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Create an Effective Stakeholder Engagement Strategy


How To Engage With Stakeholders

When working on a project, it’s important to develop a sense of who your stakeholders are and what their needs are. A project is always going to involve a team of people, and those people need to come together to work on a common goal. However, every project is different, and therefore so is every team working on it.

It’s important to develop a cohesive strategy for engaging stakeholders so everyone is working together towards the same end goal. Different people have different needs in order to work effectively on a project. An engaged stakeholder might need encouragement, constant feedback, or extra resources. Others might be involved because they have unique insight into a problem, or their perspective is important for the success of the project. It’s important to understand which group your stakeholders fall into and adjust your approach accordingly.

Organisations thrive when they learn how to communicate with stakeholders effectively. But with the advent of online tools that make it simpler to engage, inform and consult with stakeholders, it’s now essential to put digital at the heart of your strategy for stakeholder engagement. If you do, the rewards can be significant. 

 

What is a stakeholder engagement strategy?

When you think about the challenges organizations face in their day-to-day operations, challenges like meeting new deadlines, engaging with customers, and creating innovative products are bound to come to mind. But what if these challenges could be solved by engaging with stakeholders? In other words, what if we can get everyone on the same page and working together for the good of the organization?

Stakeholder engagement is an approach that means actively involving all those who have a role in an organization to achieve its goals. But how do we go about engaging stakeholders? They’re the people who are part of an organization, and they can be anyone from employees to suppliers, partners, suppliers, investors, customers, and the like.
Certain decisions made by organisations will affect and be of interest to many different stakeholder groups. For example, if a council wanted to build a memorial to honour local war veterans, they may consult relatives about the project, collaborate with a local sculptor on the design and inform the media to help promote its launch. But not all stakeholder groups are created equal. Some may need to be kept updated daily on developments, while others only require occasional contact. A strategy to engage stakeholders will help you plan how often you need to communicate with the different groups and decide which tools to use for each one.

 

Why have a strategy for stakeholder engagement?

Depending on which sector you work in, effective stakeholder engagement and collaboration can deliver more customers, better-formulated policy, well-managed project management, innovation and more.

The term “stakeholder engagement” might be new to you, but it’s something your organization should be thinking about right now. A stakeholder strategy for engagement is a way to involve other people in decision-making in a company or nonprofit. Including everyone who will be affected by your company’s decisions is a great way to build trust and uncover potential risks.

When a company engages with stakeholders, they’re made aware of the company’s goals, the reasoning behind those goals, and what they can expect to receive as a result of that engagement. Participating stakeholders are often referred to as “stakeholders,” and an engagement strategy gives you a plan for establishing relationships with them.

 

How do you manage stakeholder engagement?

Building a strategy for stakeholder engagement is, however, easier said than done.

But with over a decade of experience helping organisations engage online with their project stakeholders, we’ve found there are just 4 key steps for an effective approach to stakeholder engagement. We’ve written this post to take you through the full process of effective stakeholder engagement within stakeholder management.

 

1. Analyse your stakeholders

Never assume you know who all your stakeholders are – find out for certain. Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines a stakeholder as:

“A person such as an employee, customer or citizen who is involved with an organisation, society, etc. and therefore has responsibilities towards it and an interest in its success.”

Using this definition, you can quickly identify both internal and external stakeholders. The next step is to map those stakeholders into four groups:

  • Low interest, low influence – those you need to keep informed
  • High interest, low influence – those you need to involve and consult with
  • Low interest, high influence – powerful key stakeholders you need to engage
  • High interest, high influence – partners you need to collaborate with

In this way, you can find the best strategies to engage and communicate with each of your stakeholder groups in your stakeholder management projects. To help you, you may want to construct a simple engagement strategy matrix for stakeholders, also known as stakeholder mapping, like this one, based on the priorities of an NHS Commissioning Group.

stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder mapping and analysis 1

2. Define your purpose

Having a clear purpose is key to long term effective stakeholder engagement. When you have a vision of what you want to achieve, the engagement process becomes more meaningful with great value for all involved.

The things you will need to achieve via stakeholder engagement will depend on both your sector, individual organisation and the various stakeholder engagement roles. For example, common purposes within the public sector include:

  • Policy development
  • Development of shared services
  • Tourism development
  • Environmental initiatives
  • Curriculum development
  • Healthcare campaigns
  • Crime reduction initiatives

Similarly, if you are in the retail sector, you may want to engage with key stakeholders to:

  • Develop products
  • Refine product lines
  • Devise special offers
  • Plan new retail outlets
  • Create a pricing strategy
  • Improve service levels
  • Redesign store interiors

By having a clear purpose during decision making, you can then use your matrix to identify relevant stakeholders and manage their involvement, if you are in any of the stakeholder engagement roles, in the most appropriate way – working together, showing consideration, informing them, or keeping them satisfied – depending on how active and influential they are.

 

3. Map available tools to identified stakeholders

Once you have identified your key stakeholders and have a clear purpose, it’s time to find the best tools to inform, consult or collaborate with them.

When it comes to choosing digital tools for stakeholder collaboration, we recommend creating a map like the following and overlaying it on your original matrix. However, you can just as easily do the same for traditional stakeholder engagement tools such as paper questionnaires, information roadshows, face-to-face meetings and newspaper advertisements.

tools to identify stakeholders

Stakeholder mapping and analysis 2

4. Choose the most appropriate methods and technologies

When you first create a matrix of digital or traditional engagement tools, it can be daunting. It can seem as though you need to invest in lots of different methods and technologies — and that’s expensive, time-consuming and not necessarily efficient.

But while you could, in theory, buy individual tools to achieve your goals, there are better options available. Kahootz, for example, offers many of the technologies identified in the matrix above. That means, for a relatively small cost, you can use all of the following for internal and external stakeholder collaboration:

Additionally, investing in a flexible online collaboration package lets you think big and start small – expanding the scope of your stakeholder engagement plan as new projects arise.

While the steps outlined in this post will get you off to a strong start when creating an engagement strategy for your stakeholders, they only scratch the surface of what’s possible. If you’re serious about reaping the benefits of stakeholder engagement, we strongly recommend you read our free guide Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement. While focused on the public sector, it is invaluable for any organisation in any industry wanting to learn how to engage stakeholders.

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