Don’t get twisted in knots about your stakeholder engagement. Read our ultimate guide for everything you need to know about it.
What is Stakeholder Engagement?
A stakeholder is an individual or group of people who may have an interest or direct role in a project, strategy or organisation or may be impacted and/or benefited by them.
Stakeholder engagement is the process of identifying, analysing, communicating and reporting on all engagement with your stakeholders. Often this also involves grouping stakeholders based on their level of interest / impact /demographics and tailoring activity towards each group.
One of the most important aspects of stakeholder engagement is being authentic and targeted. In our busy lives, good stakeholder engagement has to cut through the noise and be heard and relevancy and transparency are key. Read more tips on creating authentic stakeholder engagement here.
There have been many changing expectations recently in stakeholder engagement which you need to be aware of – overall stakeholders expect more information, more timely information and to be able to access this digitally when they need it.
What are the benefits of Stakeholder Engagement? / Why is Stakeholder Engagement important?
Projects can succeed or fail because of Stakeholder Engagement. It’s critical to sustainable planning and without it, organisations can risk damaging key relationships, reputation and incurring costs and time delays. Read more about Stakeholders and their role in the project’s successful outcome and how it can influence the success or failure of your project.
Stakeholder Engagement has many positive benefits – bringing innovation, outside expertise and perspectives to the fore as well as managing risk, building trust and shared decision-making.
10 key benefits of Stakeholder Engagement:
- Accessibility – widening the audience and making it accessible to all groups
- Improved decision making
- Building trust
- Two-way education – leveraging stakeholder expertise and educating stakeholders
- Saving time and money
- Managing risk
- Identifying synergies and avoiding duplication
- Meeting stakeholder needs
When do you need to perform Stakeholder Engagement?
The basic answer is – as early as possible in the process. It’s better to start engaging at the ideas / concept stage than to present a complete plan for consultation with little room for change related to feedback. This particularly is known to decrease stakeholder trust and involvement. So, it’s all in the timing!
You can perform stakeholder analysis at any time and this should be a continual process, but it’s important to plan any outward activity to stakeholders around both project timing and awareness of what else is happening with your target audience at the time e.g end of the financial year, Christmas etc.
How do you define your stakeholders?
The first step is stakeholder analysis – identifying and analysing your stakeholders. This is one of the most important stages so allow time to undertake this properly and don’t skip straight to planning activity.
There are 6 main steps to stakeholder analysis:
- What are the potential outcome issues, impacts and benefits?
- Map out how you are going to best report stakeholder sentiment and feedback based on stakeholder groups. For example, if you were undertaking a consultation on a proposed off-leash dog park, think about how to present the feedback. For this example, identifying stakeholders who own dogs, proximity to the proposed off-leash area; existing park users etc
- Identify your stakeholders – start to list out your individual and stakeholder groups
- Prioritise your stakeholders – categorise them based on their influence, interest, demographic and levels of participation in your project/organisation
- Understand your stakeholders – get in-depth insights into your stakeholders
- Reassessing your stakeholders – continually reassessing your stakeholders helps you understand the changing nature of stakeholder perspectives.
Learn more about this critical step with our step-by-step guide to stakeholder analysis or a quick overview here.
Don’t forget your internal stakeholders too! Often during stakeholder analysis, we look outward but our employees and wider internal partners are often our best ambassadors. You will need to employ different methods for internal v external stakeholder engagement which you can read more about here.
Finally, there are some great tools out there to support you in your stakeholder analysis, here we discuss our top 5 tools.
What do you need to consider when creating a stakeholder engagement plan?
Once you have completed your first round of stakeholder analysis, you can start bringing it all together into a plan. This doesn’t have to be a lengthy document but there are several important aspects – linking together your objectives, timescales, stakeholder matrix and actions. Consider how you will measure your engagement and report on it at this early stage, what methods you will employ to not only engage but increase the visibility of your engagement.
To set you up for success, read more about how to create an effective project engagement plan and what a successful stakeholder engagement process looks like?
Lastly, your stakeholder engagement plan should be a living document – one that is continually updated as the project progresses or there are changes within your stakeholder groups.
Creating a stakeholder engagement matrix
Creating a stakeholder matrix either within your stakeholder engagement plan or instead of can help to optimise productivity and guide your team. A stakeholder matrix is much more effective (read more about this here) as it provides a concise roadmap of stakeholder level of influence and opportunities, based on project type and impact. It also includes all related activities so you can drill down to who is responsible in your team and create a clear action plan.
This central matrix can help streamline all activities, avoid duplication and make reporting on the engagement a simple and easy process.
Digital Stakeholder Engagement – Tools & Best Practice
Engaging digitally opens up the possibility of increased awareness and engagement levels plus improved reporting and real-time insights into your stakeholder sentiment. There are many tangible benefits of digital stakeholder engagement and it can help to build more confidence by engaging transparently
There are many ways to engage digitally and it’s important you consider all possibilities before starting your engagement. Ideally, you want to engage in a space you own. Social media can be a great resource to raise awareness of your engagement but isn’t always the best place to actually engage due to data ownership, privacy and lack of moderation capabilities.
An online engagement platform can help you by creating one place where all your stakeholders come together. As your project moves on, you can continually select the right tools to inform and consult and download instant reports to see how your engagement is going.
Not only that but with Engagement Hub you have a complete Stakeholder Relationship Management system built-in (see our quick video here). This means that you can capture all your offline and online stakeholder engagement in one place, get insights into how individuals, groups or your entire stakeholders are engaging with you and communicate directly with them through our integrated email system. We are the only software on the market to provide this as standard in our online engagement software.
There are many advantages to using stakeholder engagement software – book a virtual demo with us today to share your requirements and see the software in action.
Measuring Stakeholder Engagement
How do you measure the impact of stakeholder engagement? This is a huge topic in itself because if you don’t put in place the right structure to adequately capture the results of your engagement activity – you can’t authentically report on stakeholder feedback. Read our popular blog on how to measure stakeholder engagement here.
What is Stakeholder Management?
Stakeholder Management is your internal management of your stakeholders. It’s about how you manage everything in-house. For example, what software are you using? How regularly are you meeting with your team to touch base? How often are you reporting on outcomes?
It can seem overwhelming when you’re managing multiple stakeholders but there are some great tips on how to do this without losing your sanity!
Did you know that Engagement Hub is the only engagement software to include a built-in SRM?