Four Steps to Stakeholder Relations

September 7, 2016

Organizations prosper when they are able to clearly identify and effectively engage with their stakeholders. The practice of forging mutually beneficial connections with third-party groups and individuals that have a “stake” in common interest is nothing new. But with the arrival of online tools, it is now simpler to engage, inform, and consult with stakeholders.

Depending on which industry you work in, stakeholder relationships can deliver more customers, better-formulated policies, prosperous projects, and much more. Fostering beneficial stakeholder relationships, however, is easier said than done. With over two decades of experience helping organizations foster stakeholders relationships, we’ve developed four key steps.

1. Identify Stakeholders

The first stage in stakeholder relations involves researching individuals and third-party organizations that may be relevant. For example, there may be groups that are directly affected by an initiative (positively or negatively), have influence or power over its success, and have an interest in its successful or unsuccessful conclusion. In addition to searching traditional media and industry reports, conducting an audit of the online conversations occurring in the digital space is an effective way to uncover individuals or organizations that may fly under the radar but are nevertheless influential. It’s important to cast the net broadly in this stage.

2. Study Stakeholders

Once potential stakeholders have been identified, do your homework. Start with online research to identify an organization’s mission, their points of intersection with your objectives, the condition of their own reputation, their level of activity and public profile, their key points of contact, etc. In addition to online intelligence, it’s also valuable to network with others through phone and in-person meetings to gain insight that may not live online.

3. Prioritize Stakeholders

Having achieved a better understanding of the stakeholder ecosystem, the next step is to prioritize the players. There are a number of criteria for ranking or categorizing stakeholders, and some of the common groupings we use at Proof Strategies are:

  • Relevance – Do they share your interests and goals?
  • Visibility – Are they active publicly, and in the right circles?
  • Credibility – Do they have a strong reputation and legitimacy?
  • Influence – Do they have the ear of your audience, and your audience’s influencers and decision-makers?
  • Reach – Are they active in the jurisdictions that matter to you – i.e., nationally, regionally, locally?

4. Contact Stakeholders  

Once your stakeholders have been identified, researched, and prioritized, the final step is to make contact to explore their interest in a potential collaboration. This step begins by using the intelligence you have gathered to identify points of intersection that you can use to build opportunities that will demonstrate a win/win proposition for both organizations. From there, identify the best person within the organization to target, and the most appropriate person from your organization to make the call. Note: it’s sometimes advantageous to make connections with more than one individual in an organization.

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Proof Strategies (formerly Environics Communications) is a full-service communications agency committed to insight-based problem-solving. We believe anyone can ask questions, but few ask the right ones. Better questions change how we approach your business challenges. As a brand steward to some of North America's most respected and well-known companies, our strategic approach is guided by data-driven research, deep subject expertise, smart creative and digital solutions to engage audiences in new ways with measurable results.