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Choosing the right digital stakeholder engagement channels

Throughout this series of blog posts, we’ve seen that integrating digital techniques into your engagement strategy can help you reap significant rewards.

But while the benefits of integrating digital channels into your stakeholder engagement work are clear, actually implementing them is a different story. With so many potentially useful tools out there, how do you choose the best ones for your purpose?

This post will help you make those decisions, and incorporate them into your stakeholder engagement processes.

Mapping digital channels to groups of stakeholders

When you start work on a stakeholder engagement project, you will draw up a map of stakeholders – showing which groups to inform, consult, or collaborate with, based on their potential levels of influence and interest.

In the same way, you can use a matrix like the one below to provide insight into the best digital channels for each group. This has the advantage of helping you to choose the most appropriate and economical software solutions for your work.

 Mapping digital channels to stakeholders

To give you a flavour of the digital engagement channels you could use, let’s take a brief look at each quarter of the matrix.

To help you visualise this, imagine you belong to a council wishing to implement a pedestrianisation scheme in a town centre. You need to engage the following groups of stakeholders if you are to create a workable plan and demonstrate that there’s a need for the policy — as well as to find out whether there’s significant public backing for the move.

Group 1. Inform – with minimal effort

Objective: to inform

(To learn more about the benefits of using digital engagement to inform, see this post).

The following channels let you reach large numbers of stakeholders with minimal effort and cost — using any combination of text, pictures and video. The following are great techniques for maximising awareness among stakeholders who need to be informed of the plans.

  • Public web pages: offer easy-to-find updates and design plans for all interested parties.
  • RSS Feeds: supply instant updates and news on pedestrianisation to all stakeholders.
  • YouTube channel: provide evidence of current town centre congestion and disseminate interviews with stakeholders affected by changes.
  • Twitter: release news of developments as they happen and answer queries.
  • Facebook and social media: reach a larger audience via readers sharing and commenting on content.
  • Quick polls: get instant snapshots of stakeholder feeling.

Group 2. Consult– and show consideration for views

Objectives: to inform and consult

(You can find more information about digital consultation in this post).

Local residents with a high interest in the scheme may not be influential. You need to explain what the council intends to do, discuss issues and options and allow for challenges. These channels allow you to gather and quickly analyse feedback from any number of stakeholders at minimal cost.

  • Online surveys: gauge stakeholder reaction and identify issues, objections and support. 
  • Ideation: use online feedback forms to gather and vote on additional ideas for implementing the plans for the best benefit of the whole community.
  • Formal e-Consultations: invite responses using online questionnaires and capture official representations on design options and policy documents as part of development planning regulations.
  • Discussion forums: provide a moderated, online space to discuss the pedestrianisation plans, put forward ideas and objections and ensure stakeholders feel listened to.

Group 3. Collaborate – closely in partnership

Objectives: to inform, consult and collaborate

You can develop closer and more effective working relationships key stakeholder groups by using the digital channels below to actively engage and assist project team members and key partners.

  • Secure file-sharing workspaces: provide secure repositories of project files with variable access privileges giving team members access to only the information that’s relevant to their area of responsibility. 
  • Team management & task assignment: use online project management tools to manage cross-organisational teams and monitor tasks and completion dates. 
  • Shared team diaries: help keep work on track and co-ordinate activity and calls. 
  • Wikis: collaborate to brainstorm ideas and share best practice.
  • Document co-authoring: allow people from different organisations to work on a single copy of an online document, such as a design specification or supplier contract, eliminating complex paper trails and conflicting document versions.
  • Risk registers: allow project management and team members to record, rate and correlate each risk against likelihood, helping to highlight and manage the threat posed.

Group 4. Engage – and keep satisfied

Objectives: to inform and consult

Stakeholders in this category can be powerful influencers, but because they potentially have low interest you need to use digital channels and techniques to target messages in ways that provide context and address the specific issues that interest them — building political support for the project.

  • Issue registers: compile an online issue register to record, rate and deal with individual concerns of influential stakeholders regarding each part of the plan. 
  • Document review: share key documents with stakeholders online, providing them with an opportunity to offer their views before wider publication. 
  • Targeted alerts / information updates: let stakeholders sign up for regular email updates as policy is formulated and the plans are put into action. They are busy people, so you should allow them to tailor their updates around the specific topics they’re interested in. 
  • Links to articles: provide wider context by publishing web links to relevant press articles and pertinent articles from interest groups regarding pedestrianisation. 
  • Project blogs: keep key stakeholders up-to-date regarding progress by sharing news of important developments and pitfalls using a dedicated pedestrianisation project blog. 
  • Stakeholder Database: placed right in the centre of the grid, this can include stakeholder attributes that allow you to build a deeper understanding of their interests and involvement by tracking the information they have received, the consultations they have contributed to and the collaborative work they have undertaken. In this way you are able to quickly measure stakeholders’ levels of engagement and selectively target them for involvement in future stakeholder projects. 

As you can see, digital channels bring major benefits to stakeholder engagement, allowing public sector organisations to inform, consult, collaborate and engage in a wide range of ways.

The next question you need to address is the software solution you use to bring the maximum cost, efficiency and opportunity benefits to the stakeholder engagement process. We’ll be looking at this topic in the next post, but in the meantime you can learn more by downloading our free guide, Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement.

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