The importance of stakeholders: identifying and prioritizing stakeholder engagement

Laura Ross

24 August 2020

General Stakeholder Management

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In any organization or business, it’s easy to get swept up in the day to day. You’re likely juggling new projects, customers, clients, services, technologies, objectives and outcomes. But it’s important to realize that the success of your day to day activities depends on one thing: people. In other words, your stakeholders.

So, let’s talk more about the importance of stakeholders, who your stakeholders might be, stakeholder identification, prioritizing stakeholder engagement and some essential tools to help you get it all done. 

First up, a definition: 

What’s a stakeholder?

Stakeholders can include customers, employees, community members, politicians, media, shareholders, suppliers, investors, government departments, regulators, neighboring businesses and nearby residents. Plus all their extended networks of families, friends and colleagues. These people all:

  • Have their own goals and objectives
  • Make important decisions that may affect your organization
  • Have lives that may be affected by your organization’s decisions
  • Are financially or physically better or worse off when things change
  • Are connected to a wider network of people who are, in turn, affected by any changes and decisions

So, why do stakeholders matter? And why would you want to engage them?

The importance of stakeholder engagement

Don’t underestimate the importance of stakeholders. If you can engage most (or all) of your stakeholders, it can massively benefit both your organization and the people you impact. Specifically, stakeholder engagement can help:

  • Empower people – Get stakeholders involved in the decision-making process
  • Create sustainable change – Engaged stakeholders help inform decisions and provide the support you need for long-term sustainability 
  • Build relationships – Create mutually beneficial relationships, build on existing relationships or foster new ones
  • Build a better organization – Engaging with stakeholders can bring important issues to light and encourage your organization to develop corporate social responsibility 
  • Increase success – Engaging influential groups (who might otherwise hold you back) and turning them into supporters and advocates can boost your chances of success
  • Educate – Stakeholders can be a valuable source of information for your organization, and they may learn something from you, as well

To sum it up, stakeholder engagement can help your organization (and the people around it) achieve better outcomes, whether it’s education, connection, engagement or profit.

The importance of stakeholder identification

If stakeholders are so important, the next question becomes… who are your stakeholders?

The importance of stakeholder identification cannot be overstated. If you know who your stakeholders are, you’ll be in a much better position to manage and engage them, and turn them into advocates and supporters.

There are a lot of different ways to do your stakeholder identification, but usually the best place to start is with a brainstorming session. Ask yourself “what individuals or groups of people are likely to be affected by my organization or project?” and “who might influence the project or organization, or the people involved in it?” and then write down anyone that comes to mind.

From there, expand on each individual or group and map out anyone they’re connected to who might also get the flow-on effects.

It’s normal to start with a list of stakeholders, but then add to it over time – there are usually more potential stakeholders than you think.

Are some stakeholders more important than others?

By now, you’ve probably got a large (and growing) list of stakeholder groups. If you’ve got just a small team to manage them, it can quickly get overwhelming. So, once you’ve identified your stakeholders, it’s a good idea to prioritize them. 

The importance of stakeholder groups, and the approach you take to engaging each group, will depend on the outcomes you need to achieve and the resources you have available to achieve them.

Depending on your organization, you might focus on the groups most closely connected to your objectives. For example, if you’re a business with a goal to increase your profits through a new initiative, your most important stakeholder group will probably be your customers. Or if you’re a government organization working on a large development project, your most important stakeholder groups would be those people most likely to oppose your project. That way, you can help change their sentiments from negative to neutral or positive.

One technique you can use to prioritize stakeholders is stakeholder mapping. This involves classifying stakeholders based on their level of Influence, impact and interest. From there, you can develop engagement strategies according to the stakeholder mapping groups you’ve created.

The importance of a stakeholder engagement tool

If stakeholder engagement is important to you (and it should be), you need a way to manage the process and do it properly. A good tool will help you build and track relationships, keep tabs on how certain people and groups are feeling towards your initiatives and communicate more effectively. 

The importance of stakeholder management software will soon be clear from the hours you’ll save each week. Because you’ll claw back so much time, you’ll be able to manage more stakeholders, more effectively, without tying up all your resources. 

Important stakeholder tool essentials

Before you invest in any stakeholder engagement software, make sure it covers all the essential features you’ll need, like:

  • Tracking contact details – So you know who’s who, and how to reach them quickly
  • Tracking communication right across the team – See who in your organization has been talking to each stakeholder and what they said, so you don’t ask them the same questions twice
  • Follow up – Use email integration and task management to ensure no stakeholders slip through the cracks
  • Sentiment tracking – See at a glance where stakeholder groups sit on a scale from negative to positive, and track changes to sentiment over time

Looking for the right tool to track and manage all your important stakeholder information? Simply Stakeholders has all the above essentials (plus more) with zero overwhelm, fast onboarding and flexible pricing. 

Get started with a free trial of Simply Stakeholders today.

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