What Is Stakeholder Engagement?
Stakeholder engagement is the systematic process of identifying, analysing, planning, prioritising, and implementing actions intended to engage and influence stakeholders. Its goals are to simplify stakeholder communications and ensure that communication resources are used efficiently and effectively.
A good stakeholder engagement strategy encompasses all interactions with your stakeholders regardless of the purpose of the interaction, who they represent in your project/organisation, or the mode of communication involved (phone, email, face-to-face, etc.).
This way, the relationship can be treated holistically and consistently over time.
Stakeholder Engagement vs Stakeholder Management
The term stakeholder management is often used interchangeably with stakeholder engagement, but there is a crucial difference.
Stakeholder management focuses on the processes, whereas stakeholder engagement focuses on the relationships.
In practice, both stakeholder management and stakeholder engagement serve the same purpose: engaging your stakeholders.
However, a stakeholder engagement strategy focuses on bilateral action whereas stakeholder management heavily utilises both unilateral and bilateral actions.
For instance, choosing to ignore a particular stakeholder would be a tactic of stakeholder management but not of stakeholder engagement.
Who Are Your Stakeholders?
Any group or individual who is interested in or impacted by your project is one of your stakeholders. Some stakeholders may only be impacted by a single project, but most stakeholders will be impacted by multiple projects in your organisation.
Any given project may have both internal and external stakeholders. Internal stakeholders are typically easy to identify and establish communication with.
Some external stakeholders, on the other hand, are difficult to even identify. This is especially true of community stakeholders, many of whom may have no obvious first-order connection to your organisation.
Why Do You Need a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy?
Every stakeholder has some amount of influence over the outcome of your project. Engaging with stakeholders is, in essence, a form of risk management.
The more you engage with your stakeholders, the more aware you will be of unhappy or uninterested stakeholders that may hinder your goals.
Moreover, both the actual and desired level of interest and influence will vary greatly between stakeholders.
Without an effective engagement strategy, you may be wasting precious resources on stakeholders that will have little to no impact on your project’s outcome while ignoring the most crucial stakeholders.
A unified stakeholder engagement strategy will take advantage of existing communications with recurring stakeholders to further consolidate resources.
This consistency across projects also eases the frustration of stakeholders.
If a stakeholder is equally engaged in multiple projects, they would likely prefer that the projects use consistent modes and frequencies of communications.
5 Ways to Communicate With Your Stakeholders
There are several ways to communicate with your stakeholders. Some of the most common options include:
Email and newsletter
Project summary report
Group video call or ‘screen to screen’ meetings
The specific method you use will depend on these and several additional factors:
What channels you have access to
What channels the stakeholder has access to
The influence and interest of the stakeholder
The urgency of the message
The level of personalisation required
The formality of the message
Your stakeholder engagement strategy should involve all potential communication channels between your organisation/project and its stakeholders.
Even rarely used communication methods (such as those reserved for emergencies) should be included to ensure that your strategy is complete and coherent.
Most stakeholder engagement tools, including those described below, will include steps to catalog your communication channels and determine their appropriateness for given stakeholders, situations, and messages.
4 Tools for Stakeholder Engagement
Effective stakeholder communications typically require a range of channels, frequencies, and messages. Stakeholder engagement tools, especially when used together, provide a way to organise your efforts for a single project and across projects within your organisation.
These are the most commonly used tools for stakeholder engagement:
- Stakeholder Engagement Framework: A document that outlines your organisation’s key actions, stakeholder engagement models, approach to risk oversight, and improvement plans.
- Stakeholder Engagement Plan: A document outlining the identification and communication plan with regard to the stakeholders of a specific project.
- Power/Interest matrix: A tool for prioritising your management and engagement efforts with each of your stakeholders.
- Stakeholder Engagement Strategy Matrix: A tool for grouping and organising project stakeholders based on their level of involvement and mode/frequency of communications.
Use Powerful Marketing Automation Software For Your Internal Communications
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Here at Swift Digital, we can help get you started with your communications our useful internal communications template.
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