What is Stakeholder Engagement?Finding a definitive definition of the term Stakeholder Engagement isn't straight forward. Various definitions are available driven by a range of schools of thought or philosophies on organizational performance, change and sustainability.
Stakeholder engagement is the process used by an organization to engage relevant stakeholders for a purpose to achieve accepted outcomes (AccountAbility, 2008).The Office of Government Commerce (OGC) explicitly link stakeholder engagement to success, explaining that "stakeholder support for the portfolio is gained by effective consultation and involvement in the definition and delivery of the portfolio".
A Stakeholder Engagement Plan is available with the eBook.More philosophical approaches emphasize inclusivity and imply an organizational mission or vision of continuous stakeholder/societal engagement.
Today, the term "stakeholder engagement" is emerging as a means of describing a broader, more inclusive, and continuous process between a company and those potentially impacted that encompasses a range of activities and approaches, and spans the entire life of a project (International Finance Corporation, 2007).
Engagement is not an end in itself, but a means to help build better relationships with the societies in which we operate, ultimately resulting in improved business planning and performance (Altria Corporate Services, Inc., 2004).Whether you intend to engage to meet a specific goal or start a long term conversation all communication methods engage stakeholders in some way and it is only by completing Stakeholder Analysis that efficient, cost effective approaches can be chosen.
For example, push communications are appropriate for low interest/low influence stakeholders. Attempts at partnership would be a waste of resources and time.
Collaboration and partnership is only appropriate for key players, stakeholders with high influence and high interest who could bring considerable benefits to the organization or project, but conversely - if not well managed - could bring considerable risk.
Choosing the stakeholder engagement approachThe diagram below illustrates the relationship between stakeholder influence/power and stakeholder engagement approaches.
Stakeholder Engagement approaches
|Partnership||Shared accountability and responsibility. Two-way engagement joint learning, decision making and actions|
|Participation||Part of the team, engaged in delivering tasks or with responsibility for a particular area/activity. Two-way engagement within limits of responsibility.|
|Consultation||Involved, but not responsible and not necessarily having influence outside of consultation boundaries. Limited two-way engagement: organization asks questions, stakeholders answer.|
|Push communications||One-way engagement. organization may broadcast information to all stakeholders or target particular stakeholder groups using various channels, e.g. emails, letters, webcasts, podcasts, videos, leaflets.|
|Pull communications||One-way engagement. Information is made available, and stakeholders choose whether to engage with it, e.g. web-pages, construction hoardings.|
- Make sure that your engagement approaches are appropriate to each stakeholder group.
- Check that your communication plan isn't over-reliant on push or pull communications.
- Check you aren't spending too much time in face-to-face consultations with less influential stakeholders.
- Can more costly push communication methods like printed materials be replaced with cheaper options like email, online surveys or online newsletters?
For more ways to engage stakeholders see 60 Ways to Engage Stakeholders
Stakeholder Engagement Plan Contents >> Get a real-world example and template
Purpose of the Document:Explain that for a project to be successful a clear understanding of the stakeholders and an engagement plan for managing them is essential. The Stakeholder Engagement Template provided with our eBook gives some example text that you could use for this section.
Project Background:A high level overview of your project or programme. Mention the project's business objectives, key deliverables, budget and time scales.
Introduction:Briefly explain how you carried out your stakeholder analysis and give an overview of the contents of your Stakeholder Engagement Plan.
Stakeholder Analysis and Engagement Plan:Insert your completed stakeholder analysis here.
Stakeholder Communication Plan:Insert your completed communication plan in this section.
Make sure that you get your strategy signed-off by your project sponsor or project board. Sign-off must include approval from your client and should be at a senior level. Ensure that anyone who is involved in delivering the plan has read and approved it and understands the actions that they need to take.
Final wordsSo you know who your stakeholders are, you have identified the key players and you have a plan for engaging with them. By taking these steps you are already way ahead and your project has a much greater chance of success. However, you do actually need to implement your strategy and this is where some plans fall down.
Stakeholder Engagement References and further readingInternational Finance Corporation, 2007. Stakeholder Engagement: A Good Practice Handbook for Companies Doing Business in Emerging Markets [pdf] Available at: PDF Download
[Accessed 13 February 2021]
AccountAbility, 2008. AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AA1000SES) [pdf] Available at:
PDF Download [Accessed 19 March 2013]
Neil Jeffrey, 2009. Stakeholder Engagement: A Road Map to Meaningful Engagement [pdf] Available at:
PDF Download [Accessed 13 February 2021]
Altria Corporate Services, Inc., 2004. Stakeholder Engagement Planning Overview [pdf] Available at:
PDF Download [Accessed 13 February 2021]
Bryan W. Husted and David Bruce Allen, (2010).Corporate Social Strategy: Stakeholder Engagement and Competitive Advantage, Cambridge University Press.
Stakeholder Engagement resources5 Key Ways to Engage with Stakeholder
60 Stakeholder Engagement Approaches
5 Tips on Presenting to Stakeholders
Get a list of Questions to Help you Identify your Stakeholders.
Get a list of Questions to Help you Analyse your Stakeholders.
What is a Stakeholder? Mind Map
Stakeholders - List of 105 Typical Stakeholders
FREE Stakeholder Analysis Power/Interest Template
Basic Stakeholder Analysis Method