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Stakeholder Engagement: How to Measure & Report on Relationships in Government Affairs

by Lydia Stowe, FiscalNote

Measurement plays a vital role in the success of your government affairs strategy. Learn how to measure stakeholder engagement and report on progress effectively.

Stakeholder engagement measuring and reporting

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A strong stakeholder engagement strategy is a must for government relations professionals, but just as important (and more often overlooked) is a method for measuring that engagement and reporting on your progress.

Without a stakeholder engagement plan, it’s nearly impossible to manage the people and data you need to help move your issues forward. But showing the ROI of stakeholder engagement is a challenge because it’s not always tangible, it can take years to develop a profitable relationship, and sometimes a win means avoiding something happening that would negatively impact your organization. All this makes stakeholder engagement hard to show on a written report.

Read on for tips to implement a procedure that will measure stakeholder relationships and help you create an even better strategy.

Measuring Stakeholder Engagement

Engaging with stakeholders effectively is critical for any government relations professional. Not only is it important, but stakeholder engagement can also be challenging and time-consuming. In fact, almost half of government relations professionals spend between six and 10 hours a week engaging stakeholders, a FiscalNote report found. An organization may have multiple stakeholders with varying needs and interests, adding another challenging layer to effective communication with all of them on the policy issues that matter to your team.

In order to make your stakeholder engagements meaningful, being able to measure and report on your efforts and successes is critical. Since engaging with stakeholders is an area where government relations professionals spend a lot of time and effort, being able to show that in a quantifiable way is essential. The success of a project is often measured, among other things, by how successful engagement is, so having a way to measure stakeholder engagement ensures your efforts are recognized.

Key Performance Indicators for Stakeholder Relationships

Creating key performance indicators (KPIs) for stakeholder engagement is an effective way to 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.

These KPIs should be specific to your organization. Think about communication within your organization and relationships with stakeholders for your project, then mold the KPIs around that unique information. Communication is likely to be your main data point for KPI measurement, including avenues and frequency of communication, as well as the feedback received. KPIs can also be based on communication goals, day-to-day operations, stakeholder sentiment, and individual project goals.

Rather than lumping all your stakeholders together when you report on KPIs, consider breaking them out by type of stakeholder (managers, investors, sponsors, policymakers, and committees, for example). This will allow you to analyze the results more easily and find areas where you can make improvements.

Focusing on outcomes rather than deliverables can create space for exploring multiple alternatives. This can lead to finding solutions more strongly aligned with outcomes.

Stephen Townsend, Graduate teaching associate
Columbia University

Classifying Levels of Engagement

It’s important to create levels of engagement that are specific to your organization so there is no ambiguity when measuring progress with stakeholders. Define boundaries between these levels so you can measure movement between them, allowing you to measure and report on success.

“People participate on different levels,” explains Erich Schuttauf, executive director of the American Association for Nude Recreation. “It’s helpful, in a corporate or association setting, to understand that [participation varies] based on their age or stage of life, or what time they have available.”

As you decide on levels specific to your organization, you can label your own levels from one to five, with five being the highest level of engagement, or using terms like these:

  1. ​​Unaware — This is the lowest level of stakeholder engagement. Unaware stakeholders are not aware of the project and its potential impacts.

  2. Resistant — This level of stakeholder engagement defines those who are aware of the project and potential impacts, but are resistant to change or hesitant to get involved.

  3. Neutral — These stakeholders are aware of the projects but are neither supportive nor resistant.

  4. Supportive — Supportive stakeholders are aware of the project and its potential impacts and are supportive of change and willing to consider doing what they can to aid a project.

  5. Leading — This is the highest level of engagement. These stakeholders are fully aware of the project and its impacts and are actively engaged to ensure the project is successful.

After determining your levels of engagement and what each looks like for your organization, detail how you define movement between each level and indicators of such movement, including what success looks like.

Stakeholder reporting

Tracking Change: Stakeholder Reporting Tools

One way to track changes between levels of engagement over time is using a stakeholder engagement assessment matrix, a practical tool for measurement. This diagram should be updated over the course of a project to include relevant stakeholders and can be used alongside KPIs as an additional measure of success.

Having a stakeholder reporting tool can make it easier to target, engage, and report on activity with stakeholder networks. Stakeholder reports can include biographies, sponsored bills, roles and organizations, committees, staffer and contact information, actions taken by team members, social media activity, and relevant issues. This allows you to have a comprehensive, but visual and skimmable, view of stakeholders and to keep everyone in your organization up-to-date.

Stakeholder reporting tools not only show the ROI of your efforts, but they also drive internal alignment by providing the most recent information on ongoing stakeholder relationships. It’s important to be adaptable and allow your reporting to evolve over time as your strategy does. Managing multiple stakeholders means a lot of variables are always at play. Unexpected issues often arise and even the best-laid plans can change.

“Focusing on outcomes rather than deliverables can create space for exploring multiple alternatives,” says Stephen Townsend, graduate teaching associate at Columbia University. “This can lead to finding solutions more strongly aligned with outcomes.”

Building a Successful Stakeholder Engagement Strategy You Can Measure

Stakeholder engagement measurement helps you simplify and visualize your understanding of key stakeholders and drive internal alignment by sharing the most up-to-date information with your team and broader organization on where stakeholders align to your issues. Reporting can also help you show the ROI of your work by evaluating where stakeholders stood at the beginning versus at the end of an initiative.

A stakeholder management tool can help you create customizable reports on the key stakeholders you’re working with, including U.S. state and federal policymakers, committees, executives, internal partners, and more.

Step Up Your Stakeholder Engagement Strategy with FiscalNote

Are you spending too much time managing meetings with key stakeholders? Did you know that more than 65% of Government Affairs teams spend 6+ hours on this task? With FiscalNote, simplify your stakeholder engagement process with our comprehensive coverage of policymakers and key contacts around the globe. Get access to critical insights of key decision-makers in regions such as North America, South America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific, including countries like Mexico, Brazil, France, India, Australia, and more.

Take a proactive approach toward understanding global policies and regulations in over 80 countries worldwide by leveraging our easy-to-use solution. Effectively monitor engagements with global stakeholder data and align your efforts on key issues.

Managing Your Stakeholder Networks with FiscalNote

Building and maintaining relationships with the right stakeholders is key, and having the tools in place to guarantee your meetings with them are as productive as possible is critical.

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