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What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholders are individuals or organizations that have a stake in your success and can affect your ability to achieve your goals. In public affairs, stakeholders could be elected officials, staffers, regulators, grassroots activists, employees, shareholders, etc. Stakeholder engagement is the process of cultivating relationships with stakeholders with the goal of influencing their actions related to your organization’s goals. Stakeholder engagement is critical for any organization serious about creating change, as leveraging third-party relationships increases the overall effectiveness of a public affairs campaign. Keep reading to learn more about best practices for stakeholder engagement, including stakeholder mapping, communications, and reporting.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Best Practices Framework

At Quorum, we work with Fortune 500 companies and growing nonprofits alike, and we’ve seen countless approaches to stakeholder engagement. Here’s a glimpse into a framework that we’ve seen work. [post_title] => Stakeholder Engagement: What, Why & How [post_excerpt] => Stakeholder engagement is the process of developing and maintaining relationships with stakeholders. Here's how to engage stakeholders and why it's important. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => stakeholder-engagement [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2024-02-02 02:08:06 [post_modified_gmt] => 2024-02-02 02:08:06 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://marketing-staging.quorum.us/resources/stakeholder-engagement-definition/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => resources [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [queried_object_id] => 1482 [request] => SELECT wp_posts.* FROM wp_posts WHERE 1=1 AND wp_posts.post_name = 'stakeholder-engagement' AND wp_posts.post_type = 'resources' ORDER BY wp_posts.post_date DESC [posts] => Array ( [0] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1482 [post_author] => 1 [post_date] => 2024-01-31 20:23:34 [post_date_gmt] => 2024-01-31 20:23:34 [post_content] =>

What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholders are individuals or organizations that have a stake in your success and can affect your ability to achieve your goals. In public affairs, stakeholders could be elected officials, staffers, regulators, grassroots activists, employees, shareholders, etc. Stakeholder engagement is the process of cultivating relationships with stakeholders with the goal of influencing their actions related to your organization’s goals. Stakeholder engagement is critical for any organization serious about creating change, as leveraging third-party relationships increases the overall effectiveness of a public affairs campaign. Keep reading to learn more about best practices for stakeholder engagement, including stakeholder mapping, communications, and reporting.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Best Practices Framework

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What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholders are individuals or organizations that have a stake in your success and can affect your ability to achieve your goals. In public affairs, stakeholders could be elected officials, staffers, regulators, grassroots activists, employees, shareholders, etc. Stakeholder engagement is the process of cultivating relationships with stakeholders with the goal of influencing their actions related to your organization’s goals. Stakeholder engagement is critical for any organization serious about creating change, as leveraging third-party relationships increases the overall effectiveness of a public affairs campaign. Keep reading to learn more about best practices for stakeholder engagement, including stakeholder mapping, communications, and reporting.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Best Practices Framework

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Blog

Stakeholder Engagement: What, Why & How

Stakeholder Engagement: What, Why & How

What is Stakeholder Engagement?

Stakeholders are individuals or organizations that have a stake in your success and can affect your ability to achieve your goals. In public affairs, stakeholders could be elected officials, staffers, regulators, grassroots activists, employees, shareholders, etc.

Stakeholder engagement is the process of cultivating relationships with stakeholders with the goal of influencing their actions related to your organization’s goals. Stakeholder engagement is critical for any organization serious about creating change, as leveraging third-party relationships increases the overall effectiveness of a public affairs campaign.

Keep reading to learn more about best practices for stakeholder engagement, including stakeholder mapping, communications, and reporting.

Stakeholder Engagement: A Best Practices Framework

At Quorum, we work with Fortune 500 companies and growing nonprofits alike, and we’ve seen countless approaches to stakeholder engagement. Here’s a glimpse into a framework that we’ve seen work.

Define Your Objective

What is your goal for your stakeholders? Are you looking to activate them and have them advocate on your behalf? Or are you just looking to keep tabs on them to inform your own practices? Write out what you are trying to accomplish and make sure your team is aligned with the goal. 

Map Out the Stakeholders Who Matter 

Organizations should identify their stakeholders by outlining the universe of people that could impact the organization and its issues. Here are a few examples of who your stakeholders may be:

  • Policy: elected officials, legislative staff, regulators, public authorities
  • Corporate: employees, customers, competitors, investors, shareholders
  • Industry:  labor unions, NGOs, press   
  • Community: organizers/activists, schools, resident associations, religious organizations
  • Region(s): federal, regional, state, local, international
  • Other

You may decide to just focus on one type of stakeholders – i.e. state legislators, mayors, or members of the media for this process. You can always come back and do it again for a different type of stakeholder. 

Prioritize Stakeholders into Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3

Once you have identified your universe of stakeholders, arrange them into three tiered buckets: Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3. The most important thing you want to do is avoid having too many stakeholders in your first or second tier and force the prioritization of which stakeholders are most important.  

One of the most strategic ways to do this is by interest and influence:

  • Tier 1 stakeholders are interested and influential
  • Tier 2 stakeholders are influential
  • Tier 3 stakeholders and interested

You can also choose a different qualitative descriptor to define your Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 stakeholders — just make sure you limit the number of people who can be in each tier so not everyone is a Tier 1 stakeholder.

Define the Relationship Owner

Assign a relationship owner to each stakeholder so it is clear who the primary person responsible for the relationship is. This can be done based on how the organization divides its stakeholder coverage model (geography, chamber on the Hill, or political party). 

We’ve also seen this done via a lottery draft where the team goes through tier by tier and person by person, and everyone picks the stakeholders they most want to engage. Team members will prioritize stakeholders with whom they have the strongest relationship early in the process, and any disagreement can be resolved at that time. 

Finally, you can take it to the next level by assigning leaders in your organization to be the second chair on the relationships with the most important stakeholders. 

Mark the Quality of the Existing Relationship

Next up, identify the quality of the relationship that your organization has with the stakeholder. You can use qualitative descriptions for this step: 

  • No relationship
  • Knows our team
  • Knows our issues
  • Supports our issues
  • Willing to take action on our behalf 

Go through each stakeholder and determine where each relationship stands. At the end of the process, you should be able to quantify how many stakeholders fall into each category.

These questions map the status quo of the relationships with existing stakeholders and the basis against which to measure engagement impact (which we’ll get to later).

Set Your Engagement Targets

Now that you’ve done the hard work, the fun part begins. Set your relationship targets. How often do you want to meet with your Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3 stakeholders a year? And how many of them do you want to move from “no relationship” to “knows team” or from “knows team” to “supports your issues.” 

Reporting and Tracking Your Engagement

As you set out to engage your stakeholders, track how many times you met with them and if you successfully moved them up the relationship ladder. You will get two reports throughout the year:

Report 1 – Frequency of Engagement with Key Stakeholders: The first report will allow you to monitor if you are hitting your stakeholder engagement goals. Did you meet with your Tier 1 stakeholders each month? This will help you make sure you don’t miss any stakeholders.

Report 2 – How Did Stakeholders Move up the Relationship Ladder?: Second, you should report on how many stakeholders moved up (or down) the engagement ladder. At the end of the year, you will be able to report on how many relationships moved from “knowing our team” to “supporting our issues” or from “no relationship” to being “aware of our issues.”

How to Improve Stakeholder Engagement with Digital Tools

Your stakeholders are critical to your business. Whether there is a legislative issue your organization cares about or a brand message you want to share widely, your Tier 1 stakeholders have the interest and influence to make an impact on your bottom line. Given the impact of stakeholders on an organization, it makes sense to use a stakeholder engagement tool to stay organized and on top of your goals.

Digital tools can aid in improving your stakeholder engagement strategy by helping you:

  • Keep Track of Stakeholders with a CRM
  • Identify and Map Stakeholders with Social Media Monitoring
  • Log Meetings with Stakeholders
  • Communicate with Your Stakeholders with Outbox
  • Build Digital Reports and Dashboards

Keep Track of Stakeholders with a CRM

Using a stakeholder CRM makes it easier to keep track of your objectives and stakeholders. For example, you could use a CRM to assign relationship values like no relationship, knows our team, supports our issues, etc. You could also assign values based on their interest and influence, making it easier to build an influence-interest matrix. With Quorum, users can build spreadsheets with columns of influence and interest and map these onto a graph showing where stakeholders land.

Identify and Map Stakeholders with Social Media Monitoring

In the above section, we covered how and why you should place your stakeholders into tiers. Unless you already have an extensive database of stakeholder sentiment, this can be very difficult to keep track of.

Using a social media monitoring tool like Quorum, you can search for your issues and see how elected officials are talking (or not talking) about your issues. This can be very useful for identifying officials interested in your issues, which helps when placing them into categories.

For example, there may be a member of Congress whom your office hasn’t met with before but mentions your issue frequently on X. With a tool that includes social media monitoring, you’ll never miss a mention of issues your organization cares about and can identify new champions (or detractors) on your issue.

Log Meetings with Stakeholders

One common issue we see with stakeholder engagement is that notes from a meeting are either kept in someone’s head or in a private notebook — whether physical or digital. This can be a major problem when someone leaves an organization and takes with them all of their meeting notes.

Logging meetings with stakeholders in a shared database is an effective way to improve stakeholder engagement and retain institutional knowledge as it provides a searchable resource so that any team member can get up-to-speed on conversations with each stakeholder.

Communicate with Your Stakeholders with Outbox

It is advantageous for teams to use a centralized system, like Quorum’s Outbox, to send messages to stakeholders. This keeps everything in one place so team members can track responses and update stakeholder information in a unified platform — which makes reporting even easier.

Build Digital Reports and Dashboards

Measuring your stakeholder engagement efforts helps identify what strategies move the needle on your issues. For example, what activities best nudge stakeholders along the engagement ladder? With this knowledge, your organization can adjust engagement strategies.

We previously mentioned two reports: one that tracks the frequency of your meetings and another that tracks the influence of those meetings. Building these reports becomes automatic if you use a tool like Quorum to log your meetings and manage your stakeholders. You can then add these reports to a shareable dashboard to quickly showcase your team’s work.

Manage Stakeholder Engagement with Quorum

By using Quorum to manage stakeholder engagement, you can connect your efforts all in one platform. You can upload and organize your contacts, track meeting activity, communicate with stakeholders, and create auto-updating reports — all in one place.