Organisations thrive when they engage effectively with their stakeholders. But with the advent of online tools that make it simpler to engage, inform and consult with stakeholders, it’s now essential to put digital at the heart of your stakeholder engagement strategy.
If you do, the rewards can be significant. Depending on which sector you work in, digital stakeholder engagement can deliver more customers, better-formulated policy, well-managed projects, innovation and more.
Creating an effective stakeholder engagement strategy is, however, easier said than done. But with over a decade of experience helping organisations engage online with their stakeholders, we’ve found there are just 4 key steps. We’ve written this post to take you through them.
Never assume you know who all your stakeholders are – find out for certain. Cambridge Dictionaries Online defines a stakeholder as:
"A person such as an employee, customer or citizen who is involved with an organisation, society, etc. and therefore has responsibilities towards it and an interest in its success."
Using this definition, you can quickly identify both internal and external stakeholders. The next step is to map those stakeholders into four groups:
In this way, you can find the best strategies to engage and communicate with each group. To help you, you may want to construct a simple matrix like this one, based on the priorities of an NHS Commissioning Group.
Having a clear purpose is key to effective stakeholder engagement. When you have a vision of what you want to achieve, the engagement process becomes more meaningful for all involved.
The things you will need to achieve via stakeholder engagement will depend on both your sector and individual organisation. For example, common purposes within the public sector include:
Similarly, if you are in the retail sector, you may want to engage with stakeholders to:
By having a clear purpose, you can then use your matrix to identify relevant stakeholders and manage their involvement in the most appropriate way – working together, showing consideration, informing them, or keeping them satisfied – depending on how active and influential they are.
Once you have identified your stakeholders and have a clear purpose, it’s time to find the best tools to inform, consult or collaborate with them.
When it comes to choosing digital tools to engage with each group of stakeholders, we recommend creating a map like the following and overlaying it on your original matrix. However, you can just as easily do the same for traditional stakeholder engagement tools such as paper questionnaires, information roadshows, face-to-face meetings and newspaper advertisements.
When you first create a matrix of digital or traditional engagement tools, it can be daunting. It can seem as though you need to invest in lots of different methods and technologies — and that’s expensive, time consuming and not necessarily efficient.
But while you could, in theory, buy individual tools to achieve your goals, there are better options available. Kahootz, for example, offers many of the technologies identified in the matrix above. That means, for a relatively small cost, you can use all of the following to work with your identified stakeholders:
Additionally, investing in a flexible online collaboration package lets you think big and start small – expanding the scope of your stakeholder engagement as new projects arise.
While the steps outlined in this post will get you off to a strong start when creating your stakeholder engagement strategy, they only scratch the surface of what’s possible. If you’re serious about reaping the benefits of stakeholder engagement, we strongly recommend you read our free guide Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement. While focused on the public sector, it is invaluable for any organisation in any industry wanting to put effective stakeholder engagement to work.