The Ultimate Guide to Stakeholder Management for Your Marketing Projects

Any experienced marketer knows that without a clear vision and harmonious communication, complex marketing projects are doomed to fail. If these two key factors are missing, team members will become frustrated and demoralized, and your results will suffer.

Statistics from Workamajig reflect this reality: 29% of projects fail because of poor communication and 29% of projects fail because of an inadequate project vision or goal.

stakeholder project failure causes

Project managers, who have a clear vision of a project and who communicate effectively, will prove themselves invaluable and will guide their project to a successful conclusion

Let’s take a closer look at the science of stakeholder management. In this post, we’ll:

  1. Present a clear definition of stakeholder management
  2. Outline the step-by-step stakeholder management process for marketing projects
  3. Work through the critical stakeholder management skills you’ll need to build
  4. Examine three examples of stakeholder management
  5. Explore exactly how you can build a solid stakeholder management plan

Let’s take your projects to the next level with excellent stakeholder management.

What Exactly Is Stakeholder Management (and Why Is It Vital)?

Stakeholder management refers to the processes and techniques that project managers use to engage, manage, and guide the various stakeholders involved in a project.

Stakeholders can be any internal or external groups that might have a positive or negative impact on the outcome of your project.

The experienced project manager understands the difficulties that can arise when managing people. This can happen because, individually, each team member has their own personality, perspective, and priorities; and, as a group, they are impacted by broader trends within the workplace. Bruce Tulgan has outlined them as follows:

  1. The pace of work is increasing
  2. Workplaces struggle with training and wisdom transfer
  3. There are fewer layers of management today
  4. There is constant pressure to improve productivity and quality
  5. Teams are more interdependent than ever before

The project manager needs to mitigate the impact of those factors and carry out flawless stakeholder management.

To do so, they’ll need to define a clear process, develop the right skills, and craft a winning plan.

(We’ll show you how to do all of that in this post.)

This video from Mike Clayton, on Online PM Courses, does a great job of defining stakeholder management – and how it differs from stakeholder engagement:

Why Stakeholder Management is Vital to Successful Projects

The various stakeholders, who are involved in your project, are a critical resource. Whether they commissioned the project, work on it, or provide feedback, they must be engaged and informed at all times.

However, all too often, those stakeholders are not managed properly and this causes them to:

  • Grow frustrated
  • Feel demotivated
  • Work improperly

That is the reason why it is so important that project managers pull out all the stops to make sure their stakeholders are managed and engaged properly.

What does the Stakeholder Management Process for Marketing Projects Look Like? (Step-by-Step)

Now that we have a better idea of what we mean by stakeholder management, let’s examine the common stakeholder management process for an average marketing project.

There are five key steps:

  1. Identify Your Stakeholders
  2. Document Your Stakeholders
  3. Assess and Clarify
  4. Develop your Engagement Plan
  5. Monitor and Update

Let’s explore each of those in more depth.

identify stakeholders

The first step is to identify the appropriate stakeholders. These are the people – internal or external – that you’ll need to communicate with over the course of the project.

They might include people, such as :

  • Employees
  • External partners (such as Agencies)
  • Decision makers
  • Shareholders
  • Customers

It’s important that you identify all of the necessary stakeholders and collect accurate personal information along the way. This will help you to keep every single stakeholder in the loop from the very beginning of, and throughout, your project.

You should maintain a list of those stakeholders in an Excel or Google Sheets file (we’ll provide you with a useful template that you can use later).

document stakeholders

Once you have identified all the relevant stakeholders, you’ll need to collect important information about them. Some of this will include practical information, such as the stakeholder’s name and contact information.

However, you’ll also need to learn more about your stakeholders and to record that information in the document that you have created. These additional pieces of information might be more abstract, but they can help you manage your stakeholders more effectively.

Here are some questions that you’ll want to be able to answer, in order to understand your stakeholders on a deeper level:

  • Why is this stakeholder interested in your project?
  • What motivates your stakeholders?
  • What information will this stakeholder need to receive over the course of the project?
  • Which communication channel(s) does this stakeholder prefer?
  • Is this stakeholder currently satisfied with our work?
  • What will influence these stakeholders’ opinion(s) of our work?
  • Who will influence the opinions of this stakeholder?

The answers to these questions will help you to see your project through your stakeholders’ perspectives. This, in turn, can help you manage, and communicate with them more effectively.

classify stakeholders

Now that you have a more vivid picture of your stakeholders, it’s time for you to assess their role within your project and to classify them. One way to do this is to place your stakeholders on a Power/Interest Grid.

The Power/Interest Grid helps you to position your stakeholders onto a grid, depending on their power over your project and their interest in it. This makes it easier for you to segment your stakeholders, so that you can manage and communicate with them more effectively. For example, you might want to provide frequent and timely updates to one group of relevant stakeholders, while keeping communications to a minimum for the others.

Here’s a clear example of the Power/Interest Grid from Mind Tools:

stakeholder management power interest grid

Here’s a breakdown of the four different groups within the Power/Interest Grid, and how you might deal with them:

  1. High power, low interest: You’ll need to satisfy these stakeholders with quality work, but avoid boring them with frequent updates.
  2. High power, high interest: You’ll need to engage these stakeholders fully, and try as hard as possible to satisfy them.
  3. Low power, low interest: These stakeholders should be loosely monitored, but they don’t need to be provided with constant updates.
  4. Low power, high interest: These stakeholders should be kept in the loop and they’re a useful resource when it comes to collecting feedback and input.
develop stakeholder engagement plan

Now that you have assessed and classified your stakeholders into four distinct groups, you’ll find it much easier to develop a logical and effective engagement plan.

Let’s examine how you might develop an engagement plan that takes the specific needs of your four groups into consideration:

  1. High power, low interest
    1. Management: Keep these stakeholders satisfied without overwhelming them
    2. Updates: Send only key updates to these stakeholders
    3. Communication channels: Email and in-person meetings
    4. Meetings: Only invite these stakeholders to high-level meetings
    5. Approval: Request final approval from these stakeholders
  2. High power, high interest
    1. Management: Manage these stakeholders closely
    2. Updates: Send regular updates and reports to these stakeholders
    3. Communication channels: Email, in-person meetings, messages
    4. Meetings: Involve these stakeholders in high-level meetings and weekly roundups
    5. Approval: Request intermittent approval from these stakeholders
  3. Low power, low interest
    1. Management: Loosely monitor these stakeholders
    2. Updates: Dispatch intermittent updates
    3. Communication channels: Email
    4. Meetings: Not necessary/as appropriate
    5. Approval: Not necessary
  4. Low power, high interest
    1. Management: Loosely monitor these stakeholders
    2. Updates: Dispatch regular updates
    3. Communication channels: Email
    4. Meetings: Not necessary/as appropriate
    5. Approval: Ask these stakeholders to review project collaterals

The above is a simple example of how you might shape your engagement plan. Remember that the exact details of your own plan will vary greatly, according to your stakeholders and the nature of your project.

monitor stakeholders

It’s very important that you carefully monitor and update your stakeholder management process over the course of your project. Some stakeholders will leave the project for various reasons, and others will need to be reclassified according to their availability and existing commitments.

If you maintain your process diligently and keep it updated, you’ll be able to better manage your stakeholders, so that they can get the best results for your project.

Your stakeholders will appreciate your attention to detail and your tact when it comes to communicating with them. This can inspire feelings of goodwill that can keep your stakeholders committed to the success of your project.

What Are the Important Stakeholder Management Skills You Need to Build? (incl. Useful Resources)

As you can see, stakeholder management is no easy task. Here’s a list of six key stakeholder management skills that you’ll need to develop in order to succeed each day.

1. Preempt and resolve disputes

Workplace conflict is often an unfortunate consequence when people work together on complex projects. According to a CPP Inc. study, 385 million working days are lost each year, in the U.S., because of workplace conflict.

To mitigate the risk of conflict among your stakeholders, you’ll need to identify any potential disputes and resolve them before, or as they arise. This means developing your social skills and sense of tact so that you can keep everyone satisfied.

This video walks you through some conflict resolution techniques and discusses the pros and cons of each:

2. Develop clear written and verbal communication

As the project manager, it’s your job to do everything in your power to keep confusion at bay. You need to communicate clearly and efficiently with all of your stakeholders to ensure everybody stays on the same page.

It’s important to take the time to improve your communication skills. Here are nine communication tips from Joel Harfinkle:

  1. Make communication a priority
  2. Simplify and stay on message
  3. Engage your listeners or readers
  4. Take time to respond
  5. Make sure you understand
  6. Develop your listening skills
  7. Focus on body language
  8. Maintain eye contact
  9. Respect your audience

3. Learn to build strong relationships

As the project stakeholder, you act as the center of the network. All of your stakeholder groups will rely on you for instruction and updates, so you have to learn how to develop strong relationships with your colleagues.

This article from Beth Fisher-Yoshida, over at Inc., does a great job of outlining five ways to develop more meaningful relationships at work.

develop meaningful work relationships

4. Influence your stakeholders

You’re the project manager, so it’s critical that you’re able to champion your own strategy naturally and demonstrate conviction in your own decisions. Rather than responding to the whims of your stakeholders, you must be able to influence them and win them over.

There are a number of techniques available to do this. Have you read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie? It’s a great option that’s definitely worth picking up.

win friends influence people book

5. Quickly retain and share information

Because you’re the project manager, your stakeholders will often ask you questions about the specifics of your project. This means that you’ll have to learn how to retain information quickly, and how to share it, so that everyone stays on the same page.

The Science Explorer proposes seven great techniques that you can use to accelerate the speed with which you can memorize and absorb information. You might just find that this article opens up some interesting new avenues for you to explore.

memorize information faster

6. Practice being decisive

One of the most challenging parts of project management is being decisive. Project managers are presented with countless suggestions and options, and you’ve got to learn how to make the right calls for your team and how to stick to your guns.

This video from Time Management and Productivity examines how to develop a strong decision-making process that can make you more decisive.

3 Stakeholder Management Examples that will Inspire You to Get Started

Are you ready to explore the real-world power of stakeholder management? Let’s look at three challenging scenarios, examine how stakeholder management techniques can be applied, and discover what the results are.

Managing the review process for a marketing video that has multiple stakeholders

Our collective appetite for high-quality video content is growing. In fact, Cisco estimates that by 2022, 82% of all consumer internet traffic will be made up of online videos.

This means that, if you want your video content to stand out from the ever-increasing crowd, it’s vital that you manage your project flawlessly. However, any project manager, who has tackled a video project, will know that’s no easy task.

Let’s look at the most common stakeholder management challenges that you’ll encounter while overseeing a video project, the interventions that you can make, and the results that you can expect to see.

Potential issues when there is no stakeholder management

A video project without effective stakeholder management is a recipe for disaster. When stakeholder management is absent, you will often experience:

Lots of back and forth between review rounds

Video projects are particularly challenging for project managers, as there’s often the potential for lots of back and forth between the stakeholders. For example, you might find that your video is passed back and forth between the video and audio teams, during the review and approval rounds.

If you fail to manage your stakeholders effectively in the review and approval processes, you’ll quickly find that the quality of the work itself will suffer.

A discordant final result

Video projects are often long and complex undertakings. The video needs to pass through multiple project phases and, without the appropriate stakeholder management, this could mean that the unifying vision is lost.

This lack of cohesive vision could mean that your video loses its focus and fails to deliver on the initial creative brief.

Frustration and conflict

Over the course of an average video project, you’ll have to make lots of decisions and to provide guidance along the way. If you fail to deliver in this area of stakeholder management, you might find that the wrong people are making the wrong decisions.

This can foster resentment and create conflict, which eventually affects the overall quality of the video that you create.

The stakeholder management process

If you’re going to avoid these potential issues, you’ll need to ensure your stakeholder management is committed and decisive.

When it comes to video projects, in particular, you’ll need to make sure that you deliver:

Guidance during the review and approval phase

It’s critical that you manage your key stakeholders closely throughout the review and approval phase. Your guidance will keep everybody on the same page and expedite the process as efficiently as possible.

A clear vision

You’ll need to fulfill your stakeholder management plan to keep your stakeholders updated and inspired. Your belief in the project and your ability to communicate clearly will help you to share a clear vision that guides your video to completion.

Great decision making

Over the course of your video project, you’ll be called on to make countless important decisions. You’ll need to use your stakeholder management abilities to communicate those decisions and to secure buy-in from your colleagues.

Benefits of stakeholder management

If you can manage your stakeholders effectively, over the course of your video project, you’ll reduce the potential for confusion and conflict. Effective stakeholder management will also empower you to lift the quality of your finished product and keep your team members happy along the way.

Would you like more information about managing video projects? Read our piece on how to establish a smooth video production workflow in 2020.

Creating product brochures at scale for a range of products

Product brochures are a very effective way for businesses to share the benefits of their products and services. However, businesses often need to produce multiple product brochures, in order to cover their full range and to cater to diverse audiences.

This can result in a challenging project for project managers to handle.

Potential issues when there is no stakeholder management

Here are some of the key issues that you might experience when correct stakeholder management is lacking.

Conflicting and confusing information

Without proper stakeholder management, inaccurate information could be injected into the project and this, in turn, could affect the accuracy of the final brochures.

Therefore, it is vital that project managers collect the appropriate information from the correct stakeholders. In this way, only proven and accurate information will be reflected in the product brochures.

Issues with suppliers

Project managers will also need to handle the printing and distribution of the final brochures,. It’s important that those logistics are as flawless as possible and that the printing is done within a strict budget.

Miscommunication at this stage of the game could prove very damaging to the success of the project, so it’s important that project managers also manage external stakeholders effectively.

Unclear approval

Once a brochure goes to print, there’s no going back. If a project manager fails to exercise control over the review and approval processes, the quality of the final brochure can be compromised.

Therefore, it’s critical that project managers accomplish the review and approval processes flawlessly to avoid any mistakes or misinformation going to print.

The stakeholder management process

Here are some of the key steps that project managers can take, to coordinate effective stakeholder management:

Craft clear review and approval processes

It’s critical that project managers develop robust and well-planned review and approval processes. This can help to manage stakeholders and to keep everybody on the same page, so that the final product brochure is of the highest possible quality.

Maintain clear communication

Over the course of the brochure project, it’s the project manager’s responsibility to keep the lines of communication open. This facilitates the sharing of clear information and in turn contributes to a quality brochure.

Engage external stakeholders

Project managers will need to work their stakeholder management magic, to create harmony between internal and external stakeholders. The best project managers incorporate external stakeholders into their planning from the beginning.

Benefits of stakeholder management

It’s clear that if a project manager pays close attention to stakeholder management, during the brochure project, the entire team will benefit. This is why it makes sense to invest time into planning, at the start of a project.

Are you interested in learning more about how to create the perfect product brochure? Read our piece on how to optimize the design process with a lot of stakeholders.

Collaborating on print ads with an external agency

There are often times when a project manager needs to coordinate a greater number of internal and external stakeholders. In those instances, it’s critical that they develop a robust stakeholder management strategy.

In this example, we’ll examine the steps that project managers should take when collaborating on print ads with an external agency.

Potential issues when there is no stakeholder management

Project managers might experience a few common issues in this type of scenario:

A lack of consensus

It’s critical that print ads are reviewed and approved by all of the senior team members involved in the project. Without an effective stakeholder management plan, project managers will find it hard to guarantee that this is the case.

Ineffective communication methods

The introduction of external stakeholders means that project managers will need to be open to a number of communication channels and techniques. A stakeholder management plan will ensure that project managers can manage project-related communication effectively.

Issues with logistics

In this type of project, project managers need to pay particular attention to the coordination of important logistics such as printing, meetings, and communication channels. Project managers will find this much easier when they manage their stakeholders effectively.

The stakeholder management process

It’s not an easy task to manage a number of stakeholders when you’re working with an external agency. Here are some of the stakeholder management processes that project managers can integrate into the workflow:

Use the right collaboration platforms

The exchange of files and information can be quite a challenge on these projects. That’s why it’s critical that project managers select and implement the appropriate content review tools. The project manager should also champion those tools by using stakeholder management techniques.

Coordinate regular meetings

Regular meetings are critical to the success of these types of projects. Project managers need to invest the appropriate amount of time into structuring and scheduling meetings, and then they should ensure that everybody attends and contributes.

The benefits of stakeholder management

Working with an external agency always introduces an element of risk, but robust stakeholder management can give project managers the power to avoid any pitfalls.

Are you looking for only the very best document collaboration tools? Read our piece on the 20+ document collaboration tools that will save your projects.

Here’s how to Build a Solid Stakeholder Management Plan

A stakeholder management plan is a critical tool for effectively engaging and managing your project stakeholders. This tool can help you to:

  • Determine how to manage your stakeholders
  • Outline when and how to communicate 
  • Structure your communications with your stakeholders
  • Share timely updates with your stakeholders
  • Motivate and inspire your team members

It’s always worth creating a specific plan, but you can also use a template to get started. In this spirit, we’ve created a free template for a stakeholder management plan, just for you:

This template is very easy to use. Simply create a copy of the document and you’ll be ready to start adding in key information about your stakeholders, right away.

Conclusion

We hope that this piece helps you to take your stakeholder management to the next level. Strategy and planning are a big part of stakeholder management, but so too is choosing the right tools for the job.

You need to choose high-quality tools that will excite and energize your stakeholders rather than frustrate them.

If you need to review any of the visual content, including images or video, be sure to start your free Filestage trial and demo.