7 | Minute Read

Buillding Bridges With Your Stakeholders

Stakeholder Meaning

A stakeholders definition is an individual, or group of people, that all share a common interest in a project or organisation, and share an interest in its outcomes. 

The meaning of a stakeholder is anybody that affects or is affected by a project or organisation. Each stakeholder has different interests and requests and should be communicated with on an individual level that suits them.

Other words for stakeholder meaning are; collaborator, partner, shareholder, associate and participant.

Contents of Stakeholder Handbook

Stakeholder Comms Plan Template

When it comes to managing stakeholders, a Stakeholder Communication Plan is a must-have.

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Why are Stakeholders Important?

Stakeholders in business and projects are important because they provide your project and business with support and input (from a business perspective and from a financial perspective).

They broaden the range of people involved in your project and have a collective best interest for the project and/or organisation. One of the main reasons a project can fail is because the stakeholder management has been mismanaged. Knowing how to communicate with stakeholders is an important part of stakeholder management.

Examples of Stakeholders

Stakeholders are internal and external people who are interested in your project or organisation. They can range from company employees to first-time customers. Understanding how to communicate with stakeholders is one of the most important skills in running a successful organisation, company and project.

Firstly, let’s look into some examples of stakeholders

  • Employees
  • Owners/CEOs
  • Customers
  • Stockholders
  • Investors
  • Suppliers
  • Partners
  • Creditors
  • Trade Unions
  • Directors
  • Agencies
  • Communities
  • Government
  • Volunteers
  • Board Members
  • Volunteers
  • Legal

All of the above are types of stakeholders you may find in an organisation, stakeholders business, project, not for profit and other groups. This list is not exhaustive with some companies identifying stakeholders as being beyond this list. 

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What is Stakeholder's Engagement?

Stakeholders engagement refers to the communication between the project leads and individual stakeholders in regards to a project or organisation. The stakeholder’s engagement process involves all identified stakeholders or people who make decisions that affect the project.

Dealing with difficult stakeholders

Learning how to communicate with stakeholders via stakeholder engagement is one of the most effective ways to learn about your stakeholders and helps you find out what their needs are. Building bridges with your stakeholders is an important part of stakeholder management and engagement.

Knowing how to convert difficult stakeholders from pessimists to partners can mean the difference between a successful project with good PR and one that gets bogged down, running overtime and over budget.

In turn, this will improve your overall relationship and will help shape the goals and objectives of your project. 

Here are 5 Strategies To Transform Difficult Stakeholders Into Project Partner

  1. Identify Your Stakeholders Properly

  2. Establish Trust

  3. Keep Stakeholders Informed

  4. Address Difficult Stakeholders Directly 

  5. Work Through Solutions With Stakeholders

Sometimes things can get a little difficult.

What are the Five Levels of Stakeholder's Engagement?

The five levels of stakeholders engagement will help you to identify at what stage your stakeholder is engaged.

Stakeholders engagement helps you better build relationships and understanding the five levels of stakeholders engagement will help you highlight at what stage your stakeholders are at and better equip you to communicate with them.

Once each stakeholder has been identified and assigned a level this will help shape your plan on how to best communicate with stakeholders, this works for both face to face and in a virtual environment.  Use these levels in your stakeholder identification process.

  • Unaware – Not aware of the project and the impacts of the project
  • Resistant – Aware of the project and resistant to change
  • Neutral – Aware of the project and neither supports or resists
  • Supportive – Aware of the project and supportive of change
  • Leading – Aware of the project and impact and actively engaged in ensuring the project is a success

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What is Stakeholder Management?

Stakeholder management is the process you adopt to manage your stakeholders and prove a critical component for successful stakeholder management and planning.

Managing your stakeholder is imperative to the success of your project and should not be overlooked. You can use a stakeholder communications template plan to help manage stakeholders, this is especially useful if you have a number of stakeholders which all have different requirements

Download our Stakeholder Communications Template Plan 

Stakeholder management planning is important and imperative to your project and organisation and investing time in managing your stakeholders using matrix’s and communications templates will help you in the long run.

Why use a Stakeholder Engagement Matrix?

Most stakeholder engagement strategies focus on the high-level. 

The stakeholder engagement strategy matrix is intended to be more actionable, offering a guide to stakeholder analysis and engagement processes for employees and a roadmap to inform stakeholders of their role in the bigger picture.

1. Identify and evaluate key stakeholders

Start by collating a list of all your internal and external project stakeholders

This should include employees, customers, volunteers, stockholders, agencies, communities and any other individuals or groups that have an interest in the project or its result. 

You can use these 5 questions to help identify key stakeholders.

What is stakeholder identification?

A requirement that stakeholders expect is that you have already completed and identified the key stakeholders for your project. Identifying these stakeholders means you are able to address their individual needs of the project and communicate with them in a way that suits them.

Identifying your stakeholder at an early stage can help to keep your project on track. One of the most common reasons a project goes off course is because a stakeholder has not been identified and comes in mid-project with extra requirements and requests

Conducting a stakeholder identification and analyses is the first step to stakeholder management and should be completed before engaging your stakeholders.

2. Determine available communication tools

Before approaching stakeholders, you need to identify the communication tools that you are able and willing to use for stakeholder communication. Communication tools need to be selected based on your stakeholder identification and analysis. Communication tools that are most commonly used include;

  • Newsletters
  • Emails
  • Meetings
  • Virtual Meetings
  • Videos
  • Summary Reports

Informal communication tools are also popular amongst stakeholders and project stakeholders. Informal communications tools such as lunch dates, leisure activities and group meetups can be effective in stakeholder management and help to build and maintain good relationships with your stakeholders. 

3. Interview stakeholders

You want as much information as possible about your stakeholders, particularly key stakeholders. 

Where possible, get this information from personal meetings, but some information can be garnered through indirect means if necessary.  

Ask questions that will help foster a good relationship so you can understand their needs, interest and what role they play in the project and/or organisation. Some questions you could ask are;

  • What do you want to get out of the project?
  • How invested are you in the project on a scale of one to ten?
  • What’s your preferred method of communication?
  • How frequent should we communicate with you?
  • What areas of the project are you most interested in?

4. Assign communication channels

Each stakeholder should be assigned one or more communication channels based on the communication frequency, their availability, and preferences as well as your preferences, limitations, and costs as outlined in step 2. 

Communication channels can include emails, phone calls, messages, texts, meetings, videos, informal meetups, minutes, virtual meetings etc.

5. Build the matrix

You now have all the information you need to complete the stakeholder engagement strategy matrix

Your stakeholder matrix should include stakeholder name, title/role, communication type and frequency, stakeholder goal, interest rating, contact details and a section for additional comments.

In a nutshell, your stakeholder matrix needs to answer the following questions:

  • WHO? Which stakeholders are going to be communicated to
  • WHAT? What are you going to communicate to them?
  • WHEN? When and how often will you communicate with stakeholders?
  • HOW? How will the communication take place? E.g. on-site meeting, phone call, email

What is a Stakeholder Engagement Framework?

The stakeholder engagement framework outlines an organisation’s key actions, the models for engagement, the organisation’s approach to risk oversight, and their improvement plans. 

The stakeholder engagement framework helps to communicate commitments, collaborate and share knowledge, improve planning and consistency and also develop programs and services.

Organisations use a stakeholder engagement framework to help plan out what they want to achieve with their stakeholder engagement and relationships. They serve as a standard that should be adhered to within the business/organisation when dealing with stakeholders.

Many Government organisations choose to build out a stakeholder engagement framework.

Examples of Stakeholder Engagement Frameworks

5 Tips on How To Communicate With Stakeholders Effectively

1. Email and Newsletter

Use emails and newsletters to stay connected with your stakeholders. Many stakeholders opt to receive updates from their projects via weekly and monthly newsletters.

2. Email Automation

You can use email automation to keep your stakeholders informed and to also track their engagement rates. These include whether they have opened the email, clicked the email. Staying connected via a newsletter will allow you to also see engagement rates on what information your audience preferred and clicked on.

3. Online/Virtual Presentations

A great way to present your findings to your stakeholders as a team or on a one to one basis. Use video conferencing software like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to stay connected. These types of software allow you to present, share screen and conduct a presentation. If you want something more sophisticated to present to your stakeholders then you can use presentation software such as Visme or Prezi.

4. Project Summary Report

A report can be in the form of a PDF, presentation, summary in a newsletter or email. Your report needs to be relevant to each stakeholder. It would be a good idea to create a separate report for each stakeholder and send this to them through their selected method of communication.

5. Group Video Call or ‘Screen to Screen’ Meetings

A daily video call can be arranged to provide updates on the project. Keep this short and sweet if it is an everyday thing. You can use video conferencing tools to communicate with your stakeholders and invite-only the stakeholders you need to the call, this way you can make the updates more personable and relevant to them.

Why Stakeholder Communication is Important in a Virtual World

The past two years have seen a lot of organisations move to virtual events, conferences and even operating their daily meetings on virtual platforms. Communicating virtual has become a norm with many stakeholders choosing this option to receive their updates and maintain communication with project managers.

Most businesses and organisations would have by now established ways to communicate with their employees and stakeholders whilst working remotely.

Maintaining and building on communication as a whole is vital in stakeholder management but adopting and learning new processes on how to communicate with stakeholders in a virtual world is equally as important

Why Stakeholder Communication is important in a virtual world:

  • Continuation of stakeholders being part of the process
  • Bringing stakeholders up to date no matter where they are
  • Continue to meet delivery programmes
  • Provide opportunities for economic and social recovery

Improve Your Stakeholder Communication with Automation Software

Understanding how to communicate with stakeholders is an invaluable skill and is important to the overall project success. If you would like more information on how to improve your communication with stakeholders then feel free to get in touch with Swift Digital.

Swift Digital works with a number of public and private sector companies – including Government organisations, Universities and Utility companies– to improve their communications and stakeholder management.

Do you need help communicating with stakeholders? Or want to improve your stakeholder management process.  Here at Swift Digital, we provide email automation services that can help facilitate your stakeholder communications and help to improve your stakeholder relationships.

To find out how your business can get the best out of Swift Digital’s platform, contact our team today on 02 9929 7001.

Bringing stakeholders up to date no matter where they are