Stakeholder meeting

Getting Stakeholder Meetings Right

It is a basic requirement but one that is very easy to get wrong. What are the steps you should take for preparing and conducting a useful public affairs meeting?

A successful starting point must be well before any meeting is even arranged. You need to know that you are speaking to the right person at the right time. In other words, your stakeholder mapping and analysis needs to be accurate rather than scattergun. A focused approach will assist in the prioritisation of stakeholders and will make the whole process manageable.

This is essential once the meetings start to take place. Imagine the position you and the team could find yourselves in, preparing for many meetings some of which are much more important than others. The potential for failure increases. So, keep focused.

Put the preparation in

There is obviously a need to get a briefing paper together but that should happen for both sides. For the stakeholder and for your own team as well.

The classic mistake for such meetings is that the focus becomes too much on what you want to say, not what the intended audience would like to hear.

There is no harm in asking, in advance, if they have questions or issues they want to cover. It helps to show them that you are taking them seriously.

Preparation for meetings may focus too much on the key messages to deliver and think less about the types of questions that could come your way and how you should respond. Simply repeating key messages won’t work in this stakeholder setting in the same way that it may do in a short media appearance.

All stakeholder meetings need to be thought of in the context of moving along a continuum from starting a relationship through to becoming a trusted adviser. That would be the ultimate end point.

The internal briefing must be considered in that context.

That means the briefing, as well as the agenda for the meeting, should reflect ways in which you can be as responsive to the stakeholder as possible, whilst also looking for ways to strike up personal connections. That mix of the professional and personal will help you along that continuum.

What you need to demonstrate

In any meeting there are some ‘musts’ for you. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Show that you have taken the time and effort to treat the stakeholder as an individual, not part of a blob. That means a tailored approach and for MPs show that it means something to them and their constituents.
  2. Look for ways to demonstrate your expertise and prove your reputation.
  3. Bring the issues considered in the meeting to life with examples, facts and figures.
  4. Don’t dominate the meeting, listen as well as talk.
  5. Let them know that there will be follow-up and prepare things, in advance, that they can help with.

Overall

For all meetings there should be a feedback loop in place so that you learn from the stakeholder, gain their knowledge and insight, and change your approach, if needed.

My other plea is that good records are kept of meetings – it helps with follow-up and provides a useful reminder for future engagement. It provides the basis for the type of ‘corporate’ collective knowledge that can otherwise be lost.

Always think and plan for stakeholder meetings on an individual basis. This will help move you along the trusted adviser continuum.

Image by insta_photos on iStock

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Stuart is a public affairs and communications specialist with BDB Pitmans advising clients on all elements of their public affairs strategies including political and corporate communications and reputation management. His work also includes consultation and planning communications and he has advised on a number of high profile media relations and crisis communications programmes. Stuart is an honorary research fellow at the University of Aberdeen and is the author of several books including ‘New Activism and the Corporate Response‘ (heralded as a book that “every aspiring business leader should read” by MIS Asia), ‘Public Affairs in Practice’ and ‘The Dictionary of Labour Quotations‘. His most recently published book, ‘Public Affairs: A Global Perspective’ has been called ‘an absolute treasure-trove’ and is a recommended read by the Government Communication Service (GCS). Stuart regularly writes and lectures on a range of business and political issues and as well as blogging for BDB Pitmans he contributes to the Huffington Post and has written for the CBI, (former) UKTI, Total Politics and LabourList. He is also an adviser to the Entrepreneurs Network (TEN) and a regular speaker and chair at conferences. He has appeared on Sky News, BBC 5 Live, BBC World, the Today programme and on Ukrainian TV and has been a judge for the Public Affairs News, PR Week, Public Affairs and the European Public Affairs awards. Stuart is a CIPR trainer leading the 'Practical Public Affairs' course.

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