How To Write A Good Communications Plan – Part 4 – Stakeholder Analysis

This is the fourth in a series of posts exploring how to create a good communications plan.

Last time we examined how to paint the broader picture through your environmental scan. This time we’ll look at your stakeholder analysis.

Stakeholder Analysis

Yes/No This is the last of your initial ‘setting the stage’ sections. You’ve already looked at the context for what you’re doing and the broader environment it fits within. Now it’s time to consider the people and organizations that have a stake in your initiative.

An important note: For the sake of simplicity I’ve had to put these three posts in a specific order. In reality you may put them together concurrently, and there’s often overlap between them. For example, stakeholders may crop up frequently in your environmental scan. That’s fine. What’s important is that you think through all of these areas so you don’t overlook something that may come back to bite you later.

While your entire comm plan should flow logically and clearly link sections, your stakeholder analysis in particular will link to numerous other parts of your communications plan. Bear this in mind now, and refer back to this section frequently when working on later parts of the plan.

Your stakeholder analysis should cover everyone who’s truly affected by your initiative. Here are a few things to consider:

  • What are the positions of each stakeholder on this initiative?
  • How do you expect each stakeholder to react to what you’re doing
    • Look at your previous experiences with each stakeholder
      • Do you expect them to be outspoken?
      • Might they express their concerns privately or are they more likely to use the media?
  • How might you use the support of those you expect to react positively?
    • Attendance at a potential media event?
    • Supportive quote in media materials?
    • Local angle on the announcement?
  • How can you mitigate the concerns of those you expect to react negatively?
    • Can you brief them in advance?
    • Can you consult with them on what you’re doing before announcing it widely?
    • How will you respond to their concerns if you can’t mitigate them?

The most common gap I’ve seen in communications plans is a failure to identify potential negative reactions. The “ostrich approach” rarely works. You’re not doing anyone favours by pretending people won’t react negatively when you expect them to do so.

You’ll often find that for a given initiative, in the public sector anyway, a small percentage of stakeholders will be highly supportive and a small percentage will be ardently critical. If you picture reactions on a continuum, they’re the groups at either end. There’s not much you can do to change their opinions. The stakeholders you want to influence are in the middle.

More than most parts of my experience, the stakeholder analysis is very much framed by my public sector work. How do you approach this part of your planning process? Is this completely different on the agency side or the private sector?

The “Communications Plan” Series

This is the fourth in a series of posts on communications planning. To read more of the series, check out a summary of the posts so far or pick from the previous posts:

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.