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For many organisations engagement with stakeholders becomes an occasional focus that drifts in and out of importance as their operating environment evolves. While at certain times they will enjoy a healthy level of dialogue with important stakeholders

, this connection just as often slips off the priority list. As other internal issues take precedence the process of regular, structured and listening stakeholder engagement falls away. The consequences at worst are that important consultation moments are missed, at best the organisation’s connection with stakeholders weakens and opportunities for powerful collaboration are lost.

Independent and accurate

Research that fully explores the expectations and perceptions of key stakeholders represents a constructive, independent and accurate key stakeholder engagement. Many organisations use stakeholder research to establish a complete understanding of their stakeholders, their priorities and concerns. This clear picture provides the client with an independent and reliable summary of how they should engage with these key stakeholders, a road map of sensitive ground and opportunities.

Stakeholder feedback

But ongoing research in the form of stakeholder interviews provides a regular update on the state of the relationships, what’s working, what’s not and how the stakeholders believe this can be improved.

The very best organisations focused on stakeholder engagement will have nominated their own senior leaders as the senior points of contact with specific key stakeholders. These sustained, informed and senior relationships develop a maturity and robustness that enables the organisations to work together through good times and bad. The relationship is not always full of harmony and alignment but it does benefit from a durable, trusting approach to problem solving and mutual best interest.

Regular and ongoing feedback

Stakeholder interviews performed by independent researchers do not and should not replace direct stakeholder engagement, but they do provide succinct and frank summaries of the relationship, from which an organisation can then move positively to address concerns which have emerged from an evidence-based approach. Key stakeholders will invariably be more open and direct with an independent researcher than with an organisation or partner. In this way while stakeholder engagement is an ongoing and sustained activity, stakeholder research is an occasional reflection and feedback event that provides an independent and external perspective on the stakeholder relationship.

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