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The power of genuine stakeholder engagement

When it comes to building strong stakeholder relationships, it’s critical to understand your stakeholders’ genuine needs, not just their current perceptions of your organisation.

All too often, businesses invest in a simple survey to find out what stakeholders think of them – then leave it there. Undertaking a stakeholder survey is not enough. It doesn’t even scratch the surface.

In contrast, a deep dive by way of a qualitative approach to stakeholder engagement enables organisations to unlock extraordinary opportunities for growth, innovation, and collaboration.

The purpose of a stakeholder diagnostic program

A comprehensive stakeholder diagnostic program is invaluable as it allows you to truly understand what your stakeholders really think and feel about your organisation, and most importantly, what you could achieve together.

It can provide real guidance into how you can overcome any misconceptions that may exist and better understand what motivates your stakeholders, what their key drivers are, and what they are working towards. Ultimately, it allows you to understand your stakeholders’ needs, wants and corporate desires.

Importantly, it’s also a more genuine approach to putting your purpose into practice, as any purpose-driven company needs to know that they have long-term and engaged stakeholders who understand their corporate purpose, vision, and plan to get there.

The benefits of effective stakeholder engagement

If stakeholder engagement is done right, with the proper research design and an in-depth approach, it has three key benefits:

You’re instantly improving the relationship.
In spending time asking what’s important to your stakeholders, you’re demonstrating that you value what’s going on in their world.

You gain improved clarity around what you’re both working towards.
This means there are less surprises. In big organisations, no one wants surprise or contradiction. Clarity helps to avoid economic, strategic and, in some cases, political surprises and ultimately drives efficiencies for both parties.

You’re creating a genuine knowledge exchange, which leads to trust and, in turn, better negotiations and more opportunity.
If you’re extracting this kind of confidential information from your stakeholders, then you are granted the opportunity to genuinely share updates with them. Genuine knowledge exchanges lead to trust and, in turn, better negotiations – which allow parties to grow and evolve together.

Our client Paul Baxter QSO, Commissioner, Fire and Rescue NSW couldn’t have said it better with regards to a stakeholder diagnostic we completed for his Executive Leadership Team earlier this year.

“Understanding what our external stakeholders thought of us, what they wanted from us and how they want us to engage with them has been fundamental to setting our forward strategy of how and where we need to engage better. Just the act of asking them has improved our relationship and has helped shape early discussions about how we can work better together. We can’t live or work in a bubble forever (as has been required with Covid-19) we have to work with our partners and stakeholders to be successful so having a better understanding of where they are coming from is key!”

Quite simply, if you don’t understand the needs and desires of your stakeholders, you’re developing a business strategy based on assumptions and that’s a risky place to be. Effective external stakeholder engagement ultimately helps organisations to develop and use purpose-driven business models that are authentic, clear and effective.

Tips for approaching external stakeholder engagement effectively

If you are considering taking your external stakeholder engagement to the next level, you should look at doing it every couple of years, and there is value in doing it through an external party such as a reputable brand purpose agency.

The value, we find, is that a third-party receives more honest stakeholder feedback, simply because there’s an extra layer between the two of you and they understand that the third-party is simply there to understand the truth.

All that feedback, or information, is synthesised into a detailed report that gives you actionable feedback rather than bogging your staff down on specific or personal feedback relevant to their work, area, or department.

This is often a distraction for the business if it occurs, and the creation of a report and well thought through strategy for the executive leadership team to action collaboratively is much more valuable and effective way of taking your business to the next level with a group of more engaged stakeholders on board.

For over 16 years Brand Council has provided brand purpose consultancy to a wide range of clients, from not-for-profits through to multi-national brands. Explore our work in greater detail, see how we can help, and get in touch with our brand strategy specialists to discuss how you might better engage with external stakeholders.