Sustained momentum: Stakeholder engagement when you’re out of the woods
Most people associate stakeholder engagement with the management of something significant –events, change, crisis, or disruption. It is most commonly associated with the idea that you want someone to do, feel, or approve something related to a specific project.
These projects can be enormous undertakings for an organisation, draining resources both financially and culturally. However, it’s often the case that, regardless of the outcome, the engagement ceases once a special project has come to an end. The crisis is over, let’s move on.
So what should your stakeholder engagement plan look like when you revert back to business as usual?
After all, the quality of your existing stakeholder relationships may mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to implementing a new campaign.
Stay involved in the community
The worst thing you can do when you wrap up a campaign is to completely withdraw from community engagement. Regardless of the stakeholder group you have targeted – internal staff, a community group, or government authorities – unless you’ve been told to get out of town it’s important for you to continue your presence.
Continue sponsorship deals, stay in touch with community leaders or meet periodically with staff to see how they are dealing with the change. Whatever your engagement goals, staying in touch legitimises you contribution to the community by showing your ongoing support.
Engage with content
Offering your stakeholders a regular stream of interesting content can be a great way to keep in touch and continue your relationship. Whether you are producing blogs, newsletters, or just curating interesting content and distributing it through your social media channels; connect with your stakeholders by offering them engaging news and views.
It’s important, however, that you pursue quality over quantity, particularly if you are operating with the sort of limited sources often afforded to ongoing engagement.
It doesn’t hurt to keep people updated, even when there isn’t anything particularly significant to update. Weekly, monthly, or annual updates can be a great excuse to get in touch with your stakeholders. The fact you may not have anything to report is exactly what you can report.
“We’re on track”, “no hiccups”, “it’s been six months since and we are still ok”, or “thanks for your input, this is what we’ve been able to achieve”.
Continued communication promotes transparency and keeps your organisation front of mind.
Use your communications channels, or shut them down
Unless you plan on posting to the Facebook account, answering the phone hotline, or monitoring the project email address, shut them down. Create a central touch point for all of your stakeholders. You never know what will crop up, so it’s important your stakeholders can reach you and not feel as though they’re being ignored on a communications channel that is no longer monitored.
Remember, it’s the ongoing work you put into stakeholder engagement when times are good that will pay off when things get sticky.
Go forth and engage.