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 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.
1. Analyse your stakeholders
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:
- Low interest, low influence – those you need to keep informed
- High interest, low influence – those you need to involve and consult with
- Low interest, high influence – powerful stakeholders you need to engage
- High interest, high influence – partners you need to collaborate with
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.
2. Define your purpose
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:
- Policy development
- Development of shared services
- Tourism development
- Environmental initiatives
- Curriculum development
- Healthcare campaigns
- Crime reduction initiatives
Similarly, if you are in the retail sector, you may want to engage with stakeholders to:
- Develop products
- Refine product lines
- Devise special offers
- Plan new retail outlets
- Create a pricing strategy
- Improve service levels
- Redesign store interiors
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.
3. Map available tools to identified stakeholders
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.
4. Choose the most appropriate methods and technologies
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:
- Secure workspaces to gather information, share ideas or contribute to a common project
- Stakeholder management, allowing you to create teams, assign permissions and tailor communications and access to each stakeholder
- Secure file sharing, with a full audit trail, document locking and notification emails
- Team collaboration, using tools such as co-authored documents, custom online databases, RSS feeds, discussion forums and more
- Task and project management, allowing you to manage, drive and evaluate stakeholder contributions
- Consultation using questionnaires, polls and comment forms
Additionally, investing in a flexible online collaboration package lets you think big and start small – expanding the scope of your stakeholder engagement plan 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.