7 Ways to Communicate with Your Stakeholders

28 May

The most important element in stakeholder communications is identifying the target audience. Be deliberate and seek out input from all known groups to find the unknown groups. It can be tough when too late in the project a critical person or group is identified that has not received any of the communication through course of project and has valuable links that need to be addressed. So make sure you avoid this scenario and take all the steps early to create a document with all stakeholders you need to manage communication with. Once you have that the ways below can help you keep communication active, frequent and ongoing collaboration so there is strong support for you project.

Formal Methods for Communicating– If they don’t exist already, create them. Make occasions when info should be presented.

1. Meetings – One of the most common ways to communicate. They can vary from only 1 person to thousands based on message and audience appropriate. It is up to you to maximize every minute of the time spent to have dialogue. Make sure it is a dialogue and not a monologue. It is the best way as you have the verbal and non verbal cues that enhance the communication and avoid misinterpretation.

2. Conference Calls– These days this is the most common as it does not require the time and expense of travel. The dialogue can take place though its dependant on voice intonation and clarity of the verbal message. They only require cost of phone call and there are many paid and free services that will facilitate use of a conference call line for many people to dial into. Its also a common way for classes to be recorded and replayed when its convenient for you.

3. Newsletters/ Email/ Posters – This strategy is one way communication and utilizes emailed updates, hard copy brochures, posters, newsletters mailed or emailed. One of the weaknesses is that messages are delivered and you cannot guage if they were read and understood, deleted as sometimes there is no feedback. That immediate feedback is valuable for strengthening your message and making sure impacts and feedback are quickly received.

Informal Methods – It is important to not only rely on formal channels but to utilize informal communication as well. The impromptu channels are often more information rich and critical for relationship building.

4. Hallway Conversations, Bathroom conversations – These meetings are great for one on one communication, but also be clear and do not establish false expectations with casual comments dropped.

5. Lunch Meetings, Drink at the bar after work – These casual environments can be great for connecting, getting feedback, ideas, and work to build support

6. Sporting events – tennis, golf, etc are an easy forum to get the input on what support exists, feedback on ideas, brainstorming to strengthen your communication and build stakeholder support

7. Voice mail – this is often underutilized since email is so common but still shown to be more often listened to than an email will be read. By using voice intonation for excitement, urgency, etc it can be more compelling. This can be a solo voice mail, a voice mail broadcast to large team or you could pursue use of automated calling to get the word out depending on the size of audience

Project Communication Plans

Its not enough to just have a plan. It is critical to seek to understand what your stakeholders desire both spoken and unspoken. The expectations must be carefully managed from beginning to end. Every team and project varies in its rate of change, so pick the most advantageous communication channel, frequency and make sure its effective. Just as having the plan is important, monitoring its effectiveness, adding and canceling supplemental ways of communicating will be required.

Communication is a constant, error on the side of over communicating as there are always people that didn’t hear, understand or make connection when they heard it the first time.

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