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Eight key tips to effective stakeholder management and community engagement

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Creating effective stakeholder management strategies is often easier said than done – there is no “one size fits all” approach. Here are my tips to delivering best practice stakeholder engagement solutions.

1. Always seek and share knowledge.

Read widely and always ask questions. Get together with people in similar roles and in the industry to understand the lessons learned on their projects so that you don’t make the same mistakes. Forget about competitor advantage…let’s engage in tried and tested ways with our stakeholders. As well as seeking advice from others, be sure to share your own experiences.

For the not so experienced among us, start going to courses and conferences. The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) hosts various professional development events, training days and networking occasions throughout the year.

2. Get connected.

Use the amazing technologies we have available to us today to get a feel for what’s going on in your communities. For example, seek ideas and solutions from others in the industry through Engagement Forums on LinkedIn. Use this information to formulate stakeholder management strategies and plans.

3. Be prepared to re-evaluate.

Your stakeholder management strategies and plans are just the beginning. If you are not changing aspects of it throughout the course of your project, you are not listening to your stakeholders.

4. Expand your experience.

Choose positions that challenge you and help you to grow as a professional. From regional to urban environments, from no landowners to 100 landowners…think of everything you do as an opportunity to learn more and contribute to the field.

5. Be transparent.

Utilise existing forums to spread your message. Give them the truth, don’t spin – stakeholders are savvy, and more often than not, they will see right through this. Understand what is negotiable and not negotiable on your project, and what you have control over. Stakeholders will respect that. Always reconfirm any verbal promises in writing, either through emails or letters. That way, there are no surprises to any parties.

6. Be an influencer, but pick your battles.

Remember that you are the voice for stakeholders, but you must balance the needs of your project with the needs of your community. Try to think outside the box and offer solutions that accommodate both the community and your project.

7. Use your uniqueness to your advantage.

One of the most important things that I’ve learned during my time on projects is that communication professionals think differently. This, plus the fact that I am a woman, has assisted me greatly in offering different perspectives on problems throughout my career. Use your unique qualities and skills to your advantage.

8. Find a mentor.

Engage with a mentor that you respect in the stakeholder management field. Ask lots of questions, and draw on their experience to assist in mitigating issues or finding solutions.

A blog post by Carmen Marshall, Infrastructure Project Director at P4 Group.