Take your project career to new heights with AIPM membership. Join now to unlock the benefits of Australia’s leading body for project professionals.
Take the quiz
Join thousands of project professionals across Australia who have powered their career prospects with RegPM™ certification.
The demand for project management skills continues to grow across a range of industries, and professionals are building lucrative and rewarding careers.
For nearly 50 years, the AIPM has been driving project management across Australia.
21st Sep 2021
Projects generally have multiple stakeholders with different (and often competing) interests. It can be a minefield. Stakeholders can significantly influence the project’s success or otherwise, and often it falls to the project professional to manage them.
So, how can you set yourself up for success? A well-considered plan for stakeholder engagement can help.
In this article, we’re specifically looking at stakeholder engagement, but first, let’s run through a few of the common terms used when talking about stakeholders:
Sometimes stakeholder engagement is confused with stakeholder management, but they are in fact different. Simply put, stakeholder management is organising, monitoring, and improving relationships with your stakeholders.
On the other hand, stakeholder engagement is the practice of influencing outcomes through consultation, communication, negotiation, compromise, and relationship building. It is therefore an important part of the stakeholder management process.
Effective engagement with stakeholders can have huge benefits:
A stakeholder engagement strategy is a formal plan that identifies the needs of key groups and helps you plan what, when, and how you will communicate to get support for your project. It usually contains the following:
Stakeholder register: Lists all stakeholders from team members and senior executives to investors, customers, and community members.
Stakeholder profiles: Includes contact details, areas of interest, and level of power and influence.
Engagement approach: Details the type, frequency, and content of the planned communication. For example, weekly emails to update status.
How do you go about building and implementing a stakeholder engagement strategy? Here’s our handy three-step process to improve your communication and ensure all your stakeholders are on your side.
Great communication is about understanding others first, before being understood. By analysing and understanding your stakeholders, you’ll discover how best to communicate with them and get them on board. In this step, start by creating your stakeholder register, capturing all internal and external individuals and groups.
Next, create stakeholder profiles, including their areas of interest, expectations, key concerns, power, and influence. At this point, stakeholder mapping can be useful to decide what level of effort is needed for each stakeholder. When your stakeholders are grouped, you can establish tailored communication plans targeted to their different needs. Mendelow’s stakeholder matrix is a great tool to use:
The next step is establishing buy-in across the board. Before the project commences, engage with your stakeholder groups in a meaningful way, taking time to share the core objectives of the project, and listening to their feedback.
Communication with your stakeholders is most effective when you segment your audience and target the content, timing, and delivery to their specific needs. For example, let’s look at some internal stakeholders. The key members of the project team might need a daily 5-minute huddle to start the day, conducted via video conference. The senior executive team may prefer a fortnightly status report via email.
Your communication can be targeted to the level of detail that is needed, and your stakeholders will enjoy the predictability of knowing when to expect your updates, which boosts engagement. Here are some questions to get you started when establishing your stakeholder engagement strategy:
There are plenty of ways to engage with your stakeholders, and your stakeholder analysis will help you determine which method is most suitable. Here are some example ideas to get you started:
Interviews or focus groups: Conduct 1:1 or in small groups to have an open, two-way dialogue. You can deep dive into key issues to better understand the perspectives of your stakeholders. It’s a highly engaging method, but it is time-consuming, so use sparingly if resources are limited.
Surveys: Use to gather input from a wide variety of stakeholders.
Presentations: You can have a town hall session to communicate with multiple stakeholder groups at once. You can hold them in person or remotely, and include Q&A sessions for two-way dialogue.
Regular communication: Set up lines of communication that regularly share information and asks for feedback. This might be an email newsletter, social media posts, website updates, progress meetings, phone calls, or in-person visits.
It’s almost certain that you’ll encounter some tricky stakeholder engagement situations throughout your career. But as with most things in project management, having a solid plan from the outset will set you up for success. Keeping everyone happy is a tough ask, but if you focus on building your soft skills like communication, relationship building, and people management, you’ll be well placed to navigate challenging situations and end up with successful project outcomes.
Take our quick self-evaluation quiz to assess your project experience and help you determine your certification level.
A contract management plan is key to successful contract management. Find out why you need one and how to create one here.
Learn about the contract management process and build your contract management skills with practical tips from a lawyer.
Find out about the range of project delivery methodologies and how you can build robust project delivery skills.