Aug 282012

The 2012 Summer Olympics, officially “The Games of the XXX Olympiad” (I don’t want the IOC branding police after me), have finally concluded, but the buzz about NBC’s coverage in the US still goes on. It all started during the opening ceremonies when the Twitterverse went crazy over the fact that the Games were not being broadcast live here in the US, but rather were delayed at least five hours.

Now, I think there is plenty of room for dissatisfaction with NBC’s coverage. The inane blabber from the announcers comes immediately to mind. And if you wanted to see something other than gymnastics, swimming, track, or volleyball, you were pretty much out of luck. (There were actually 302 events in 26 different sporting categories). And NBC really could have done a better job of making the live streaming coverage available over the Internet. For example, an iTunes-like approach to purchasing individual events or packages would have been much more modern than requiring a particular broadband account. But if you’re at all like me, you have to work during the day. Having the Games delayed until I could actually watch them did not bother me.

The hashtag #NBCFail became the center of the controversy posting over 20,000 tweets within two days of the opening. Now, granted these tweets expressed many areas of dissatisfaction, but the news coverage that hit pretty much all the media was about the time delay. Yet, Neilson Company, which keeps track of such things, said that more than 219 million viewers watched the Olympics on NBC channels the first day. If I get my math right, that’s 10,000:1 (viewers:tweeters).

So what’s this got to do with stakeholder management? I like to use the chart in Figure 1 from TOGAF to characterize stakeholders. Basically, the approach is to identify your stakeholders and then address them based on two characteristics. The first is how much power they have, and the second is how much interest they have.

Figure 1 — TOGAF stakeholder management categories.

Given the characterization, we have a different approach for each group, something like the following:

  • Key players — These stakeholders are both concerned about the outcome and have decision-making or financial power and/or influence. In general, we want to concentrate our efforts on these stakeholders and keep them happy. In a typical enterprise, there are usually three to five people in this group, and I typically develop a strategy and plan for how to deal with each of them. They will often require an individually crafted message, a particular set of artifacts that is meaningful to them (and delivers the message), and a communications approach. Note that not all stakeholders are interested in your success. Some would like to see your efforts fail, so obviously you need a clever approach to deal with them.
  • Keep satisfied — These stakeholders have influence but aren’t really interested. We want to keep them informed and address any issues that arise, but don’t need to focus too much attention on them. However, always be on the lookout for opportunities to turn them into key players by showing how your effort is important and delivers value to them.
  • Keep informed — These stakeholders don’t really have much power or influence, but do have a lot of interest. I find that people in this category can be enlisted to help move the effort forward as ambassadors and foot soldiers in the field.
  • Minimal effort — These stakeholders don’t have much influence, and they don’t care. Obviously, we don’t want to expend much time and energy on them.

So let’s revisit the Olympics with this in mind. Who are the key players? Well, like it or not, it is the advertisers. Remember that NBC is a business and needs to recoup the $1.1 billion it spent for the broadcast rights to the Olympics. Do you think NBC made the right decision with respect to these key stakeholders?

The viewers fall into the “keep satisfied” category because if they’re not watching, then the key players aren’t happy. The Tweeters also fall into this category, although they are a very small percentage of the total participants. But here is the important takeaway: even a seemingly small stakeholder can make a lot of noise and have a disproportionate amount of influence (i.e., don’t confuse influence with size). Do you think NBC could have done a better job of identifying and dealing with these stakeholders?

What about your stakeholders? Do you know who they are and what they want? Are you prepared to satisfy them?


  One Response to “Lessons from the Olympics on Stakeholder Management”

  1. It seems to me that the key issue for both viewers and advertisers is maximising the audience, so the question is whether NBC’s approach did this. It’s very difficult to guess whether an alternative approach would have increased the audience – it’s an area where A/B testing is difficult to achieve it seems to me.

    Being from the UK, I didn’t have the same issues of time difference, but there were still criticisms of the BBC’s approach – that aerial-based viewers weren’t able to receive all events (cable users were). For the BBC the key players are likely to be those that decide whether the licence fee is an approach that should continue, which relates more directly to how happy the audience is than for your US example.

    I suspect that it will get progressively more difficult to get away with non-real time for future Olympics as social media and mobile become even more important for the audience (for more on this see my recent blog post BBC Olympics coverage, social media and mobile apps).

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