1. Communicate

This is the first principle of stakeholder engagement.

Before aiming to engage and influence stakeholders, it’s crucial to seek to understand the people you will be working with and relying on throughout the phases of the project lifecycle. Sharing information with stakeholders is important, but it is equally important to first gather information about your stakeholders: to understand the factors that will influence how they receive and interpret information, and how they might respond. This will help you identify the best ways to communicate so that intended messages will be understood and the desired responses achieved.

Why is it important?

Ineffective or insufficient communication is at the root of project problems such as unclear objectives, misunderstanding the brief, poorly co-ordinated teamwork and ineffective risk management. Successful outcomes and benefits realisation relies upon good communication, which requires a good understanding of your stakeholders, and regular reviews of your approach to engaging with them.

About the 10 key principles

What does it cover?

  • Stakeholder analysis: identifying your stakeholders as early as possible in the project and across the various phases of the project lifecycle, and gathering information about their interest and influence on the project, and communications preferences.
  • Communications planning: developing, sharing and maintaining a stakeholder engagement strategy and communications plan throughout the project lifecycle.
  • Updating plans: seeking stakeholder feedback about the value of communications and adapting your plans to reflect stakeholder changes, feedback and project progress.

How might I do it?

Use a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to gather information about individual stakeholders, groups and organisations: who the key contacts are, any changes to personnel, communication channels and feedback methods.

To identify stakeholders, review the organisation chart to create an initial list across the project lifecycle; ask them who else you should be engaging with; examine other projects’ stakeholder lists.

Your communications plan framework should address each stakeholder and include the purpose of communications, information to be communicated, frequency and methods of communications, and methods of evaluating effectiveness.

Align your communication plan with the project sponsor and project board to build confidence. Regularly review your communications strategy and plan throughout the project lifecycle and adapt to the latest stakeholder information.

Some resources

Use the links below to find particular examples and sources that are relevant to this principle.

Bibliography

1 Boulton, Robert and Dorothy. (1996) People Styles at Work Ridge Associates.

2 McLaughlin, John and Ocock, Michael and Oldfield, Agi and Trebes, Barry. (2015). Global Risk Assessment and Strategic Planning: An introduction and facilitator’s guide to the GRASP Methodology.  ICE Publishing

3 Goleman, D. (1998) Working with Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books

Benefits of doing it

Benefits of applying this principle include

  • Efficiency: when the right message reaches the right people at the right time, they don’t waste time trying to find the information they need.
  • Quality: effective communication ensures stakeholders do the right things and use the right data rather than working on assumptions.
  • Risk avoidance: bad timing or wrong information can influence environmental factors, such as company reputation, and affect stakeholder support. Planning and managing communications helps to avoid those risks.

Risks of not doing it

Risks of overlooking this principle include

  • Lack of support: Stakeholders become disillusioned with the project and withdraw support from the project.
  • Cost: communication that is unclear or inconsistent leads to confusion and mistakes that have to be remedied.
  • Delays: overlooking key stakeholders such as the media or regulatory bodies, or failing to spot changes such as suppliers being taken over, can lead to unexpected roadblocks and delay.
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