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13 July 2018 8 min read

Stakeholder management: using digital tools to engage with stakeholders

What are the digital tools that can help when you need to engage with stakeholders?

If stakeholder engagement and communication is key to the suceess of your project, take a look at these must haves to check you have all your bases covered. 

What ways are there to engage with stakeholders?

Didgital tools are replacements, or supplements to your traditional methids of stakehodler enagemenet. This could be

  • Email
  • Blogs
  • RSS feeds
  • Press releases on your corporate or agency website
  • Internal project reports
  • Social media (paid or organic) 
  • Or community outreach that’s done online.

During the stakeholder management and engagement process, each stakeholder you encounter has a favourite way of communicating that works for them. 

Why do you need digital tools for stakeholder engagement? 

There are many benefits to traditional engagement metids such as face to face meetings and twon halls, but they can become combative. When people need to consider varied soloutions and raise their concerns, digital tools will help here.

From a stakeholder manager perspective, they can alsoi remove the monotonous, repetitive communication activities you have to do, and automate many of the processes you lay out in your initial communication plan.

What digital channels work best for stakeholder engagement?

Sadly, there is no silver bullet. There are differences in each channel and what digital tools will work for your audiences needs and desires.

  • A Facebook campaign may reach the tought to access under 20 demographic, but may not meet the needs of the over 50’s. 
  • A campaign purely on email may not be seen by the busy professional with an over flowing inbox. 
  • The survey may only be read once, but not filled out without a reminder. 

Digital stakeholder engagement is all about updating stakeholders as much as possible

There are essentially three levels of engagement with stakeholders – informing, consulting and collaborating. Your stakeholder engagement stratgey has to do all of this – at pace and with volume. 

What is the difference between keeping a stakeholder informed as opposed to consulting with them or even collaborating with them? The difference is the level of engagement required to do each one effectively so that you meet the expectations of each and every stakeholder.

Your tools for stakeholder management must provide the ability to ramp up your level of engagement as appropriate to which quadrant the stakeholder occupies on your stakeholder engagement grid.


Engaging Low-Interest/Low-Influence stakeholders

Low-Interest/Low-Influence stakeholders are the group that needs to be at the minimum level of engagement. Your job is to push information to them and keep them informed. The onus is on them to read what you publish. Your job as the engagement officer is to ensure you are posting relevant information for them to digest and that they know where to find it.

High-Interest/Low-Influence stakeholders should be connected to everything you’re doing for the Low-Interest/Low-Influence group as a starter. Beyond that, some additional consulting resources need to be put into play. You need to demonstrate consideration for their high level of interest regardless of their lack of influence.

1. Discussion forums should be set up online for these stakeholders to participate in if they have questions or feel the need to respond to other issues being discussed in the forum. This provides a path for ideation as you deal with important issues.

2. E-polls and online surveys should be used to gauge their reactions to changes in the projects as announced in the digital media. The responses they provide must be analysed and catalogued for future reference.

You need to have a keen sense of perception as to when one of these stakeholders is passionate and knowledgeable about an issue. That’s when you pull them into your inner circle for the required time to allow them to participate.

Engaging High-Influence/Low-Interest stakeholders

These should get everything we’ve discussed so far plus a more intimate consulting level of engagement. Remember, these stakeholders wield influence, and as a result, you want to shape how that influence is used.

For example:
1. Share your project issues with them in real time. Their feedback might be very useful.
2. Ask them to review relevant documents in areas that may increase their level of interest. After all, we are always looking for more supporters and champions of the project.
3. Begin the process of targeting them with personalised communications rather than just the RSS feed notification of new content being posted. Invite them directly to review postings that may raise their level of interest.

The concept of “keeping them satisfied” means that not only is perception needed, you also have to define the role they can play in the project as an advisor, champion, or a provider of funding and services as the need dictates. They will want something back for their cooperation. Satisfaction is paramount.

Engaging High-Influence/High-interest stakeholders

These are the bread and butter of your engagement. You must treat them as part of your team.
1. Review the project risk register in real time. Make it available as a shared file and make sure they are notified every time a change is made.
2. Involve them to co-author relevant process documents.
3. Invite them to provide guest posts to your project and company blogs. Take it to the next level by developing a list of topics that might be well-suited to the specific interest they have in your project.
4. Use them as your pseudo-board of directors for the project team management. Share cost, schedule and performance concerns with them and get their feedback and suggestions.
5. Give them a corporate email tied to your project and make sure they are on the distribution list for important information that will serve as a heads up for pending PR announcements and major project announcements
6. They need to be part of your internal project management communication channels. If you use a project communication tool like Slack, they should be on it.

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