Effective stakeholder management is crucial for any government affairs team, whether it's for a specific initiative or a long-term campaign. Stakeholder management involves identifying, engaging, and communicating with all individuals and groups that may be affected by your issues. By doing so, you and your organization can better understand their needs and goals, build stronger relationships, and manage risks more effectively.
In this blog post, we'll explore 11 key benefits of stakeholder management for government affairs and how it can lead to successful outcomes for your organization.
1. Understanding Stakeholder Needs
Engaging with stakeholders is a crucial part of a successful government affairs strategy because it allows you to better connect with all parties involved in your issues and understand their needs and goals. You can achieve this through interviews, surveys, and feedback sessions, to name a few.
Let’s say you work in government relations for an environmental organization that is concerned, in part, with saving sea turtles. Your stakeholders could include senior leaders at the organization, lawmakers who can help pass legislation that promotes sea turtle nesting and wellbeing, and your supporters, who love sea turtles and are willing to take action to help the cause. These are all vital players in advancing your organization’s goals, but they might have different needs, goals, or ideas of how to reach those goals.
Your leadership may want to focus on fundraising, while a lawmaker’s desire is to get re-elected by running on an environmentally-friendly platform, and your supporters are hoping to get involved and get in front of their representatives. By understanding your different stakeholders’ needs, you can find the commonalities and tailor your strategy and language to get buy-in, meet those needs, and ensure that all stakeholders are satisfied with the outcome.
2. Managing Risk
Particularly in the fast-paced world of government affairs and advocacy, it’s almost certain there will be disruptions or unforeseen changes as you work toward your goals. Maybe a lawmaker who was vital to your organization’s goal to ban plastic straws (thus eliminating their negative impact on sea turtles) doesn’t get re-elected, so you must start relationship-building from scratch with a new legislator.
Having a stakeholder management strategy and system allows you to better manage these risks and quickly adapt. By keeping stakeholders informed and involved in the decision-making process, you can help mitigate risk for your organization and ensure you successfully push your initiatives over the line.
3. Develop Stronger Relationships
Achieving organizational goals relies heavily on healthy relationships with stakeholders. Keeping information on your contacts and stakeholders all in one place improves collaboration and communication, leading to stronger relationships. This, in turn, can lead to increased support for your government affairs efforts, and better outcomes for all stakeholders.
Perhaps the most important way to connect with stakeholders is to stay on top of the issues that matter most to them. Using a stakeholder management solution is a “huge piece of the puzzle” in sorting out what matters to stakeholders, according to Chris Mleczko, political engagement manager at Sentry.
“One of the things we do is we put together issue briefs for our key contacts and we give them access to be able to view those whenever we want,” he said at a FiscalNote event. “I’ll add things like issue summaries, positions, what’s some of our trade organizations’ positions on an issue, and that’s another line of communication that we can have with them to refine those positions over time.”
4. Better Prioritization
Your company may have multiple stakeholders with varying needs and interests, which can make it a challenge to effectively communicate with all of them on all the policy developments that matter. Understanding where your issue fits in, together with your stakeholders’ goals and priorities, will help you prioritize the outcomes and get buy-in.
Stakeholder management best practices can help your team focus on its most critical objectives. If you’re like most people, you have a limited capacity, a nimble government affairs team, and a smaller budget than you’d prefer. By understanding stakeholder needs and preferences, you can get a clearer picture of how to prioritize your organization’s time, talent, and budget and ensure you’re working on the most critical tasks first.
5. More Accountability
Keeping a record of everyone's assignments, tasks, and outcomes is important for large-scale efforts, or when working with coalitions, because it helps establish accountability for all stakeholders. By tracking progress and outcomes, you can ensure that everyone is doing their part and that you’re making progress — for instance, that legislation protecting sea turtles is being discussed and moved forward.
Key performance indicators (KPIs) for stakeholder engagement are an effective way to ensure accountability and measure results over time since the same KPIs can be reported on regularly to see patterns and growth. KPIs should be quantifiable, objective, and leave no room for ambiguity. They can be based on communication goals (such as the number of legislators contacted or your newsletter open rates), day-to-day operations (like money saved), stakeholder sentiment (moving from negative to positive or increasing in awareness about your issues, for example), and individual goals (like achieving a plastic straw ban in California).
6. Effective Decision Making
A stakeholder management system that allows multiple perspectives on an issue to be heard helps teams make better decisions. All stakeholders bring a different viewpoint and their own experience and expertise. Making decisions in a vacuum means you might not have all the pieces of a puzzle, but by bringing together all stakeholders and considering their input, you can make informed decisions with the most information possible. These decisions are also more likely to be supported by all stakeholders since they were able to provide input throughout the process.
7. Streamlined Reporting
One of the advantages of stakeholder management systems is that they collect and compile data, allowing for streamlined reporting that incorporates insights from that data. By having all relevant data in one place, you can more easily create reports and share insights with stakeholders, leading to better decision-making and improved outcomes. A report should highlight engagements with your most important stakeholders, measure your influence over priority bills and rules, and let readers understand the impact of key working relationships and actions.
When reporting on stakeholder engagement, create a way for others in your organization to see your progress at a glance, like a stakeholder engagement matrix. “They should know what the story is intuitively without needing a long, rambling explanation,” says Tommy Goodwin, vice president of the Exhibitions & Conferences Alliance. “If you’re showing a report to your CEO, it should be dead simple.”
8. Stewardship of Resources
Resources are limited on most government relations teams, with 58 percent of government affairs professionals on teams of only 1-3 people, according to a FiscalNote survey. Stakeholder management gives you a better understanding of who is working on what assignments, where key contacts are, and what resources everyone needs to achieve their goals. This allows decision-makers to be more effective in stewarding both time and financial resources.
9. Centralized Communication
Stakeholder management systems can make it easy to see who on your team might be overcommitted, juggling many relationships, or who manages particular relationships so you don’t duplicate your efforts or ask too much from a single stakeholder.
Stakeholder management also centralizes communication between teams, which can help you work cross-departmentally and get buy-in. Centralized communication allows ideas and updates to be shared more easily, leading to increased collaboration and more effective decision-making.
10. Continual Learning
Future success for your government affairs team requires that it continually learn from past initiatives and understand what adjustments should be made in the future. Stakeholder management centralizes information that allows teams to learn from any successes or failures.
Remember the successful campaign to save sea turtles by banning plastic straws in California? When your organization wants to ban plastic straws in Oregon, you can draw from that experience in California to be more effective as you work toward this new goal. By analyzing data and feedback, organizations can continually improve their processes and achieve better outcomes.
A stakeholder management system also lets your team store institutional knowledge, so even when people leave your organization you can ensure efficiency for years. “Institutional knowledge is half the game,” says Sandy Guenther, manager of state government affairs at the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons. “You can know how to deal with legislation, how the process works, the players. But if you don’t know what’s happened in the past and how the actions have built upon each other, you’re only seeing half of the picture.” That’s why transferring institutional knowledge is so important for every government affairs team.
11. Better Results
Stakeholder management can be a time-consuming process, with government affairs professionals spending an average of 10 hours a week on managing meetings and contacting key stakeholders, a FiscalNote survey found. A robust stakeholder management strategy ensures your time is optimized and your efforts are fruitful.
Having a system in place helps deliver results by giving your team maximum efficiency with collaboration and workflow tools so everyone is aware and on the same page. This allows you to accomplish your issues management goals, save time, and stay coordinated.
Explore the Benefits of Stakeholder Management with FiscalNote
With so many stakeholder relationships and issues to manage and measure, it’s important to stay organized and have the most up-to-date information at your fingertips. FiscalNote has a full range of tools that let you manage stakeholders and push your issues forward.
Collaboration tools, global policy monitoring and analysis, market intelligence, and legislative tracking make sure you don’t miss a beat, and you’ll have access to the most innovative tools in digital advocacy management. Our comprehensive approach to managing stakeholders across your advocacy and policy issues can help you promote action, manage risk, assess your impact, and drive results.