What are the best digital communication tools for keeping stakeholders informed?
Ensuring your stakeholders have relevant information available when they search it out is crucial to keep them interested. Whenever stakeholders have difficulties finding information, it becomes more likely that they will lose interest in your project.
In this blog post, we'll walk you through everything you need to know about digital communication tools to inform your stakeholders and support your engagement strategy.
- Why do you need digital communication tools for stakeholder engagement?
- What are the digital communication tools to inform stakeholders?
- What are the best digital channels for stakeholder engagement?
- Improving stakeholder engagement with digital communication tools
Why do you need digital communication tools to inform stakeholders?
There are many benefits to traditional engagement methods, such as face-to-face meetings and focus groups, but they can become combative.
However, digital communication channels offer project managers avenues for informing stakeholders that are cheaper and easier to use than traditional, non-digital counterparts.
They’re also more precise - the correct digital strategy is easily able to target and inform stakeholders in niche segments of an audience. This gives access to a much wider and richer resource of stakeholders, allowing for a deeper and more beneficial stakeholder engagement process.
From a stakeholder manager's perspective, they can also 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 are the digital communication tools to inform stakeholders?
There are numerous possibilities offered by digital tools for informing stakeholders.
To get the most out of the informing process, focus on the areas that are most important to the project and to your stakeholders, and approach each digital communication tool systematically.
Search engines are among the most important resources for information. And, with searches on mobile increasing quicker than those on desktop computers, it’s clear more and more people are using search engines to get the information they need as soon as they want it.
This puts your organisation or project’s website on a digital front page. When a stakeholder is searching for information on a project, it’s more than likely that they’re using search to get the answers.
If your website’s content is out-of-date, sparse, or absent from results entirely, then you’re missing the opportunity to foster a relationship with your stakeholders early on.
Worse still, you could run the risk of damaging the perceived credibility of a project and damaging the stakeholder relationship before it’s even started.
Just because a project’s budget doesn’t allow for a fully bespoke website or a top-level digital campaign, doesn’t mean it can’t be visible on the net. There are plenty of cheaper, theme-based options on blogging sites like WordPress, Joomla or even LinkedIn that can provide an adequate, short-term alternative.
SEO for stakeholder communication
Using SEO - Search Engine Optimisation - to optimise your website so it’s easily found by stakeholders involves utilising similar techniques as a business attracting customers.
Identify the terms and questions your stakeholders are searching for and write content that answers them. This will improve the chances of your webpage being identified as a valuable resource by Google and therefore be found by your stakeholders.
- Research the kind of questions that stakeholders are searching for regarding your project
Identify keywords for your project, it could be the organisation name, the project name, or a word or phrase that’s related to the location and type of the project.
Use Google Adwords or another keyword research tool to identify the questions and queries stakeholders are asking about the project. Answer the questions with long-form blog content on your site.
- Add videos and images to your site
Images and videos show Google that your site is a more worthwhile source of information. Try including images of project plans, videos and photos showing the progress of the project, or include team photos, bios, or even video blogs explaining aspects of the project.
- Include keywords throughout the page
Once you’ve identified your keywords, ensure they’re included throughout the site. Use keywords in the titles of blogs, image titles, URL slugs, and throughout the written content. Keep it natural though - Google punishes sites that cram too many keywords into their copy, and also you want your website to be understandable first and foremost.
News and Blog
A major benefit of an owned website for a project or organisation is the ability to self-publish news and blog content.
This gives you the opportunity to broadcast updates about the project and keep stakeholders adequately informed. However, for news and blogs to work to their full potential, they need to be kept up-to-date.
If they’re not updated, they’ll struggle to be seen as a reliable information source and won’t draw the necessary audience.
- Post weekly updates
Try and keep the information, news, and blog content as up-to-date as possible. Not only will this help you to be seen as a valuable news source by stakeholders, but Google uses regular content as a means to rank pages.
- Invite guest bloggers
Guest bloggers give you the opportunity to share an audience. Try including guest posts as part of your stakeholder information process. Invite High-Interest/High-Influence stakeholders to blog on your site and encourage them to share it on their social media channels.
- Host conversations
Webpage-hosted content is a great way of informing stakeholders, but it doesn’t do much to initiate a two-sided dialogue. For the stakeholder management process to get the most out of a webpage, include comment sections on news and blog content and monitor the feedback. To encourage a deeper level of engagement, host a forum or comments section on your site and promote critical feedback by replying and engaging with your audience publicly.
For engaging and informing large groups of stakeholders, there’s no better tool than social media.
The ability to share content and build an audience relevant to a project for free means that large groups of stakeholders can be kept informed at a low cost with relatively low effort.
As well as sharing content, social media can be used as a tool for engaging and building a relationship with stakeholders. This comes in the form of content sharing, as well as token engagements like ‘liking’ or ‘re-sharing’ content within the platform.
The huge variety of social media platforms available, and the nuances between appropriate content platform-to-platform means it is a hard tool to master.
Using it for informing stakeholders can be difficult and time-consuming. Especially on projects that are highly contentious, where it could garner too much negative attention, or on more niche projects, where it’d struggle to get any.
- Find out where your stakeholders are
Just like you needed to identify and classify your stakeholders, social media channel users will be different depending on their demographic. Understand your stakeholders and find out which platforms each group is most likely to use.
- Get to know the platform
Each platform has its own preferred content type and style; be it video, images, or short written content. As well as choosing a platform that meets the needs of the target stakeholders, ensure that both the budget and time requirements of the project allow for meaningful use of the platform.
- Present channels professionally
Make sure that all social media channels are presented with the correct branding, including logos and banner images.
- Post content regularly
Research the platform before using it and create a communications plan that meets the content requirements of that platform. It takes time to build an audience on a platform, so regular content is required. However, over-sharing on a platform can equally discourage an audience. Learn the platform, understand the audience, and find out what your stakeholders prefer.
- Be prepared for negative feedback
It comes with the territory that sentiment towards a project won’t always be positive. Be prepared for negative comments and even ‘internet trolls’. A considerate and risk-conscious plan to deal with them could be the difference between a successful and disastrous social media stakeholder informing process.
Quick polls have recently become a fixture of the Social Media landscape. They are perfect for gaining feedback instantly in a public forum and demonstrating engagement.
However, the nature of their accessibility and that of the internet make them a prime target for abuse if not managed correctly.
- Keep them informal
Quick polls are great as an informal research tool or as an engagement method with more passive, less influential stakeholders. However, their informality and openness to misuse make them largely useless for meaningful research.
- Keep them informative
Whilst quick polls aren’t always the best tool for research, they can be used as a means of informing stakeholders. Use them to encourage stakeholder engagement, and to demonstrate the depth and breadth of a project. Use them to pique interest in otherwise passive stakeholders.
- Keep them simple
Keep questions short and the subject matter simple. Have no more than four options and ensure the questions and answers are clear and concise.
Email has been an essential communication tool for over twenty years and is now as ubiquitous in business communications as the telephone.
The ability to send plain text or rich content directly to a contact’s inbox is an invaluable tool for communications. Email is a quicker, easier and more automatable process than telephone conversations have ever been.
As a means of mass outbound comms, it has suffered its setbacks. With people hesitant about signing up to email lists to avoid spam, and email clients prone to relegating emails to the spam folders, successful email campaigns can be hard to achieve. But, with the right approach, email is unparalleled and as a one-to-one communications tool, it’s essential.
- Segment audience
Time is of the essence. Don’t waste your stakeholder’s time by sending them information that they don’t need. Segment your audience so that only the right stakeholders get the information they want. Larger stakeholder groups can be further segmented down to give more in-depth analysis and better-tailored info.
- Keep it snappy
Post-internet, there’s an attention span deficit. Don’t clog up stakeholders’ inboxes with swathes of unneeded information. Keep emails short, to the point, and relevant to the stakeholder. Make email subjects descriptive and steer clear of any fancy wordplay. Tell, not sell what’s inside.
- Get out of spam filters
As well as reminding stakeholders to check their spam filter for emails, ask them to add you to an allowed list when they sign-up. If possible, send emails from a personal account. Not only will this imply a more personal relationship with your stakeholders, but it will also help you to get out of spam filters.
What digital channels work best for stakeholder engagement?
Each digital communication channel has its purpose and its audience.
During the stakeholder management and engagement process, each stakeholder you encounter may have a favourite way of communicating that works for them.
Doing your research to understand which ones your stakeholder groups prefer is the best way to determine where you should focus your communication efforts.
In addition, using their preferred communication channel will improve your chances of maintaining a positive relationship with them and receiving their feedback.
Learn where your stakeholders spend their time and use that information in your favour. Here are a few digital communication channels examples and situations to consider:
- A Facebook campaign may reach the 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 overflowing inbox;
- A survey may only be read once and not filled out without a reminder.
Informing stakeholders with digital communication tools
Tractivity offers all the digital communication tools you need to manage and inform your stakeholders at all levels in a single system.
Contact us to discover how we can help you take your stakeholder engagement to the next level.