The face of stakeholder engagement is being transformed by the use of digital channels.
While traditional methods of stakeholder engagement may have shortcomings — particularly when it comes to their cost, and the number of people you can reach — it doesn’t mean they are no longer of any value.
As stakeholder engagement develops and flourishes, it will be thanks to public sector organisations using an intelligent blend of traditional and digital channels. By using both, you are simply making better use of the extra resources open to you.
Certainly, it’s no exaggeration to say that an organisation that fails to take advantage of digital engagement is in danger of failing its stakeholders.
The changing face of stakeholder engagement
Let’s take a brief look at how organisations use traditional methods to inform, consult and collaborate with stakeholders.
- Informing. Public sector bodies often use advertisements, flyers and letters to inform stakeholders. These methods are effective, but expensive – especially if you need to reach a large number of people on a regular basis.
Increasingly, you can reach a bigger audience using digital channels such as social media, web pages, email updates and RSS feeds. Combining the two gives you maximum reach; using digital techniques gives you new opportunities to inform that would have been prohibitively expensive before.
- Consulting. Traditional paper questionnaires and street surveys are good for consulting stakeholders, but are expensive to implement and process. Interviewers cost money to hire, while considerable time and effort is required to transpose feedback error-free into a suitable format that can be easily analysed.
Online surveys, discussion forums, quick polls and formal e-Consultations allow you to consult meaningfully with any number of stakeholders at a time that suits them best.
- Collaborating. This area reveals one of the biggest shortcomings of traditional stakeholder engagement techniques — using them quickly becomes arduous and sometimes chaotic. Trying to organise face-to-face meetings is time consuming and difficult, especially as key stakeholders are often busy people and belong to different organisations or are spread across a wide geographical area. It can also be difficult for participants to collaborate between meetings, meaning work is slow to progress. Managing project work and partner involvement requires lots of dedicated staff time which can stand in the way of starting speculative or small-scale projects as a means to innovate.
Conversely, using online collaboration software allows you to work together with stakeholders within a secure online workspace — securely, cheaply and at any time from a web enabled device.
The purpose of this post is not to disparage tried-and-tested methods of stakeholder engagement. Instead, it’s intended to encourage you to combine the best of these techniques with digital channels to deliver the best quality engagement to your stakeholders.
Get it right and you can overcome serious cost and efficiency problems that limit both the number and diversity of interested parties you can engage with, and the viability of involving them on all but the most essential issues. By combining digital channels with the best of traditional methods, you can change the game significantly.
To learn more about integrating digital channels into your strategy, take a look at our free guide Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement. It takes you on a journey from first identifying your stakeholders, right through to finding the most appropriate channels to engage with them.
You’ll also see how digital engagement is transforming public sector organisations. Is it transforming yours?