How to Communicate with Stakeholders Effectively – and track and extract meaning from it all 

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Good teams communicate with stakeholders regularly, but the best teams communicate with stakeholders proactively. They also extract insights to continually improve their strategies and shorten the path to social acceptance.

Why is it important to communicate with stakeholders?

Depending on the type of project you’re working on, you may need to communicate with stakeholders to comply with regulations or international standards. Beyond that, engaging with your stakeholders can provide operational and strategic value. It can help you to:

  • Manage stakeholders’ expectations to mitigate social risks (e.g., frustration, pushback)
  • Establish and maintain social license to operate (SLO)
  • Understand and address your stakeholders’ needs and concerns
  • Balance stakeholder and company interests
  • Demonstrate transparency to show that you are acting in good faith, and
  • Meet requirements such as the Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) standard

Determine your engagement strategies

Once you have identified your stakeholders, analyzing and mapping them will help you create effective engagement strategies. Stakeholders can be classified in many ways:

  • By group (community, organization, club, etc.)
  • By level of interest in the project
  • By level of influence
  • By expectations and/or requirements

Find out how stakeholder mapping can help you define the right communications strategy.

Some people will need to be kept in the loop continually, while others can be managed on a need-to-know basis. Before you begin to communicate with stakeholders, mapping can help you determine which strategies will be effective for each group and at each stage of the project.

To effectively manage stakeholder communications you need to track, extract, and report

Over the life of a project or business, communicating with stakeholders creates a vast amount of data. In time, it can become increasingly difficult to:

  • Manage all stakeholder communication channels
  • Document interactions to create corporate memory
  • Extract meaning from communications to improve decision making
  • Report (as needed) for compliance and due diligence

Wondering how you can easily extract meaning from stakeholder interactions and build polished reports for any stakeholder data

Tracking stakeholder communications

Once you begin to communicate with stakeholders, you’ll need an effective way to keep track of those communications. Documenting interactions in a single, central location will help you stay on top of this growing mountain of stakeholder communications.

If you are still working with outdated data collection tools like email box, spreadsheets, and SharePoint, you know just how cumbersome and inefficient this approach can be. This is especially true if you work with a large number of stakeholders, or if you have to meet specific reporting requirements (e.g., from a lender).

Here’s a quick test for all you stakeholder relationship professionals out there:

Pros and Cons of different engagement methods: communicating with stakeholders & tracking engagements

METHOD PROS CONS
Letters
  • Can be sent to multiple stakeholders at once
  • Good for formal communication or sharing a lot of information
  • Allow you to reach stakeholders who don’t have access to phones or email (e.g., people living in remote locations)
  • Preferred by certain stakeholder groups, like elders
  • Difficult to track (if the letter arrived, who opened it, etc.)
  • Additional costs for materials (paper, envelopes, printer, ink) and postage
  • Slow transit time
  • Makes timely two-way dialogue difficult
Phone calls
  • Quick and easy way to establish a timely, two-way dialogue
  • Personal
  • You can be sure a stakeholder received and understood your message
  • It’s increasingly difficult to get people to answer the phone
  • Conversations are usually jotted down as personal notes, so the details shared with others (e.g., via spreadsheet) tend to be inconsistent and incomplete
  • Time consuming; each agent can only make one call at a time
Text messages (SMS, Messenger, WhatsApp)
  • Quick and easy; can be sent to multiple stakeholders at once
  • Can confirm receipt
  • Only suitable for brief messages
  • May be ignored or viewed as spam
  • Can be difficult to manage replies if many stakeholders respond at once
  • It can be hard to tell who else in the organization has communicated with a stakeholder, since everyone has their own Inbox
  • Important information can be lost if team members forget to copy communications from their device to the shared location
Emails
  • Quick and easy; can be sent to multiple stakeholders at once
  • Can confirm receipt
  • Can include links to additional information or resources
  • May be ignored or viewed as spam
  • May lead to inbox overload if many stakeholders respond at once
  • It can be hard to tell who else in the organization has communicated with a stakeholder, since everyone has their own Inbox
  • It can be hard to tell who else in the organization has communicated with a stakeholder, since everyone has their own Inbox
  • Important information can be lost if team members forget to copy communications from their email to the shared location
Online/social media
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Quick and easy to share
  • Easy to track (unless communications go viral)
  • Can be used for both formal and informal messages
  • Can include links to more information or resources
  • Can be shared with multiple stakeholders at once
  • Can be shared by stakeholders or go viral
  • Controlling the dialog may be difficult if a post is widely shared widely or goes viral
  • Impersonal
  • Can be trolled
  • Might miss the targeted audience
In-person meetings
  • Most personal
  • Timely two-way dialogue
  • You can confirm that your message is understood
  • Can read body language
  • Can see dynamics between stakeholders during group meetings
  • Details are usually recorded as personal notes, so information shared with others (ex. via spreadsheet) tends to be inconsistent and incomplete
  • Potentially costly and time consuming: travel, availability, schedule, etc.
  • In group meetings, there is a risk of losing control of the dialog

Extracting meaning from stakeholder communications

Consider this scenario: A key stakeholder suddenly asks to meet with you face-to-face. You want to have an idea of what to expect – and what to say – before you walk through the door. To prepare for this meeting, you need to quickly review all previous communications with this person (including those you weren’t involved in) and assess any changes in their sentiment or influence.

How long this will take depends on how your organization manages stakeholder communications.

Pros and Cons of different engagement methods: extracting insights & reporting on activities

METHOD PROS CONS
Paper
  • Inexpensive
  • User friendly (no particular training required)
  • Data is not easily accessible; must be hunted down
  • Data is harder to secure; confidential documents need to be physically locked up
  • More difficult to work with (text can’t be copied or exported, it must be retyped)
  • Documents may be misplaced or lost over time; colleagues may be absent from work, etc.
  • No single source of truth
  • Time consuming and laborious to:
    • Locate and gather all communications
    • Collate & standardize data
    • Analyze data and extract meaning (changes in stakeholder sentiment, etc.)
    • Build reports
Spreadsheets
  • No additional cost
  • User friendly (little to no training required)
  • Reporting is automated, to some degree
  • Lots of flexibility in how you structure your data
  • Limited analytic and reporting features
  • Difficult to extract meaning (changes in stakeholder sentiment, etc.)
  • Having so much flexibility requires special data structure skills to make it efficiente
  • Version control can be problematic (loss of centralized data or single source of truth)
  • May require collating and standardizing data if more than one Excel file is being used
  • Risk of data loss is high
  • Not designed for reporting on stakeholder communications
  • Reports often lack professional polish
  • Requires a solid knowledge of reporting features
“Party Mix” approach (combination of Excel, Word, Outlook, Paper, Mobile, and shared folders)
  • Familiar (this is the status quo for many teams)
  • No behavioral change required
  • Flexible; allows each team member to do things “their way”
  • Extremely difficult to scales
  • No single source of truth
  • Extremely time-consuming to track down, collate and standardize information for analysis and reporting
  • Reports must be done manually
  • High risk of oversights
Customer relationship management (CRM) software
  • System may already be used in the organization to manage customer relationships
  • Single source of truth; centralized data accessible from any connected location or device
  • Allows some meaning to be extracted
  • Reporting is automated and professional
  • Costly if not already in use
  • Not designed for managing, analyzing and reporting stakeholder engagement activities
  • Costly and time consuming to configure fields and functionalities so that it’s useful for analyzing and reporting activities
  • Does not reflect best practices in stakeholder relationship management
  • Not user friendly or suitable for non-tech savvy staff
  • Difficult to manage multiple positions of a stakeholder
Stakeholder relationship management (SRM) software
  • Data is instantly accessible from any connected location or device (no tracking, collating, or standardizing required)
  • Analytics and reporting are fully automated, making it easy to extract meaning
  • Data can be analyzed in any number of ways based on your needs
  • Professional, meaningful reports can be created in just a few clicks, for any type of data (all required functionalities and fields)
  • Built-in report templates can be used and configured as needed, or users can create their own
  • Reports can be automatically scheduled, generated, and sent to any number of stakeholders at any frequency
  • Reflects best practices in stakeholder relationship management
  • Depending on choice of software, may be costly if the engagement team is very small (1–2 people) or if they only need to engage with a small number of stakeholders
  • Requires user training

Manage your communications with stakeholders more efficiently using fit-for-purpose tools

As a stakeholder relationship professional, you know that simply managing these interactions can already be a handful. On top of that, you have to be sure you understand your organization’s relationship with different stakeholder groups so you can engage accordingly. And finally, you need to know how these relationships have changed over time to avoid missteps that could jeopardize a relationship. Sometimes it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day! So how can you make sense of all this data and be sure that you’re extracting meaningful insights from your communications?

Modern, fit-for-purpose tools are specifically designed to minimize manual work. This greater efficiency lets you focus on engaging with people instead of spending your time sorting through spreadsheets. Better tools can help your organization engage more proactively, maintain better relationships with stakeholders, and put you on the fast track to social acceptance.

Here’s a quick look at how fit-for-purpose SRM software can save you valuable time and help you work more efficiently:

Dashboard to track your communications with stakeholders

all-engagement

Time to generate: 3 minutes

Time to generate: 3 minutes

Analytics to extract meaning from your communications

general-atmosphere

Time to generate: 3 minutes

If you’re tired of dealing with blind spots that put your stakeholder relationships at risk, contact us today! Our team has helped organizations from different industries all over the world improve their stakeholder engagement outcomes. Once you discover the powerful features of our user-friendly Borealis stakeholder management software, you will never want to use a spreadsheet to track stakeholder communications again!

Get started with
Borealis stakeholder engagement software today!