How to get engaged (with your stakeholders)

What better day than 14th February to think about getting engaged? Last week I came across the kind of document I love to see: a short, snappy, practical summary of some tools for analysing stakeholders from IDS. The authors explain four key tools; some are pretty familiar to marketing folk e.g. Alignment Interest Matrix (AIM), while others are less commonly seen outside of development, such as Participatory Impact Pathways Analysis.

It got me thinking about some of the ways people working in fields such as marketing, organisational change, etc. look at stakeholders and whether these might be of relevance to people wanting to engage research stakeholders.

One tool that I think is under-used is Peter Block’s matrix which positions stakeholders in term of level of Trust and Agreement with you. It takes the AIM tool a step further to factor in relationships between people and I’ve found it really helpful when I’m in situations where how much people like me is my only source of power. I often use it when I’m teaching project management (given that project managers often have to cajole people to contribute when they have no hierarchical mandate). I imagine it could be useful for think tanks who are trying to influence stakeholders with whom they have some level of existing relationships (negative or positive).

The Block matrix is explained nicely by the TeamSTAR Project with some advice on how to work with each group e.g. with Opponents (where there’s trust but disagreement) are people you can have a constructive discussion with because you already have an established relationship and may end up reviewing your viewpoint or reframing it. Sticking with Peter Block and the power of personal connections (this post is fast becoming a Valentine’s card to his work…) his “six conversations” methodology for civic engagement is really worth a read.

Finally, a shameless plug for something I wrote for IDS. The Organisational Decision Making Unit (or the buying centre) is a nifty piece of marketing thinking that people working in research uptake might consider to identify who your stakeholders might be influenced by. I’ve tried to find a development-friendly summary online but am stumped (please tell me if you find one) so meanwhile check out p.17 of Who Are We Aiming To Reach?


No more tiers: five things that can take the pain out of decentralised marketing communications

Marketing communications is no longer just the responsibility of those with the words in their job title. Many organisations require staff in different roles to incorporate promotion, dissemination and general news-spreading into their workload. This decentralisation of marketing communications has the potential to be very effective, however it doesn’t happen by itself. Here are five things I have observed can make
a difference:

Motivation – whether from the results people hope marketing communications will bring, or from enjoying the process (using new tools, using their imagination, doing something tangible, interacting with real people, etc.). On the other hand, if staff can’t see a personal benefit to doing it, they are less likely to allocate time to it or have the enthusiasm that successful marketing communications depends on. When did a reluctant marketer every convince you to do anything?

Time – staff need genuine encouragement from their managers that they should prioritise spending time on marketing communications over other activities, rather than it being something to be done in addition to their current workload. If not, it’ll either languish at the bottom of the “to do” list making people feel depressed every time they see it, or it will get done but staff are likely to become stressed and de-motivated.

Freedom – giving people the space and permission to experiment with new communication tools, to come up with their own ideas, and make (inevitable) mistakes. But they also need to be clear what the boundaries are: e.g. house-style guidelines, approval processes, legal restrictions, etc. Staff might surprise you with their innovation and unearth hidden talents.

Focus – when people know what the specific purpose is for their marketing communications, who it should be aimed at and have measurable targets, they can use their time more effectively and see how well they are doing. Realistic, measurable targets can help with Motivation. It helps if your organisation has identified its niche (in comparison to others in the sector) and how to select which target audiences to prioritise.

Support – this can include peer support mechanisms (e.g. meetings where people can share their experiences, ideas and challenges with others), having someone to ask for technical advice or feedback, reference tools, and a champion or cheerleader for marketing communications who will persuade people to keep going. Perhaps a role for the Marketing or Communications Officer?

These are observations from a number of organisations working in the development and public sectors. How do they fit with your experiences?

(This post was originally featured on my earlier blog, Positive Influence. I’ve been told the advice and observations are still as relevant as ever, hence its reappearance here)