If you’ve managed a stakeholder engagement project, on any sort of scale, you’re probably aware of the importance of involving stakeholders.
But to know that stakeholders are important and to effectively communicate with them are two different things.
Without a properly planned framework in place, engagements can quickly become disorganised or appear tokenistic, and that’s if conversations even get going in the first place.
By taking stakeholder engagement seriously and approaching it methodically, you can host a much more effective engagement process.
It will encourage better and more productive conversations and will ensure that the project is completed to a higher standard.
Here’s a look at four principles for better stakeholder engagement:
1. Understand your audience
Who are your stakeholders?
It might seem obvious, but if you don’t have a firm grasp of who your stakeholders are then your stakeholder engagement process is going to fall flat.
As well as spending time identifying and mapping stakeholders across all levels of influence and interest, spend time getting to know them.
Understand their motivations and needs and develop a communication strategy that suits them as well as the project.
Go the extra mile, dig around, and keep the information organised and accessible.
Gaining a fuller understanding of your audience from the offset can be the difference between effective and ineffective stakeholder engagement.
2. Be time conscious
Time is very much of the essence, not just for you and your colleagues, but for your stakeholders too.
As well as dedicating time to categorise stakeholders, prioritise messages and the method in which they’re conveyed.
Keep emails short, snappy, and well-edited, so stakeholders can get the information they need from them quickly.
Ensure contact details are well managed to avoid wasting time chasing phone numbers and hunting for emails.
Being time conscious doesn’t mean that you’re forgetting or missing stakeholders, it means that you’re getting the message over to the right people in the most efficient way possible.
3. Keep your eye on the ball
A major benefit of a well-planned stakeholder engagement strategy is that you can be proactive.
If you’re proactively managing stakeholder engagement, as opposed to reacting to problems when they arise, you stand a better chance of building that better relationship with your stakeholders. So make sure you can monitor your engagements.
No strategy is going to be perfect right off the bat, but having systems in place that allow you to identify any problems – and change the strategy as a result – means that your engagement strategy will be better equipped for the job at hand.
Stakeholder engagement can only ever be meaningful if the engagements can effect change.
Before engagement is underway, you should always have plans and procedures in place for directing comments and criticisms.
Of course, you won’t agree with everything that’s said, but if your engagement process is just a front for a project that’s set in stone, then you’re not conducting stakeholder engagement at all.
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