When stakeholders are brought into the mix, organisations and projects can flourish. But overlooking stakeholder engagement can create unnecessary challenges for corporations and large companies across all sectors.
However, by making stakeholder engagement a core part of a business' strategy, managers and senior staff can optimise their project's success and keep errors to a minimum along the way.
To show you why communicating with board members is important, and guide you towards greater project success, we'll explore the key ingredients of what to put in your stakeholder engagement strategy below.
What is a stakeholder engagement strategy?
A stakeholder engagement strategy is a written document that identifies a project's key stakeholders and outlines the approaches to how (and when) the project team will interact and communicate with these stakeholders.
This is useful because not all stakeholders are the same. Some may prefer to be kept up to date on a project's development on a daily basis, whereas others may prefer less contact from a project team. An engagement strategy makes it clear which methodologies will work best for your company's stakeholders.
Why is a stakeholder engagement strategy important?
The vast majority of projects include stakeholders. These are individuals, usually in management, with a personal or professional interest in the success of a project.
And because stakeholders can have a large degree of power and hold plenty of influence over a project's progression, it's important to gain their confidence. Not only are they responsible for authorising and allocating resources to a project, but they can also just as easily put things on hold if their expectations aren't met.
A stakeholder engagement strategy, therefore, outlines and manages these expectations. It creates a systematic approach of communicating opportunities, decisions, risk/issues, and project progress information to the right people at a frequency that suits the stakeholder's preferences.
Creating an effective stakeholder engagement strategy
To properly understand their motivations, it's important to know who stakeholders are by dividing them into four groups per Mendelow's power-interest matrix.
Mendelow suggested that we analyse our stakeholder groups based on two things:
Power: The ability to influence our organisation or project resources
Interest: How interested stakeholders are in the organisation or project
Define your purpose
What do you want to achieve through your engagement process? Once the purpose is clear, the engagement process becomes more meaningful as a result. Additionally, it allows those from outside your business to better understand your goals and mission before they engage with you.
In doing so, you can then use the stakeholder types mentioned above to identify their involvement in the most appropriate way such as working together, informing them of updates or keeping them satisfied depending on how active and influential they are.
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Map the tools for your identified stakeholders
Next, you should decide which tools to use to best inform, consult or collaborate with your stakeholders.
Depending on where they land in the four stakeholder groups mentioned above, you should tailor the tools you'll use to communicate with them accordingly.
For instance, low power, low interest types might respond well to things like Tweets, Facebook posts and polls, whereas high power, high interest stakeholders may prefer detailed document reviews, team diaries, and project blogs to keep them fully up to date.
In identifying their communication preferences, it's a good idea to assess the following areas:
When communicating with your stakeholders, what approaches are you going to take to convey the message properly? Keep the following in mind before you type that Tweet, put pen to paper or fire off a mass email to a group of different stakeholders.
You should aim to keep things clear and readable at all times, clarity is your friend here.
Likewise, ensure that all stakeholders can access the information by making it available in a variety of formats, such as web pages, press releases, social media posts and focus group meetings. Internal stakeholders should be kept informed with internal communications in the form of detailed reports, company updates, emails, in-person updates and newsletters.
Where projects are concerned, timing is of the essence. The effectiveness of a detailed proposal tends to be weakened when it's released a week after the project has already begun.And depending on your stakeholders' reactions, delays in relaying information may mean postponing your next steps until you've discussed any issues they have. If you want to make good progress on a project, then always keep your communications timely.
Of course, your volume of communication depends on your stakeholder group's level of interest and investment.
Those who require little information won't want to be overwhelmed by a lot of communication once the project's off the ground, this could lead them to become discouraged from future engagement.
Equally, if it's been weeks or months since you've been in touch with your high interest stakeholders, then they may want to know why. You'll need to tailor your approach accordingly, keeping them informed and updated on any situations that arise over the course of your project.
If you’re ready to commit and put a plan to paper, we have produced a simple template you can use.
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