Communications tools for stakeholder engagement

Posted by John Glover

10-May-2013 11:14:00

Stakeholder Engagement Effective Digital StrategiesHow to create an effective digital engagement strategy

When it comes to managing stakeholder engagement, the public sector is fast switching to digital channels in its quest to reach out to people.

This is partly driven by the limitations of traditional methods of stakeholder engagement, such as face-to-face meetings, paper questionnaires, street surveys and similar techniques. While valuable, these can be time consuming, expensive and difficult to organise.

But by using the right combination of digital channels, the public sector can undertake meaningful stakeholder engagement while taking advantage of mass media opportunities for minimal cost and maximum exposure. The secret lies in matching the right channels to what needs to be achieved.

Let’s look at how you can do it. 

Creating a digital stakeholder engagement strategy

Imagine you belong to a local authority that wants to create a plan to pedestrianise the High Street in one of its towns.

If the scheme is to have a chance of success, it needs to create a workable plan for revised traffic flow and disabled parking, provision for deliveries to High Street retailers, evidence that footfall won’t drop and damage businesses, renewed policies 

on cycling and cycle parking and much more. Above all, it needs to demonstrate that there’s a need for the policy, based on factors such as air pollution, accidents, falling retail trade and more — as well as to find out whether there’s significant public backing for the move.

To do this properly, the local authority needs to engage with a whole range of stakeholders; form individual retailers to Central Government Departments.  So after identifying all the stakeholders, how could you actually go about effectively engaging them to provide your scheme with the best chance to succeed?

A good way is to create a stakeholder matrix like the one below. This plots your stakeholders on two axes, according to the level of interest they have in the pedestrianisation plans, and the level of influence they potentially have in making them happen.

Stakeholder influence & interest

As you can see, plotting out your stakeholders in this way gives you insight into the best way to engage with them. 

  • Low interest/low influence stakeholders — need to be informed, ideally with minimum effort
  • High interest/low influence stakeholders — need to be consulted, so they are reassured their views are taken into account.
  • High interest/high influence stakeholders — need to collaborate with you to make the plans a reality
  • High influence/low interest stakeholders — need to be kept satisfied (engaged) so they remain on-side during the project

Once you have decided whether your stakeholders need to be informed, consulted, collaborated with or kept satisfied, you can use a chart like the following to choose the communication channels that are most appropriate for the type of digital engagement.

Digital Channels for Stakeholder Engagement

As you can see, the channels are tailored to the ways you need to engage your stakeholders. Over the next four posts we’ll be examining the channels in each quarter of the matrix in more detail, but if you want to learn about them now, simply download our free guide below - Transforming Public Sector Stakeholder Engagement: Effective Digital Channels and Strategies.

Or perhaps you take a different approach to stakeholder engagement or examples that could help others tackle their projects? If so, we would like to hear from you. Simply post your thoughts below.

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