September 15, 2017

Tried and tested: stages of successful stakeholder engagement


Effectively engaging stakeholders and management is a critical step to the success of any company. By engaging the right people in the right way and at the right times, you can make a big difference in your desired outcome. Ultimately, engaging stakeholders can help you win more customers and shareholders once they fully understand your goals.

Yet, captivating a range of parties, each with distinct interests and concerns, takes a crafted and deliberate approach. This article looks at the tried and tested processes that will ensure you are getting your messages across and elicit the responses you are looking for.

Step 1 – Identify and prioritize who your key stakeholders are
First of all, it is vital to identify who your stakeholders are and especially which of these are your top priorities. Understanding which stakeholders are the key to unlocking your targets, and whose goals depend upon you, is crucial.

Who are the people that are directly affected by what you are doing, selling or promoting? What impact or influence may they have on the success or failure of your business?

Key stakeholder groups may include shareholders, analysts, government officials, local communities, trade associations, suppliers, current and prospective customers, partners, the media, current and future employees, advisors, and the general public.

Step 2 – Understand your key stakeholders
In order to understand what makes your key stakeholders tick, it is essential to gather information about them to recognize what influences them and how they prefer to receive information.

You will want to gain a better understanding of what interests they have in the outcome of your work. The fundamental concern is what motivates your stakeholders – is it financial or emotional? In understanding what constitutes success, or failure, for your stakeholders, you can better adapt your interactions with them.

It is also important to think about not just what information your stakeholders want, but how often and in which format they want to receive it – is it a monthly email newsletter or regular social media? Responding to these questions is central to shaping your stakeholders’ opinion of you.

Lastly, think about what other information and individuals are shaping the opinion of your stakeholders, and ask how can you wider your circle of influence to incorporate these elements.

The best way to understand your stakeholders is to talk to them, to ask meaningful questions and listen carefully to the answers. Furthermore, direct communication has the benefit of building long-term and potentially fruitful relationships.

Step 3 – Plan your STRATEGY and COMMUNICATE with your stakeholders
Create a communications framework that addresses each stakeholder and makes clear why you are communicating. Before any outreach, you need to identify its exact purpose. If it serves no purpose – if your stakeholders can’t answer what’s in it for them and why it is relevant – then you are better off not communicating. Communicating for communication’s sake is rarely a good idea.

The type of correspondence and frequency is likely to be different for different audiences. Not all information is meant for everyone. In fact, blanket correspondence to all stakeholders is likely to be interpreted as impersonal and ill-considered. Identify who should receive what information, when, and how often you should touch base.

Step 4 – Maintain relationships and an open dialogue with stakeholders
Once you’ve established who your stakeholders are and how you will communicate with them, it is imperative that you maintain the relationship. Like in all good relationships, maintaining meaningful communication helps establish confidence, increases trust, and creates an open dialogue; equally, maintaining a healthy relationship takes time and care, so be prepared to listen and adapt to your stakeholders as your relationship evolves.

Step 5 – Review your communications plan and strategy
In an ever-changing environment, it is critical to constantly review your communications strategy. Any effective plan has to be reactive and flexible, and it is important to always be tuned in and willing to adapt your messages. Continually ask yourself whether your outreach is having the desired effect.

Are you engaging with your stakeholders enough and is the information that you are sharing relevant to them? Could you tailor your messages more effectively? Are your stakeholders engaging with you, and what kinds of response are you receiving?

Checking in on how and what you are communicating will help you maintain a positive relationship with your stakeholders and in turn will help your company reach its desired outcome.