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It is important to focus on how you engage with your stakeholders. That is, you must interact with each stakeholder in a way that builds positive relationships, improves your organization, and ensures that your projects are as successful as possible.
Engage with every stakeholder from the beginning of the project, as this helps to keep it positive. Make sure stakeholders understand the project, feel included, and are prepared for the potential outcomes.
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Start by understanding who your stakeholders are, whether they are employees who are working on the project, families that might be affected by it, or investors who have a financial interest in the outcome. Always keep in mind that stakeholder relationship management is critical to your project’s success. Take a look at these top eight tips for improved stakeholder management.
1. Communicate with Stakeholders from the Beginning
Make sure that you have a plan that includes communication with your stakeholders from the beginning of the project. This ensures that they hear information about the project from you rather than some outside source. If they hear a rumor about the project, it won’t have as serious an effect if they already know the facts.
Stakeholders will feel more included, which makes them feel positive about the project. Make a list of your stakeholders early on, and find time to reach out to each of them. This way, they know that you value them as part of the process.
2. Create a Schedule for Communication
One of the best ways to make sure to communicate with your stakeholders regularly is to make a schedule and stick to it. Don’t reach out to them just before deadlines, as they will see through that.
When you have a regular schedule, you will know how they feel throughout the project, and you won’t get caught by surprise.
You should have a timeline for your project, including your planned communications. Let the stakeholders know that you intend to include them and what the schedule is. The stakeholders will have time to prepare for your conversations and the talks will be more productive.
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3. Be Honest with Stakeholders
When you are creating a stakeholder engagement plan, it is important to be honest at all times. You should never hide information because they will end up finding out.
The best way to handle potentially negative information is to present it truthfully. Then also let them know about the steps you plan to take to address any issues.
In addition, when you update stakeholders, you can use visual tools, such as a map of your project plan or reports you have printed out. This approach will make them feel comfortable and give them confidence that they can have faith in what you say.
4. Be Consistent
Your messaging on the project should be consistent from beginning to end.
Before the project gets started, develop your key ideas about what you are trying to accomplish. Don’t lose sight of your original message, and make sure that everything you do falls in line with it.
If there is a time when you need to change your messaging, you should identify what has changed, why it has changed, and how the project will move forward. Communicate this information so that your stakeholders are informed.
5. Communicate Frequently
It is important to make sure that your scheduled communication with stakeholders is frequent. You need the support of your stakeholders from the beginning of the project through completion. The best way to keep that support is through frequent and ongoing communication.
Make sure your stakeholders have a chance to provide feedback and ask questions, and make sure you include them so that they feel valued. When you take these actions, your stakeholders will stay engaged and will be more likely to continue to support your project.
6. Give Stakeholders Your Undivided Attention in Meetings
When you have meetings with stakeholders either virtually or in person, make sure to give them your undivided attention. Look them in the eye, smile, and show them you are listening to what they have to say.
Also, bring a notepad to take notes on the key points, then summarize these in bullet points after the meeting. You can send attendees a copy of your summary to show them that you heard what they said. Then they can offer clarification if it is necessary.
7. Use a Variety of Communication Methods
Use a variety of communication methods to engage with your stakeholders. This will increase your accessibility and make sure they feel included. In addition to in-person or virtual meetings, you can also send out emails, surveys, and more. These online, less personal communications shouldn’t replace meaningful engagement, but you can use them in addition to show them that you value their feedback and input.
8. Keep a Record of Communications
Finally, keep records of your interactions with stakeholders from the beginning of the project through its completion. Document interactions so you can make sure that a stakeholder isn’t reaching out with the same question again and again. If you notice this is happening, make an effort to ensure you have answered this question. You can review the history before each meeting so you have an idea of where they stand on the issues and what kinds of questions they will ask. This data should be easily accessible so you can use it to build trust.
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