Managing a wide range of stakeholders: Surveying holdings of steel archives across Wales

This was a collaborative project carried out by Archives and Records Council Wales (ARCW) and funded by the Welsh Government, through its CyMAL: Museums Archives and Libraries Wales division. It encompassed ARCW member organisations holding significant collections of steel records, and was led by the archivist, based at the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University.

Goal

To scope out records relating to the steel industry in Wales, with a view to initiating research and community engagement projects. The first step was a survey of archive material held at Tata Steel Records Centre. The five day survey was conducted at the end of January, with the permission of Tata Steel. The second step was to strengthen the findings of the Tata Steel Records Centre survey, by carrying out a scoping survey of records relating to the steel industry held by archives services across Wales.

Situation

One archivist reporting back to a number of stakeholders. This required balancing different interests, particularly those of a company with security and confidentiality issues, and busy archive services.

Stakeholders

Other archive services

Messages:

  • this is what the Project is seeking to achieve
  • for current participants: please describe your steel archive holdings
  • for potential future participants: up to date project information

Communication methods:

  • for survey respondents: a survey questionnaire with a covering email and follow up email communication. Information was required within a short time period so quick return was necessary so the deadline was very clear. Follow-up emails were used for clarification and to arrange visits. It was necessary to formulate contingency plans if there was a lack of responses  
  • for potential partners: information even if they could not participate at that time to ensure that they could join in future if desired i.e. the opportunity was used to establish and nurture relationships that would be of long-term value

Outcome:

  • nine Welsh archive services supplied full details of holdings and another two expressed an interest in future involvement

Tata Steel

Message:

  • This is a valuable project with which Tata Steel should engage

Communication method:

  • The project required co-operation from the records centre and the company as a whole. This necessitated developing productive relationships using face-to-face meetings to ensure two-way dialogue. Email correspondence was used to produce terms of agreement to address legal and confidentiality issues (to address routine but detailed procedures) 

Outcome:

  • Access was granted to the records centre and progress was made in developing a partnership with the company

Survey Project Board

Message:

  • This is the progress of the Project and these are the issues we currently face

Communication methods:

  • Regular update reports for the project including teleconferences to involve project board members located in other geographic regions. Written reports were shared in advance for discussion at the meetings. Some partners chose to travel in order to cut down number of different teleconferencing sites. Funders were represented at these meetings

Outcome:

  • The project board was kept informed of the project and any issues were identified to prevent slippage in the project timetable

Conservators

Message:

  • to develop and agree a survey template, and carry out an appropriate survey of conservation needs

Communication methods:

  • initial meeting as the conservators needed to be briefed about the project
  • email communication was used to enable multi-way input on the development of a shared survey template

Outcome:

  • survey template developed and implemented

Other groups

Message:

  • This survey is important, as it will produce useful information for you

Communication method:

  • face-to-face meetings for a sense of engagement and to enable two-way communication , for example with academics on Swansea University Campus to discover interdisciplinary interests, Ebbw Vale Archival Trust

Outcome:

  • New contacts were made with a number of different groups with a view to developing future projects

Conclusion

This was a complex communications scenario requiring different messages to a range of different stakeholders: some was to elicit action and involvement whereas other communication was to keep stakeholders informed and engaged. The use of appropriate methods that enabled discussion (where required) ensured an efficient and effective communication process.