you to not only gain deeper insights into your community, but conduct more frequent analysis and evaluations of the effectiveness of your engagement. More data, more readily available, will help you build a better engagement strategy and deliver better outcomes.

It’s your time

Think about all those hours you could waste scrawling through a monster, 500 row-long, multi-tab spreadsheet.

A clunky system can slow you down. But an efficient system will save you time, not just in the short term but for years down the track – particularly if you need to upgrade your database tool and have hundreds or thousands of interactions to import.

Many made-for-purpose database tools now have integrations, meaning they can link directly to your existing system or offer services for email and newsletter distribution and even social media tracking. This will cut down on time taken recording interactions and help you discover information you didn’t know your stakeholders were sharing.

While finding a system that is built-for-purpose may involve research before you start building your database, the long term return on this investment will be substantial.

It’s your reputation

Don’t let your database become a data breach.

Of more than 900 data breaches reported to the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner last year, 80 per cent involved people’s contact information. Authorities warn the risk of data breach is a case of “when” not “if” for most businesses.

Given stakeholder engagement is a profession that deals not only with people’s contact information but also with their opinions, it’s worth taking every possible step to protect that data. Ensuring you are using a secure and trusted platform or database tool is crucial. Remember, your database is also your reputation and in the event of a public or notifiable breach, it’s important that you are able to explain to stakeholders and clients that it hasn’t occurred because your systems are not up to scratch.

Human error remains a huge factor in data breaches. Using a non-secure spreadsheet or saving contact information on an unlocked USB increases the risk of both a breach and reputational damage.

Choosing the right tool to manage your stakeholder database reduces that risk right from the start.

Our advice

While you may view a database as simply a workplace tool, it is a tool to be taken seriously.

By investing time and money in the right tool to manage your data, you open up a whole range of new opportunities while also protecting one of your most important assets.

Don’t be afraid to make that investment.

Sarah-Jane Dabarera is an IAP2-accredited engagement practitioner and Senior Consultant in Cannings Purple’s Stakeholder Engagement team. If you have questions about how to manage your engagement database, contact Sarah-Jane.

 Sarah-Jane will present at the IAP2 Australasia National Conference in Sydney on October 31 on the topic of “Data security and ditching the spreadsheet.”

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