At the time of writing, we are currently living in what many people are referring to as a new normal. We have adapted our way of thinking and working due to Covid-19, this means we have also changed the way we communicate with stakeholders.
In this blog, we look at the importance of stakeholder communication in a virtual world, how to communicate with stakeholders in a virtual world and how to plan your communications using a stakeholder template plan.
Why Stakeholder Communication is Important in a Virtual World
Most businesses and organisations would have by now established ways to communicate with their employees and stakeholders whilst working remotely, mainly by turning their focus onto their internal communications.
Maintaining and building on communication as a whole is vital in stakeholder management but adopting and learning new processes on how to communicate with stakeholders in a virtual world is equally as important.
Why Stakeholder Communication is important in a virtual world:
- Continuation of stakeholders being part of the process
- Bringing stakeholders up to date no matter where they are
- Continue to meet delivery programmes
- Provide opportunities for economic and social recovery
What are the Five Levels of Stakeholder Engagement?
The five levels of stakeholder engagement will help you to identify at what stage your stakeholder is engaged. Once each stakeholder has been identified and assigned a level this will help shape your plan on how to best communicate with stakeholders in a virtual environment. Use these levels in your stakeholder identification process.
Unaware – Not aware of the project and the impacts of the project
Resistant – Aware of the project and resistant to change
Neutral – Aware of the project and neither supports or resists
Supportive – Aware of the project and supportive of change
Leading – Aware of the project and impact and actively engaged in ensuring the project is a success
Use a Stakeholder Communications Template Plan For your Virtual Stakeholder Management
Once you have identified the level of each of your stakeholders, now it’s time to add in the rest of the stakeholder’s information. A Stakeholder Communication Plan sometimes referred to as a matrix is a must-have for all project coordinators to help ensure all stakeholder requirements have been addressed and are fulfilled. A stakeholder communications plan can assist in outlining expectations for the communication points that will take place during project processes and milestones.
Use your stakeholder communication template plan to plan how to communicate with stakeholders based on their level.
5 Ways to Communicate With Stakeholders in a Virtual World
1. Embrace Video Conferencing
Video conferencing and Zoom meetings have become part and parcel of our daily lives for some time now. With Zoom seeing 200 million daily meetings in March of 2020, the use of video for communication is increasing. it’s time to embrace it when communicating with stakeholders as well. Video conferencing has many benefits including;
- Being able to socially distance when meeting,
- Meet more often
- Ability to share screens and conduct presentations
- Cuts travel expenses
- Improves productivity
- Improves attendance
- Structured meetings
Use video to arrange one to one meetings with your stakeholders or to arrange group meetings. Ensure you identify your stakeholders’ preferred method of video communication and the frequency. To make sure you communicate with stakeholders in a way that benefits both parties, be prepared for your meeting, send out your presentation beforehand to give your attendees a chance to prepare any questions they may have.
Tips for presenting to stakeholders:
- Use examples and stories to illustrate key points
- Practice your format and practice again
- Encourage feedback and note that questions will be asked at the end
- Lead with your key findings/message
2. Email Automation
To engage and communicate with stakeholders is a skill in itself, it comes with experience and preparation. What improves communication with stakeholders is the ability to engage on a personal level. It is important to identify your stakeholders and what makes them happy. This includes finding out their preferred way of communication, how often, which medium and the style.
But that’s not all, whilst we have covered off communicating the stakeholder requirements from a business perspective, we are, after all, human and some more effort must be put into finding out how your stakeholders communicate on a personal level.
This can sometimes be difficult in a virtual world. Words and phrases are often interpreted differently when we don’t communicate face to face. Pick up the phone, or organise a zoom meeting and make sure both parties have their cameras on, this helps humans pick up on emotion a lot easier, improving the overall level of personal communication.
3. Use Stakeholder Focus Groups
Sometimes stakeholders are reluctant to express concerns or answer questions in big groups and often it’s hard to problem solve and mind map in big groups. Try smaller, more focussed groups. Split your stakeholders out by their common interests, level of involvement, by level of stakeholder engagement and so on. Small focus groups open the window for more direct feedback, the opportunity for questions and give other stakeholders the opportunity to communicate with stakeholders.
4. Use Feedback and Survey Tools
Asking your stakeholders for feedback on your communication and engagement with them is super important. Feedback allows you to understand how you can improve on your communication, what’s working and what’s not working. A short survey will be sufficient to send out to your stakeholders after each project or every quarter. Make sure the questions are relevant and punchy.
What to cover in a Stakeholder Survey
- Reporting – Was the reporting accurate? Was it sufficient? Did you satisfy your needs? Did it answer your questions? How to improve
- Organisation – Was the management good or bad? Rate stakeholder management? Was the stakeholder engagement good or bad? How to improve.
- Communication – Was the communication clear? Was it frequent enough? Was the information communicated clearly? How to improve
- Goal – Does the company goal reflect your expectations? Do you align with the company goal?
Swift Digital’s marketing automation platform comes with a survey module which can be used for collecting feedback as well as other stakeholder feedback features including a poll widget, which can be used for asking questions, voting and gaining opinion.
Lastly, possibly one of the most important elements of learning how to communicate with stakeholders, taking your time.
What does this mean?
It means it’s time to slow things down and take a more personal, conscientious approach to your stakeholders. Take this opportunity to send out your surveys, polls and to fill in your stakeholder communication plan template plan and find out what you can do to improve your stakeholder communication and management.
Improve your Stakeholder Communication with Automation Software
Building bridges and understanding how to communicate with stakeholders is an invaluable skill and is important to the overall project success. If you would like more information on how to improve your communication with stakeholders then feel free to get in touch with Swift Digital.
Swift Digital works with a number of public and private sector companies – including Government organisations, Universities and Utility companies– to improve their communications and stakeholder management.
Do you need help communicating with stakeholders? Or want to improve your stakeholder management process. Here at Swift Digital, we provide email automation services that can help facilitate your stakeholder communications and help to improve your stakeholder relationships.
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