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Engaging stakeholders through education and communication to gain support is paramount to implementing and sustaining the Correctional Industries (CI) Best Practices Model for Reentry.
Correctional Industries operate under three spheres of influence: Government, Business and Social. It is important to understand the requirements and impact of each sphere, as well as their relationships to each other.
Stakeholders include any group or individuals, internal or external, who affect or may be affected by the achievement of an organization’s mission. For Correctional Industries, these groups include customers, employees, legislators, government officials, Departments of Correction, offenders, private businesses, media, and special interest groups. CI’s need to know who their stakeholders are, understand the nature of their relationships with them, and how to manage and shape those relationships over time.
The creation of long-standing, loyal stakeholder relationships is essential. Factors that can de-rail collaborative relationships include the absence of effective leadership; poor communication; power struggles; silos; absence of follow-though; poorly organized meetings; and the absence of a clear vision or objectives, just to name a few. Characteristics of successful collaborations include: clear and relevant goals, principled leadership, competent team members, a collaborative climate and results driven structure, unified commitment, external support and recognition, and standards of excellence. By engaging stakeholders in a compelling way that leverages their ability to support the mission, it will greatly enhance the likelihood of the Correctional Industry (CI) program’s success.
In order to be a successful correctional industries operation, it is imperative that the agency educate and communicate with stakeholders to gain support for its programs. Correctional industries maintain many complex relationships with their stakeholders, and can lose valuable support if these relationships are not properly managed and nurtured. The underlying value inherent to each individual stakeholder must be identified and reinforced.
Educating stakeholders about the mission includes managing communications as well as understanding how to effectively deal with the organizations or persons that may oppose the Correctional Industry agency’s efforts. Given the sometimes limited view of correctional industries due to a lack of information or misinformation, it is crucial that every organization effectively maintain and improve stakeholder relationships so that the agency proactively manages its messaging to sustain ongoing support for its program. It is likewise important that CI practitioners educate potential stakeholders who may have little understanding or knowledge of Correctional Industries.
The ongoing communication with and education of stakeholders will:
Validate the CI program’s proven success
Inform decision-makers about the positive impact of your program
Demonstrate how resources are being used responsibly and effectively
Share best- and evidenced-based practices with your community
Attract new partners for collaboration or strategic alliances
The more stakeholders know about Correctional Industry programs, the more likely they will support it. This can be accomplished:
By recording program successes and sharing this information with stakeholders, stakeholders can become champions for the agency and can serve as advisors and spokespersons in support of the organization’s mission and goals.
Forming strategies and strategic alliances to develop new or improve collaborations can provide many benefits, including opportunities for program innovation, access to new resources, and increased positive visibility through shared media contacts.
Identify stakeholders, both internal and external.
Brainstorming is one method for identifying stakeholders. Other methods include:
Offenders (whether or not they work in a CI program)
Boards of Directors/Advisory Boards
Special Interest Groups (e.g., victims’ organizations, faith-based groups, etc.)
Private Sector Businesses
Community Groups (that provide services to former offenders)
Criminal Justice System
Family Units (members in offenders’ lives)
Conduct a stakeholder analysis.
Once all stakeholders have been identified, conduct a stakeholder analysis. This will allow for categorizing them according to their level of impact upon your organization, and help tailor appropriate messaging in line with relationships. The stakeholder analysis attempts to identify the following:
Stakeholders having the greatest influence on the program
Stakeholders who are directly and/or indirectly involved
Stakeholders requiring more attention
Stakeholders’ needs for ongoing communication and updates
Stakeholders who simply need to be monitored
Place each stakeholder’s position on the Stakeholder Map (see Tools section) according to the extent of their influence and interest in your program. If a stakeholder rates a high interest level and may exert a significant degree of influence, fully engage and manage this relationship closely. Conversely, if a stakeholder rates a low interest/impact level and has less influence over your program, monitoring the relationship may be all that is needed.
Develop a plan to manage stakeholders.
After stakeholders have been identified, categorized, and qualified, a communication plan should be developed to manage your relationships. Be certain to consider what drives them and determine how they feel about your organization’s mission and strategies. Without a clear understanding of what motivates your stakeholders, gaining support for your program will be difficult.
The following questions can help to understand your stakeholders:
What interest do they have in your work?
How do they view your work?
Do they find value in your work?
Do they have negative or positive emotional interest in your program?
What is their current opinion about your work?
Is their opinion accurate?
If their opinion is negative, what can be done to change it?
What information do they need from you?
What is the best way to communicate with them?
Who can best influence the stakeholder?
How can Correctional Industries benefit the stakeholder?
If a stakeholder’s support cannot be obtained, what can be done to manage or neutralize their sphere of influence?
In order to educate stakeholders, you must first understand their “trigger points.” Consider the following questions for each stakeholder:
What information do they expect?
What is the best way to communicate with them?
Who can best influence the stakeholder?
How does the work, project, or mission benefit the stakeholder?
If support for the work cannot be obtained, what can be done to manage or neutralize their sphere of negative influence
Evaluate how best to determine the answers to these questions for each stakeholder. Some methods include: one-on-one meetings or telephone calls; surveys; focus groups; inviting stakeholders to agency meetings; attending stakeholder initiated meetings; inviting stakeholders to serve on advisory committees; breakfast or lunch meetings; and site visits to operations.
Tailoring your approach based on the needs of each stakeholder and identify the ways in which your work or project can benefit them; that, in turn, will encourage positive solutions.
Ways to educate stakeholders include tours/open houses; newsletters; social networking; program briefs featuring success stories; legislative events; program graduations and web pages and videos dedicated to success stories and/or program impact.
Communicate brand identity.
Every correctional industries program needs to communicate its brand identity in a clear, compelling and consistent manner, both internally and externally. Periodic meetings, internal emails, and agency newsletters to reinforce your objectives; compelling, memorable taglines, consistent messaging, and ongoing, proactive media outreach are possible methods to effectively deliver these communications.
Create a communication plan to include talking points for stakeholder outreach.
Talking points are brief “sound bites” that persuasively support your organization’s messaging or mission. It’s best to create a series of them to cover a variety of key topics/issues of importance, to be used, as appropriate, in conjunction with presentations, media involvement, or other situations where immediate, “think on your feet” responses might be required. Of course, each must be supported by facts or anecdotal evidence from the organization and modified based on the target audience. For example, Correctional Industries:
Reduce prison idleness, increase inmate job skills, and help offenders make a successful transition to the community
Increase public safety by reducing recidivism
Reduce correctional costs by engaging in self-sustaining initiatives
Create a better prepared workforce entering the community
Enable offenders to support family members, and compensate crime victims
Correctional industry programs are largely self-sustaining and self-funded. They do not receive tax dollars
Support the local, state and federal economy
When a stakeholder is identified as a potential ‘champion’ for your agency, be sure to tailor communications strategies carefully so that ultimately, he/she can become an advocate and promoter of the organization’s mission and objectives.
Communicate with difficult stakeholders.
It’s important to understand difficult stakeholders as well as their “hot buttons” in order to develop an effective relationship development strategy. Consider the stakeholder’s opinion of the mission; the stakeholder’s goals and objectives; how CI can help them meet their goals and objectives; and ultimately, the best way to communicate.
Build strategic alliances.
When building strategic alliances, it is important to establish desired outcomes and be clear about them. Identify key steps that each partner will take to achieve mutually agreeable goals, based on a timeline that works for both parties. Strive to create “win-win” solutions and celebrate successes.
Develop and maintain security relationships.
In any correctional facility, reliable security is essential to protect the safety of offenders, staff, and the public. As a major internal stakeholder, it is essential for correctional industries to develop and maintain positive working relationships with security personnel for the mutual benefit of the facility’s security and to support CI’s mission.
Formulate legislative strategy.
Supportive legislation is the foundation for creating a sustainable and a viable correctional industries program that provides ongoing opportunities for offenders’ long-term prospects for reentry success. If the laws and regulations governing your operations meet your present and future needs, it may be sufficient to limit your strategies to maintain or increase awareness among legislators and the public about the work. If not, a more comprehensive and phased legislative plan may be needed. Depending on agency policies, you may be required to gain approval prior to working directly with legislative bodies. If your agency has a legislative liaison, it is important to first educate then work with them for legislative contact.
The exchange of information is key to educate, communicate and build stakeholder support. Traditional media outlets have the capacity to broaden our reach to the three spheres of influence. Advances in technology require CIs to strategically utilize both the traditional forms of media including, but not limited to newsprint, radio, and television while also developing a web presence and social media representation. The key messages could include CI research, products, success stories and defining CI’s respective mission. All contact with the media should be coordinated through your agency’s press office, if applicable.
Develop key data sets to gauge success, track and report. Sample measurement criteria include:
Business partnerships (and spheres of influence over your program; where you were vs. where you are in comparison)
Diversified customer base
Financial self sufficiency
Customer satisfaction rate
Customer concerns and complaints
Buchholz, S., & Roth, T. (1987). Creating the High-Performance Team. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
Carter, M., et al (2005). Collaboration: A Training Curriculum to Enhance the Effectiveness of Criminal Justice Teams. Reston, VA: Criminal Justice Institute. Available at https://cepp.com/expertise/collaboration/
Covey, S. (1989). The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. New York, NY: Free Press.
Foley, J., & Kendrick, J. (2006). Balanced Brand: How to Balance the Stakeholder Forces That Can Make or Break your Business. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Freeman, R. E., et al. (2007). Managing for Stakeholders: Survival, Reputation, and Success. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Hansen, M. T. (2009). Collaboration: How Leaders Avoid the Traps, Create Unity, and Reap Big Results. Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press.
Larson, Carl E., & Frank M.J. LaFasto (1989). Teamwork: What Must Go Right, What Can Go Wrong. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
Lencioni, Patrick. 2002. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable. San Francisco, CA, Jossey-Bass.
Swets, Paul M. 1983. The Art of Talking So that People Will Listen: Getting through to Family, Friends & Business Associates. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Watkins, Michael. 2003. The First 90 days. Boston, MA. Harvard Business Press.
This site is maintained by the American Probation and Parole Association as is the home page of their National Branding Initiative. It has links to a turnkey kit, a media training manual, and other valuable information related to branding.
This site is maintained by the Federal Bureau of Prisons and provides information on the Post-Release Employment Project (PREP) study report, showing the research findings and statistical significance of the UNICOR program in reducing recidivism and increasing offender employment after release.
This site is maintained by UNICOR to provide the history of Federal Prison Industries in a historical document entitled “Factories With Fences: 75 Years of Changing Lives.”
Brand Identity Tools
Meetings can be used to provide staff with information about your brand, its value to the organization, how it should be communicated to your stakeholders.
Internal e-mails can be used to remind staff of your brand’s promise and build support for it. They can also contain tag lines and/or logos that reinforce your brand identity.
Agency newsletters can feature stories highlighting activities that embody your brand’s promise.
A tagline is a short and striking memorable phrase that sums up the tone and promise of a brand and reinforces your customer’s memory of a product or service. You should use taglines on all your communications.
A key message is a brief paragraph that sums up the nature of your work and its impact upon offenders and the communities in which they live. Key messages should be backed up by research or other supporting evidence.
Because much of the news in the field of corrections is negative, it is necessary for correctional industries directors to be proactive in their relationships with the media and use outreach efforts to build and enhance their brands. The media includes national broadcast networks, local radio and television stations, newspapers, wire services, national publications, and trade publications.
A talking point is a brief statement that persuasively supports your position or organization’s objectives.
When developing a collaborative effort, it can be useful to assess the group’s strengths and weaknesses. This Collaboration Inventory will allow you to address any deficiencies that might exist and increase the probability of the group’s success.
Working with Legislators
The first step in beginning a legislative initiative is to develop relationships that are critical for the passage of a particular bill. Some of these relationships will be with legislators and others will be with their staff members or key aides. Ideally, you should develop these relationships in advance of proposing legislation. This can be done by keeping legislators apprised of your activities and the results achieved by your efforts, inviting them to speak at program graduations, and attending political or social events where you can meet and talk informally with legislators.
You should create a listing of all officials who should be kept informed of the legislation you are proposing. Some of these officials – because of their seniority or committee membership – will have more control over the legislation you seek to have enacted.
Use your list of legislators to track their support of the bill. You should note whether they support it, oppose it, or are undecided. As bills proceed through the legislative process, it is not uncommon for the sponsors to amend the language. This needs to be tracked as well because amendments can significantly change the intent of proposed bill. If the bill is altered to the point where you can no longer support it, you may need to withdraw that support and reintroduce the bill at a later time.