Effective communications with stakeholders – both internal and external – has risen in importance within organisations. No longer relegated to the sidelines, or serving merely operational objective, communications can be the engine that serves up progress.

However, communicators still find themselves grappling with distinct challenges when it comes to impressing upon stakeholders the pivotal nature of communication within their respective organisations.

We continue to find it challenging to secure and keep our seat at the decision-making table.

All too often, we are pegged as the function that touches ‘everything’ but does not deliver the end results. Or we are weighted down with considerations of influence, engagement, risk and liability and cannot provide a clear outcome that leadership needs assurance about.

Communications is often perceived as an afterthought.

One of the primary issues faced by communicators within organisations is the perception that communication is secondary to core business functions.

When resources are allocated, communication budgets are frequently the first to be trimmed. This mindset can lead to missed opportunities and hinder the organisation’s ability to build strong relationships with its stakeholders.

Communicators must also contend with a lack of understanding among stakeholders regarding the broad-reaching consequences of effective communication.

It’s not just about crafting press releases or managing social media; it’s about shaping perceptions, building trust, and driving strategic objectives.

Many stakeholders fail to grasp the profound impact that communications can have on an organisation’s goals and successes.


Alignment is the answer and is crucial when building an action plan.

One of the most significant hurdles in influencing stakeholders about the importance of communication is the disconnect between communication strategies and organisational goals.

In many cases, communication initiatives are not aligned with the broader strategic vision, leading to wasted resources and missed opportunities for growth.

Alignment is crucial to ensuring that communication is not an isolated function but an integral part of the overall business strategy.

To combat this, communicators must proactively engage with senior leadership to gain a seat at the strategic planning table. By demonstrating how effective communication can contribute to achieving organisational objectives, communicators can bridge the gap and align their efforts with the broader vision.

There is no bridging the gap without showing measurable and repeatable outcomes.

Measuring the impact of communication efforts is essential for demonstrating value and securing buy-in from stakeholders. However, this can be a complex and often misunderstood aspect of the communicators’ role.

Quantifying the return on investment (ROI) of communication initiatives is difficult.

Unlike other functions within an organisation, the effects of communication are often intangible and can take time to appear. This ambiguity can make it challenging to convince stakeholders of the value of communication efforts.

To address this issue, communicators and marketing specialists should implement clear and measurable KPIs that connect directly to organisational goals. These can be through metrics such as brand perception, customer engagement, and revenue growth. They can be measured directly, or when metrics are shared, through proxies that correspond to a communicator’s activities.


Sidebar: Relationships with stakeholders are crucial in breaking down silos.   

Influence and persuasion are not just about presenting facts and figures.

Building strong relationships with stakeholders is a fundamental aspect of successfully conveying the importance of communication within an organisation.

We can do so through:

Active engagement: Communicators should actively engage with key stakeholders. This includes regular meetings, feedback sessions, and seeking input from various departments. By involving stakeholders in the communication process, you create a sense of ownership and shared responsibility.

Demonstrating value: Showcase the value of communication by sharing success stories and case studies. Highlight instances where effective communications directly contributed to achieving organisational goals. Concrete examples resonate more with stakeholders than abstract concepts.

Educate and collaborate: Invest in educating stakeholders about the nuances of communication. Offer workshops or training sessions to help them understand the strategic importance of effective communications. Collaborate with other units and teams to integrate communications into their processes, plans and activities. Consider sharing or contributing to budgets to achieve tangible proof of collaboration.

Here are 5 immediate activities you can add to your action plan in engaging stakeholders.

Influencing stakeholders about the critical role of communication within an organisation is an ongoing effort that requires persistence and a strategic approach.

By addressing the problems and measuring the impact of communication efforts, communicators can make a compelling case for the role of communication in achieving success.

Here are 5 activities to add to your stakeholder engagement plans:

Stakeholder workshops and focus groups: Organise workshops and focus groups specifically designed for stakeholders to actively participate in discussions, brainstorming sessions, and problem-solving. These forums – must be interactive – allow stakeholders to have a direct impact on shaping strategies and solutions, leading to higher buy-in.

Customised communication channels: Tailor your communication channels to suit the preferences of different stakeholders. Some may prefer email updates, while others might prefer face-to-face meetings or webinars. By accommodating their preferences, you show that you are considerate of their needs and more likely to engage them effectively.

Transparency and openness: Maintain a transparent and open communication policy. Share both good and bad news honestly and promptly. Transparency builds trust, and stakeholders are more likely to support your initiatives if they believe you are forthcoming with information.

Stakeholder involvement in decision-making: Whenever possible, involve stakeholders in decision-making processes, especially those that directly affect them. This could include inviting them to participate in focus groups, advisory boards, or project committees. When stakeholders have a say in decisions, they are more likely to support the outcomes.

Regular progress updates: Provide regular updates on the progress of projects and initiatives that involve stakeholders. Highlight achievements, milestones, and any positive impact their involvement has had. Acknowledge their contributions and celebrate successes together.

Building strong relationships with stakeholders through active engagement, demonstrating value, and education is essential for gaining their support and ensuring that communication remains a key platform and tool for strategic purposes.

Organisations that recognise and invest in the power of effective communications will undoubtedly have a competitive edge and thrive in the long run.

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