Stakeholder mapping is the process of identifying and categorizing key stakeholders involved in achieving the policy objectives of your organization. Mapping helps you evaluate your relationships with stakeholders so you can organize communication strategies and engagement efforts depending on where someone falls within your stakeholder mapping. Stakeholder mapping is a critical aspect of stakeholder engagement.
To begin mapping, you must first identify your stakeholders. Start by listing all key players that impact your organization’s ability to achieve its goals. Do this by asking yourself a few qualifying questions:
- Who are you reporting your progress to?
- Who are you meeting with to advance your organization’s goals?
- Which relationships are crucial to achieving success?
- Who are potential detractors who could inhibit your success?
A stakeholder can be anyone who holds interest or influence over the issues your organization cares about. This could be a member company, a donor, a legislator, an investor, a community leader, an influencer, or an advocate.
Once you identify all relevant stakeholders, it’s time to map them. Below are five different stakeholder mapping techniques that will keep you organized and informed on stakeholder engagement.
Map stakeholders by issue so you can target specific organization communications or event invitations based on a stakeholder’s relevant issue within your portfolio. You can take it a step further by categorizing stakeholders based on their alignment (support, neutral, or oppose) on that issue compared to your organization’s stance.
For example, if your organization’s issues are climate and the economy, your stakeholders may support your organization’s stance on climate but oppose your stance on the economy. By mapping stakeholders by issue, you can customize your communications to speak better to their individual alignments. Say you have a big win on climate – you would want to send a celebratory email thanking your supportive stakeholders on climate for their involvement, but not include those stakeholders who oppose your stance.
This stakeholder mapping method allows you to quickly respond when new developments on an issue emerge, keeping stakeholders in the loop on your organization’s actions on their alignment on your issue portfolio.
Assign team members as relationship owners by evaluating who has the strongest relationship. To do this, have team members log interactions and assign the relationship to whoever engages with that stakeholder most frequently.
By mapping stakeholders as overall champions, neutral, or detractors, you can see everyone that has an influence on your organization and their overall stance toward your organization’s work. This makes it easier to distinguish different messages depending on stakeholder stance towards your organization.
You wouldn’t use the same stakeholder communication strategy for your champions as you would your detractors. For example, invite your champion stakeholders to your events, giving them facetime and more access to other stakeholders in your organization. Your detractor stakeholders won’t want to attend events, but you can still engage them by sharing quarterly impact reports, which quantitatively speak to your organization’s role in your industry. For neutral stakeholders, take a hybrid approach, share your impact reports as well as motivational emails that entice them to get more involved. You can then extend an invitation to an event so they learn firsthand from your passionate champion stakeholders how much value your organization brings them.
Create a tiered scale (for example: 1-3) to score stakeholders based on their engagement. Use a qualitative approach to categorizing your stakeholders by setting criteria for each tier (number of events attended, emails responded to).
Use an Interest-Influence Matrix
Each of your stakeholders has a certain level of interest in an issue as well as a level of influence on that issue. With knowledge of this information, build a matrix mapping interest versus influence, providing you with four categories of stakeholders—high interest and influence, low interest and influence, high interest/low influence, and low interest/high influence.
Mapping stakeholders is also an effective way to measure your stakeholder engagement efforts. First, map your stakeholders at the beginning of the year and note how many fall in each category if you’re using stance mapping or tier mapping. Then, re-evaluate your mapping each quarter or year and see how many stakeholders moved to a higher tier or from neutral to champion. This will help report on your impact in driving higher levels of engagement with your stakeholders.