Stakeholder relationship management is the process of managing your relationships with different stakeholders and communities.
It’s common to hear the term “stakeholder management,” but it’s important to remember that you’re managing the relationship, not the actual stakeholder. The term stakeholder relationship management focuses on those relationships, which is vital as positive, long-term stakeholder relationships are at the core of successful projects.
What are the Benefits of Stakeholder Relationship Management?
There are many benefits to building and maintaining positive stakeholder relationships, including:
- Helping to lower project risks
- Building your project or organization's reputation
- Gaining useful buy-in
- Meeting regulatory requirements
- Gaining competitive advantages
- and more
Now that we know the definition of stakeholder relationship management and why it’s beneficial, what steps are included in the process of building and managing your stakeholder relationships? While there may be additional steps depending on your project, stakeholders, or situation, we'll cover seven common stakeholder relationship management steps below.
7 Key Steps in Stakeholder Relationship Management
1. Identify Your Stakeholders
Before you start focusing on the relationship details, you need to know who you’ll be building and managing relationships with, so you need to identify all your possible stakeholders.
To do this, take some time to brainstorm, with your team, all the possible stakeholders who might be impacted (positively or negatively) by your project or who may have other interests in your project.
Need some help to brainstorm your stakeholders? Visit our blog for a list of questions to help you identify your possible stakeholders!
2. Map Your Stakeholders
If you’re new to the idea of “mapping your stakeholders,” it’s an exercise where you categorize your stakeholders after you’ve identified them.
One popular stakeholder mapping canvas is Mendelow's Power-Interest Matrix which helps you categorize stakeholders based upon their level of interest (high/low) and level of influence (high/low) on your organization or project.
Knowing which stakeholders are in each category helps you understand how many resources you should put into engaging your stakeholders, how much budget may be required and enables you to choose specific engagement tactics (i.e., the ways you’ll engage).
For example, typically, you would put more effort into building relationships with the stakeholder in your high interest/high influence group than you would with the stakeholder in your low interest/low influence group. This is because the stakeholder with high interest and high influence are more likely to positively or negatively impact your project. In contrast, low interest and low influence stakeholders are less likely to impact; however, this doesn’t mean you won’t be building relationships with stakeholders in different categories; it just helps you and your team focus your plans.
For a full breakdown on how to do a stakeholder mapping exercise, check out our blog!
3. Learn About Your Stakeholders
Once you’ve identified and mapped (or categorized) your stakeholders, it’s time to learn about them.
Things you may want to learn about your stakeholders could include:
- Are they negatively or positively impacted by your project?
- What's their current view of your organization or project?
- What are their interests in your project (e.g., financial, environmental, emotional)
This information is important because you can use it to decide where they stand regarding your project (i.e., support, object, conditional, undecided, neutral). With this understanding, you can better learn what’s important to your stakeholders, allowing you to focus your messaging (if you’ll be engaging) so you’re addressing topics that matter most to them, which helps build trust and stronger relationships.
4. Plan with Your Team on How to Strategically Proceed
Planning will be something that should happen throughout this process. However, once you know who your stakeholders are and what they care about, it’s a great time to check in with your team and adjust or improve your plans.
By taking the time to strategically plan with your team, you can understand what resources might be required throughout this process. For example, while learning about your stakeholders, your team might notice there is a potential issue emerging with one or several stakeholders. With this knowledge, you can plan for this potential issue and prepare the required resources, which helps you lower your risks and enables you to work more effectively with your stakeholders through these issues and increases the likelihood of preserving or building those relationships.
Beyond planning for resource allocation, you can also work together with your team to target strategic messaging, communication tactics, decide how to proceed with any current issues and determine who on your team will be responsible for tasks associated with your stakeholders. This planning ensures everyone is on the same page and can work together more effectively towards building better relationships with your stakeholders.
5. Engage more Effectively with Your Stakeholders
When it's time to engage with your stakeholders, you'll need to consider elements like:
- What do stakeholders need to hear from your organization?
- Do all your stakeholders need to hear the same messaging?
- How often will you be engaging with stakeholders?
- How will you be engaging with stakeholders? (e.g., Brochures, townhalls, emails etc.)
An important part of this process will be to choose your level of engagement with your stakeholder categories. The Spectrum of Public Participation developed by the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) identifies five different levels of participation: inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower—this is a valuable tool to help guide your stakeholder engagement.
Once you begin engaging with your stakeholders, you might cover topics like:
- Communicating key messages relevant to your stakeholder's perspectives, interests and concerns
- Providing relevant project updates (or even updates on why there aren't any updates)
- Answering their questions and concerns
- Dealing with current or potential issues
While engaging can be overwhelming, when done respectfully, intentionally and consistently, you'll build stakeholder trust and better relationships so your stakeholders will know they can come to you with their questions or concerns.
For tips to improve how you engage with your stakeholders, check out our blog!
6. Monitor Your Stakeholders
You must monitor your stakeholders throughout this process as things can change quickly, and you want to be updated as soon as changes occur. While monitoring, consider things like:
- Have stakeholders' opinions changed? (i.e., shifted from supporting your project to objecting your project)
- Are there any new stakeholder you hadn't initially identified?
- Have any stakeholders moved into different categories?
While you might not be engaging with some stakeholders much at first, you may eventually engage with them regularly. With this in mind, you always want to understand where stakeholders stand regarding your project and allocate the necessary resources towards building, preserving and maintaining relationships with them when it makes sense.
7. Report on Your Stakeholder Information
As you're going about this process, you'll be collecting a lot of stakeholder information, like:
- Stakeholder contact details
- Stakeholder communication records
- Stakeholder issues
- Maps of areas of interest or engagement locations
- Notes about your stakeholders
- Stakeholder commitments (or promises)
- Tasks assigned to you and your team
Keeping all your stakeholder information organized and accessible is vital, as you’ll inevitably need to report on this information. You may be running reports to meet regulatory requirements, share updates with decision-makers and stakeholders or to help you stay on the same page with your team. The ability to run easy to understand and insightful reports will help you share your stakeholder relationship management efforts for more transparency and to create a better understanding of your stakeholder's perspectives and your engagement project overall.
Are you new to stakeholder engagement? This practical guide is the perfect starting point. Click the image to download your free copy.
How Do You Keep all Your Stakeholder Information Organized?
Now that we've covered the seven common steps for stakeholder relationship management, it's essential to talk about making this process easier and more effective by keeping everything streamlined and organized with the right software.
While using spreadsheets or even a CRM to manage your stakeholder information might seem like a practical choice, these options aren’t sustainable if you want to build future-focused, long-term stakeholder relationships.
Developing a repeatable and scalable process for stakeholder relationship management is essential for building strong stakeholder relationships. This process needs to include a collaborative database of all your stakeholder information. Choosing to create this database with the right software is an easy and effective way to compile and store important information, and the best software for this process is Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM) software.
What is Stakeholder Relationship Management Software?
Stakeholder Relationship Management (SRM) software is a tool designed to help you manage all your stakeholder relationships and communications with stakeholders.
With an SRM, you and your team have one centralized place to log stakeholder information, meaning everyone always knows exactly where to find everything they need. Organized data simplifies the stakeholder relationship management process so that it won’t become overwhelming or unmanageable and allows you and your team to use the inputted information to stay informed, communicate more consistently and effectively, and focus on building meaningful and trusting stakeholder relationships for better project outcomes.
To understand how stakeholder relationship management software can improve stakeholder trust and relationships, check out our blog!
Next Steps: Engagement Tips
Now that we’ve covered the stakeholder relationship management basics, it’s time to focus more on how you’ll be engaging.
If you’re looking for more resources to help you along your stakeholder relationship management journey, Kim Hyshka from Dialogue Partners, a trusted Jambo partner, worked with us to create this information on her top 4 tips for engaging. You can download the free resource by clicking the image below.