To innovate internally or to bring about change externally, you’ll usually need the support of stakeholders – those closest to your organisation and your work.

This short guide will help you to engage and influence stakeholders, to put you in the best position for success.

Know who you’re targeting

It may sound like stating the obvious but the first thing to do is to identify who your stakeholders are. And not just who they are but how they link together, how they relate to your organisation, what role they play and their attitude towards the change you want to bring about – they may not all be favourable.

Decide how you want to influence each stakeholder – do you need to confirm their existing view or change it to win support? Which groups or individuals are the most important or powerful? Don’t forget your colleagues and trustees – stakeholders are internal as well as external. If you’ve done a stakeholder mapping exercise already, check when it was carried out as it may need updating.

Set out your goal

You could be embarking on a new campaign, seeking to broaden support for an existing project, or initiating a re-brand or change in direction for your organisation. The role your stakeholders play will be different depending on what you want to achieve, so it’s important to be clear about it. Develop a simple narrative that can easily be shared and decide on the best way of communicating it to each group.

Involve your stakeholders

Involve them as early as you can so they feel included, valued and able to contribute. Ask for their expertise, questions and feedback. By making them part of the process they will be more likely to be positive towards you and your goal. Have a clear plan for managing input so that you’re not distracted from your overall aim.

Events can be a cost effective way of involving a range of stakeholders alongside your in-house team. ‘Open Space’ and ‘World Café’ formats are structured but free-thinking environments for sharing ideas, generating outcomes and improving working relationships for current and future goals.

Increase their buy-in

You need to show each stakeholder the advantages for them and/or the organisation’s service users or beneficiaries. Make your message relevant to each one and avoid using jargon. You might be able to give them first-hand experience by involving them directly in your work. Do you have ‘enthusiasts’ within your organisation who you can use to inspire commitment to change? You should also think about anticipated outcomes or evidence you can offer stakeholders to support your arguments.

Show as well as tell

Remember, many of your stakeholders won’t know your work as well as you do, so don’t make assumptions. Stories are a potent tool for informing and influencing. Think about demonstrating your desired outcome with images, a short film or animation. You could also consider personal testimony from a service user.

Keep the conversation going

Attitudes won’t necessarily change straight away so update stakeholders at every stage. Think about the right form of communication not only to reach but to engage each group, to maintain their interest and their continued support.

Involve your stakeholders in your evaluation process. What’s working from their perspective and what isn’t? How do they now feel about your organisation? Their feedback can be a valuable source of information in terms of the process you used and its outcome.

Evaluate your success

At the end, make all of the groups involved part of your evaluation process. You should also assess how successfully you influenced the stakeholders. Repeat the mapping process you carried out at the beginning and check where they are now positioned – what new links have been formed, how is your organisation now regarded, how have staff attitudes changed and do you have greater external support? You can use this information to maintain those attitudes and relationships going forward.

As with all strategic communications work, it is well worth investing time and energy in understanding and engaging stakeholders properly. It will make change and innovation much more effective in the long run.

Winning stakeholder support

Take a look at
our other resources


Winning stakeholder support

More about
what we do