(122c) Communication Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement | AIChE

(122c) Communication Strategies for Stakeholder Engagement


Overfelt, T. - Presenter, Environmental Resources Management (ERM)
Martin, T. - Presenter, Environmental Resources Management (ERM)
Anderson, L. - Presenter, Environmental Resources Management (ERM)

ABSTRACT: The objective of this presentation is to illustrate a diverse array of practical communication tools which may be utilized during different phases of the project cycle.

Stakeholders are those individuals, groups or organizations who themselves could be directly affected by a project/company and those who, although not directly affected by the project or company, represent those affected or have a regulatory duty, an interest, influence or secondary involvement.

Effective and meaningful stakeholder engagement is a two-way dialogue. The company listens to stakeholders and then shares information. Stakeholder engagement is an opportunity to create a relationship. Stakeholder engagement is a vital element to secure a company's ?social license to operate?. It is a vital element for understanding and managing expectations. It is also a vital element for understanding impacts and addressing ongoing concerns and grievances.

When developing stakeholder engagement strategies it is important to remember that no one size fits all. ERM recommends utilizing different approaches based on the scenario.

When is it appropriate to utilize focus groups, versus a town-hall meeting for engagement?

One-on-One Advantage ? Most intimate and two-way ? Less danger of concern at voicing opinion

Disadvantages ? Relatively inefficient ? Singles out, may legitimize some stakeholders

When to use ? For highest priority stakeholders ? When you have time and resources ? Data collection

Focus Groups --convened discussions with groups that have interests or characteristics in common (e.g. women, local business owners)

Advantages ? Stimulates interactive discussion among a small group ? Places people in common in a comfort zone

Disadvantages ? Requires expert facilitation

When to use ? To solicit feedback from an important, perhaps less vocal, segment of community

Open Houses --public comes to circulate freely among booths and experts

Advantage ? Allows for a flow of small group interactions ? Stakeholders can seek information on what concerns/interests them most

Disadvantages ? Requires most logistical preparation (lining up attendees, developing materials, venue?) ? Less formal in seeking feedback

When to use ? When communities expect a wealth of information plus time to interact individually with experts ? In conjunction with Town Hall

Town Halls --like a political town hall with microphone

Advantages ? Can convey messages to large group at one time ? Stakeholders can listen to and respond to a public exchange ? Very public ? you ?have the floor?

Disadvantages ? Most vocal and strident stakeholders can dominate ? Requires skillful facilitation ? Very public ? you're most exposed

When to use ? At key milestones ? later stages of an impact assessment, when a big announcement needs to be made

Panels --public comes to hear panelists interact among themselves and to ask Questions

Advantage ? Expert group, discussion more focused

Disadvantages ? Inevitably excludes stakeholders not on panel ? Dependent on participation of panelists ? Does not seek formal feedback

When to use ? When technical information needs to be shared and there is some distrust on all information coming from The Company

Community Advisory Boards -insert more formal description of this

Advantage ? Empowers communities with decision-making power

Disadvantages ? Requires expert facilitation to establish governance ? Empowers communities with decision-making power

When to use ? When project needs to give stakeholders decision-making ability to gain ?social license to operate? ? When there is a pool of representative and skilled members

A Few Golden Rules For How To Engage

Establish an open posture: ?We need to hear from you to make this project a success for everyone.? ? Prepare to listen: conduct preliminary research on stakeholders, but do not presume that this is sufficient ? Listen first, talk second ? Follow-up with questions of our own: for clarification, to explore the nature of concerns, to gain insight into impacts ? Acknowledge every concern as legitimate ? Recognize every perception as reality ? Be provisional about project: ?Impact assessment and project design are underway; constant amendments as research comes in; final approval still to come?? ? Refer to technical experts when necessary, but do correct factual errors that you know about ? Be ready for the ambush, watch what you say, ensure consistent messages across the team at all times: stakeholders are sophisticated (this includes the media!); consultation is successful when messages are consistent ? Do not make promises you cannot fulfill

A robust communications strategy is invaluable for a company that is endeavoring to proactively manage stakeholder engagement.