Once your stakeholders have been identified, the next stage is to classify them before you can start your communications plan. Why do you need to categorise stakeholders? Simply, not all stakeholders are equal. Not all of them require the same amount of attention.
Each stakeholder will have preferred methods of communication, and a strategy for stakeholder communication that recognises this is more economical and efficient. Classifying stakeholders is also used internally as a way of providing a visual aid to demonstrate how they should best be managed and communicated with, which can be really helpful when you onboard new team members
A simple chart can be the first step. Templates are available online for you, or you can make up your own.
Whatever method you use, you are looking to use stakeholder mapping exercises to understand each stakeholder according to the criteria of influence/power capacity and interest level.
Below are two methods of stakeholder classification that will help to inform your communications strategy and refine your stakeholder management process.
The Interest/Influence Matrix is a powerful tool for identifying the weight and type of communication appropriate to each stakeholder and stakeholder group.
As you can see in the diagram below, the interest of the stakeholder is plotted along the ‘x’ axis, whilst the influence is plotted on the ‘y’ axis.
Attributing a stakeholder with a score from 1 to 20 for both these categories will provide a point to plot in one of four quadrants.
The communications strategy can then be informed by using one of three weights of engagement (informing, consulting, and collaborating), ensuring that a suitable amount of engagement is provided to each quadrant and that each stakeholder group is satisfied.
Firstly, you should determine the geographical areas to be impacted by the project and how you will engage with stakeholders in each zone.
Keep it simple – start with four zones.
Zone 1: Major
Zone one is the closest to the project site. These interactions/impacts on stakeholders will be on a widespread basis (let’s say daily).
Zone 2: Moderate
Zone 2 stakeholders frequently deal with the project (interactions/impacts). These aren’t as specific as zone 1, but still important.
Zone 3: Minor
In zone 3, a stakeholder interaction with your project will be limited in time and potentially restricted to a specific phase of the project.
Zone 4: Negligible
Interactions could occur on an incidental or occasional basis with stakeholders in this zone, and impacts are either very limited or inexistent.
Further stakeholder analysis is often a requirement to ensure you’ve identified vulnerable people including, ethnic minorities, the elderly, disabled and more.
You should start to map stakeholders based on what you know of them at the time. Over time, your understanding of them will change and evolve. Situations change!
You may also wish to use another leading mapping model.
The salience model takes the concept of classifying stakeholders even further, with a Venn diagram of three-parameters; urgency, power and legitimacy. Here is an example.
Power is attributed to a stakeholder who has the ability to influence the outcome of a project.
Legitimacy is the level of involvement and authority a stakeholder has on a project.
Urgency relates to the time that a stakeholder expects responses and actions.
The three-parameter approach allows a deeper understanding of each stakeholder’s needs and when used correctly, can better inform the communications strategy and the digital tools you need to use
By using the Salience Model to categorise stakeholders into one of seven groups, you can identify a strategy that is more tailored to each stakeholder’s needs.
For example: On the outside of the diagram, a stakeholder identified as a ‘dormant stakeholder’ would require a hands-off, informative approach. At the centre of the model, a stakeholder identified as a ‘definitive stakeholder’ would require a much much more engaged approach, utilising collaborative and consultative tools on top of being kept informed.
We hope this has helped you and brought clarity around some of the key areas to look at before you start your stakeholder engagement communications and why mapping stakeholders is so critical.
Now you have mapped your stakeholders, it’s time to consider stakeholder engagement and management software that’s fit for purpose and will allow you to track your stakeholders over time. Don’t forget, they won’t stay in these groups forever! Excel or your CRM won’t cut it. You need Stakeholder Management Software.
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