How to engage effectively with stakeholders in the new communications environment is of critical importance to all organisations. While we all know why stakeholders matter to our success, how to approach stakeholder engagement in a way that delivers organisational value is less well understood.

Following the success of our first coaching session on smarter stakeholder engagement in Zurich this May, the EACD and Leidar (www.leidar.com) hosted a second coaching day in Geneva on September 14.  

During the coaching session, communications professionals from a variety of corporations, NGOs and government entities from Switzerland, Germany and France shared the experiences and challenges they face making sense of the stakeholder landscape to deliver their organisation’s message in a compelling way. Together with my colleague Lukasz Bochenek (managing director, Switzerland), we shared trends, data and cutting edge approaches to help them sense check their organisation’s current and desired stakeholder engagement.

Lukasz led a discussion on trends in big data, strategic engagement and the role of analytic tools such as Netnograph (a partnership of Leidar and Tree Intelligence for deep understanding of stakeholder and influencer networks) to make sense of fast moving and complex stakeholder relationships. A key takeaway was that the idea that we can automate stakeholder mapping and engagement is a myth. No matter how state-of-the-art the technology and system, there is no substitute for human intelligence to build and manage it – and to interpret and apply the outputs.

In my discussion, I focused on the role of small data (e.g., qualitative and quantitative research) to ensure our messages and content have the greatest impact. I highlighted the ways organisations were adapting to changes in the communications landscape, including how they are increasingly managing brand and reputation together to ensure marketing and corporate communications are aligned. Active listening to the audiences that are key to organisational success – whether consumers or other stakeholders – remains the main ingredient for effective campaigns.

Both Lukasz and I stressed the need for successful engagement to start with a clear articulation of what matters most to the organisation. Once we have set our compass, it becomes much easier to identify who matters to our success. Smarter engagement involves mapping these influencers, learning what matters to them and creating content and platforms that reinforce shared interests.

Phil Riggins is brand and reputation lead, London, for Leidar.