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5 steps for creating a successful stakeholder engagement plan

by | May 21, 2024 | Uncategorized

If you operate in the PR industry, one thing is for sure: your stakeholders are a vital part of your company. They are a diverse group of people who can significantly influence the way a project is carried out and, ultimately, its success.

For this reason, making sure that your stakeholders are engaged throughout the entire project lifecycle is essential. Look at it as a part of your overall business strategy and not just as a “chore” you must perform.

To learn how to build a winning stakeholder engagement plan, look no further than our guide. Let’s dive in!

Stakeholder engagement plan: Definition and benefits

Before we go into the ins and outs of creating your stakeholder engagement plan, let’s clarify what it is, in practice.

As the name suggests, this plan is a strategic document that includes a step-by-step roadmap describing how you will be interacting with your stakeholders across the different stages of a project in order to boost its chances of success.

Usually, it’s created by the project manager using a project management system, and is then shared with all the team members involved in the project. Through this plan, your organization can enable you to work out which engagement methods are most effective with your specific stakeholders, which in turn allows you to maximize their ability—and willingness—to contribute to the successful delivery of the project.

Let’s now look at some of the main benefits of a stakeholder engagement plan.

stakeholder engagement

Fostering credibility, trust, and buy-in

Whether you’re launching a press release on your client’s new payroll services for small business, or one about the development of a ground-breaking fitness app, the first thing you’ll want to gain from your stakeholders is trust. This is literally the foundation of your relationship with them: after all, why would anyone want to invest their time, money, and expertise in collaborating with a company they can’t trust?

One great way to win your stakeholders’ trust is through their engagement. By engaging them in an active, positive, and empowering way, you demonstrate that you value their know-how, ideas, and perspectives. In turn, this fosters credibility, which acts as a lever to trigger their trust.

Supporting innovative thinking and new opportunities

In most cases, stakeholders come from different areas and backgrounds. This can be an incredibly powerful tool that you can use to explore more creative, innovative ways to carry a project to a successful completion.

And how do you ensure that you can support these diverse ways of thinking and working? Through a stakeholder engagement plan, of course. 

Within this document, you’ll be able to incorporate a specific section about how and when to provide input throughout the entire project, as well as schedule regular feedback sessions.

Ensuring regulatory compliance

Data transparency is key in pretty much all industries these days, and the PR sector is no different. This means that stakeholder engagement is not only a good idea—in most cases, it’s mandatory. So, if your client operates in an industry that requires engaging stakeholders, having a written document that details how you’ll do so is paramount.

stakeholder engagement

Creating a stakeholder engagement plan: The five steps to success

Now, let’s look at how you can put together an effective stakeholder engagement plan in just five easy, actionable steps.

Identify and analyze your stakeholders

As we mentioned earlier, it’s very common to have a varied group of stakeholders as part of the same project. While this can be a fantastic way to access different ideas and perspectives, it can also pose some challenges. For example, how do you make sure that all your stakeholders are engaged in a way that resonates with them?

This is why, while you’re putting together your project team, identifying and analyzing your project stakeholders is a necessary first step towards crafting a winning stakeholder engagement plan. To this effect, you could use a series of tools and approaches, including:

  • Surveys
  • Focus groups
  • Interviews
  • Feedback sessions
  • One-to-one meetings
  • Stakeholder apping

Ultimately, you want to figure out the level of influence and interest each stakeholder has, which will help you build bespoke engagement ideas.

Establish clear and shared goals

Next, with your list of internal and external stakeholders all clear and analyzed, you’ll want to move on to clarifying the specific goals for the project they will be contributing to. You are probably already familiar with the SMART goal framework, and we strongly recommend using it for your engagement plan.

stakeholder engagement

The SMART goal approach guides you to establishing objectives that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. 

For example, let’s imagine your client is an online provider of payroll services, like Paylocity.

Their next project involves launching a new offering right at the beginning of the new tax year, and they need the right PR activities to promote it. In this case, a SMART approach may lead you to set goals that look like this:

  • Specific: Identify an initial group of ten stakeholders who have the right expertise and interest in the topic.
  • Measurable: Analyze and measure their level of interest and involvement through ad-hoc surveys.
  • Attainable: Narrow down your selection to five stakeholders maximum, to simplify the process and avoid too many conflicting ideas and inputs.
  • Relevant: Tailor each engagement activity to the specific topic of the project.
  • Time-bound: Ensure completion of phase 1 of the project within one month from project launch.

Decide how, when, and where to engage them

Now, it’s time to fine-tune your communication plan by choosing the engagement activities for your stakeholders. Because not every stakeholder will have the same interests and influence over your project, you need to be very careful and try to personalize this step as much as possible.

For example, internal stakeholders might be a lot more invested—and involved—in the project, which means that they probably expect initiatives and activities that match their high level of engagement. External parties, on the other hand, might prefer a slightly less frequent involvement.

Consider a range of channels through which your stakeholders might like to communicate, but don’t forget to decide on the frequency of your communication or the format of your messaging. Here are some ideas for you:

  • Webinars
  • In-person workshops
  • Weekly newsletters
  • Surveys
  • Feedback sessions
  • Social media sharing
  • Online questionnaires
  • Shared workspaces
  • Communication platforms

Execute your plan

Congratulations! You’re now all set to execute your stakeholder engagement plan! At this point, you’ll simply need to officialize your document, share it with all the relevant people, and start following it, step by step.

stakeholder engagement

Importantly, you should also make note of any issues that arise throughout the project, whether it be about budget, time management, resource allocation, or anything else.

Monitor, assess, and improve

As a final step in your engagement process, you’ll want to keep monitoring your project performance to work out whether the engagement activities you have set up for your stakeholders are effective at helping your project succeed.

Keep collecting and analyzing data related to your engagement activities, your stakeholders’ involvement and contribution, and any positive (or negative) outcome. In parallel, you’ll also want to gather feedback directly from your stakeholders, so you know what worked well and what can be improved next time a project is launched and their support is required.

Supercharge your plan

Now that you have a comprehensive plan all ready to go, it’s no time to rest on your laurels. Follow the three tips below to ensure your stakeholder engagement plan achieves the desired results.

Always add a human touch

It doesn’t matter if you are a huge corporation with offices spread across the world, or a tiny PR start-up working out of a co-working space in your hometown: stakeholders crave a human touch.

So, if you want to take your stakeholder engagement plan to the next level, make sure that you always treat them with respect and kindness, and that you’re not just professional but also very personable and pleasant to work with.

Show your stakeholders that you truly care

The previous tip leads us to this one: with a human, empathetic, and positive attitude, you’ll be able to show your stakeholders that you genuinely care about them, their views, and their precious contribution to the project.

As a result, they will likely feel more valued and involved, which will lead them to become real advocates for your company and the project they’re contributing to.

Give your stakeholders a chance to express themselves

A stakeholder engagement plan only works if what you include in it is actually put into practice. So, if you have factored in a series of meetings and workshops with your stakeholders, do keep these commitments and never skip these crucial activities.

stakeholder engagement

They are one of the best ways to let your stakeholders voice their opinions, ideas, suggestions, and even concerns. All this, at the end of the day, works towards maximizing the chances of success of your project.

Stakeholder engagement plan: Key takeaways

In the PR world, employee advocacy and engagement are incredibly important, but so are those of your stakeholders. Your stakeholders, in fact, can end up playing vital roles within specific projects, which is why it’s so important to make sure they are as engaged and involved as possible. 

You can achieve this by building a well-structured stakeholder engagement strategy, with a stakeholder engagement plan at its core.

In this article, we looked at five ways to create a plan that delivers the results you want, every time; follow our tips and maximize your project’s chances of success!

Jesse Liszka
Jesse Liszka is the Senior Communications Specialist at Paylocity, leading providers of cloud-based payroll and human capital management software. She is a highly experienced communications, client marketing and content specialist, with more than 12 years of experience. Jesse has written for other domains such as Remote Tools and Plecto. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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