Identifying your stakeholders and their needs

A stakeholder is someone who has an interest in, or will be impacted or affected by a proposed change. This includes the whole range of people from impacted individuals, communities and groups, to knowledgeable experts, implementers and those who will be held ultimately responsible, e.g. Chief Executives, Ministers, etc.

To identify your stakeholders and their needs you will need to:

Conduct a stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder analysis involves identifying and defining types of stakeholders, mapping their interests and determining the best stakeholder engagement strategy to use.

Stakeholder analysis helps to identify:

  • an overall picture of who is involved and how
  • the interests of stakeholders in relation to the project’s objective(s)
  • which stakeholders will be directly affected by the engagement outcome
  • which stakeholders could directly affect the engagement outcome
  • any potential conflicts of interest
  • the needs of your target community and stakeholders
  • the context you are engaging in
  • how best to reach and engage with your stakeholders.

It is especially useful if your objective is to reach a targeted network of stakeholders and invite them to participate in your engagement.

Key questions to answer for each stakeholder:

  • What is their interest/how will they be impacted and how much?
  • What is the benefit to the project of their engagement?
  • What is the benefit to the stakeholder of their engagement?
  • What is their level of influence over the project outcomes?
  • What is their level of influence over other stakeholders’ views?
  • What is their history of engagement?
  • What do you think is their likely level of support for the project objectives?
  • What do you need from them?
  • What do they need from you?
  • What is the risk of engaging or not engaging with them?
  • How can you lower the barriers to their engagement?
  • Who else has recently or is currently engaging with them and how might this impact their engagement with you?

You can then use the interest/impact, benefits, influence, and risks for each stakeholder to help you determine how best to manage your engagement with them.

You should also consider how your engagement approach needs to change over time for each stakeholder as they become more or less engaged.

Determine if your stakeholders have been engaged before

We recommend talking to others who may have engaged with your stakeholder in the past.

Do this to:

  • understand the history and status of your organisation's relationship with the stakeholder
  • understand their interests and issues that have gone unresolved
  • demonstrate that your agency has been listening
  • ensure you are aware of unresolved issues
  • reduce risk, build trust and increase the likelihood of an effective engagement.

You should maintain records of your contact and communications with stakeholders to:

  • make it easier for others engaging stakeholders on behalf of your agency in future
  • ensure corporate knowledge is retained
  • ensure issues are addressed
  • retain the value of investment made by you and your stakeholders.

A stakeholder management system will help you maintain such records.

Create a profile of your target community

Community profiling can give more context to your stakeholder analysis. It will provide a demographic snapshot of the geographic area of the project. You can profile the community using census data.

If you are engaging openly but trying to reach a representative sample of the population you can use your profiles to determine whether the people who have engaged represent the community. You can then adapt your approach to ensure you reach those who have not yet participated.

Consider the social, technical, economic and political context

When you are engaging your stakeholders, it’s important to consider the social, technical, economic and political (STEP) context. STEP is concept developed by the World Bank citizen engagement team.

You should consider questions such as:

  • Are there any social and economic issues you should be aware of?
  • Do you need to take into account literacy, language or cultural considerations?
  • Is there any political sensitivity around the topic you are discussing?
  • How technical are your stakeholders?
  • Will they be able to access the internet and online tools for engagement?
  • How can you help them engage?

The 2006 Adult Literacy and Life Skills (ALL) Survey found that 44% of employed New Zealanders had low levels of literacy (measured as Level 1 or 2). If you are engaging in areas with low levels of literacy and diverse languages and cultures, consider speaking to local educational institutions, community and cultural groups about the best ways to communicate, reach and engage individuals and social networks in that community.

Conduct research to understand stakeholder issues and needs

Be aware that not all engagement will be though channels that you control. Stakeholders will have their own channels and will engage on the topic independently of your engagement activity. It pays to actively listen to what is being said about your topic before, during and after your engagement project.

“Listening online” is the use of specialist tools to monitor and report on data. You can listen online at any point in time with a review of hashtags, keywords and locations. The configuration of specialist monitoring and reporting tools will help you monitor and report on the huge volumes of data online that will be available.

Using the right tools to monitor and analyse ‘big data’, you’ll get a deeper appreciation of local and regional issues and needs. You will also gain more insight about how to tailor communication, programs and services for your community and specific stakeholder groups.

Consider how you are going to reach stakeholders online and offline

Online and offline social and professional networks enable us to find others with common interests, so we can share ideas and information. Mapping these relationships and content online will help you identify creative ways to reach your stakeholders and earn trust and referral. It can also help you understand social influence, political context and potential risks.

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