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Communications and Stakeholder Engagement

There are likely to be individual or groups who are not part of the project team, but who will be affected by or interested in the project and can have a powerful influence on its success.  Effective communication and engagement with key stakeholders, both internal and external, is therefore essential.  This section of the toolkit gives you some advice on how to identify and communicate with those people or groups who have an interest in or influence over the project. 

The key elements of communications and stakeholder engagement are:

Stage 1 - Project Mandate


Stage 2 - Project Proposal

Stakeholder identification

Stage 3 - Business Case

Stakeholder analysis

Stage 4 - Project Start-Up



Communications plan

Stage 5 - Project Delivery

Stage 6 - Project Close

You can also think of it as working through a simple set of questions: who, what, why, how, and when? (but don't forget to do and review afterwards).

Stakeholder identification (who?)

A stakeholder is any person, group or organisation who will have an interest in or be affected by the output of the project. This includes people directly involved in the project. You need to understand who your stakeholders are, and make plans for involving them in the right way and at the right time.

The first step in this is to identify potential stakeholders. You might want to involve other people in this process. If you have an idea of who will be on the Project Board or Project Team, you could hold an informal workshop to do this. A key question when identifying stakeholders is:  Whose support or opposition might significantly influence the success of this project?

Examples of typical stakeholders include:



Portfolio Holders
Ward Members
Corporate Management Team
Other Directorates
Corporate Services
IT Services
Equalities Representatives
Trade Unions
Programme or Project Board
Project Team

Service Users
Specific Communities
General Public
Suppliers and Sub Contractors
Specific Partner Organisations
Neighbouring Authorities
Central Government Departments
Other Regulatory Bodies
Funding agencies

Stakeholder analysis (what and why?)

You have already identified who your stakeholders are, and you will have more information about the project now. So you’re now able to work out the best way of managing the stakeholders.

Stakeholder Analysis is important for two reasons:

  1. A common criticism of many projects is that stakeholders are not kept informed of changes and developments, which has reflects badly on the project, or causes delays.
  2. It is extremely rare for all stakeholders to support the changes brought about by the programme or project. 

Stakeholder Analysis helps you to address both of these points. If you understand a particular stakeholder’s view of the project, their influence over others and level of commitment then you can target your communications activity. You can make sure you keep people who are positive about the project 'on side', whilst also trying to persuade people who are against it to see the benefits and actually shape the project in to something they can agree with.

The basic steps to the Stakeholder Analysis are:


Start with the stakeholder list you already have and, using the information you now have, refine it or add to it if you need to.


Identify the point of view of each group. A stakeholder can either be: 

  • Pro: In favour of the project and wants to see it succeed
  • Neutral: Has no strong opinion either way about the project or whether it succeeds
  • Anti: Is against the project and/or doesn't want it to succeed



Identify how interested the Stakeholder is. Again, there are three levels of interest:

  • Activist: Very interested in the project, actively seeks out information and opportunities to get involved
  • Passing: Takes an interest in the project but doesn't actively seek out information
  • No Interest: Is not interested in the project



Identify the influence of the stakeholder. Are they:

  • Strong: Carry influence and are able to use it to change the views of a number of different groups
  • Weak: Little or no influence over the views of others



Using this information, decide the general approach you need to take with each stakeholder. Do you need to:

  • Keep an eye on them
  • Get them involved
  • Keep them happy
  • Keep them up to date

When you come to plan the project in detail later on, you will be able to use this information to scope out any communications activity that you need to do.

Download the Stakeholder Analysis template

Communications planning (how and when?)

You need to plan carefully for how you're going to communicate to all of the people with an interest in the project. This is especially important if you need to convince people of the merits of the project, or if you need to engage or consult with people in the early stages.

Use the Stakeholder Analysis information to determine:

  • Who you need to communicate with?
  • When do you need to communicate with them?
  • What information will they need, or have?
  • How will you provide or get that information?

This needs to be brought together into a Communications Plan and included in the Project Initiation Document (PID). You need to plan for three types of communication:

  • Regular or standard communications – for example, project boards, newsletters
  • Consultation and engagement – this would be a separate product of the project but you should set out the overall approach to this kind of communication
  • Reactive communications – how will you deal with the random questions you’re asked, or how will you deal with the press, for example.

On some projects, you might need to create a separate communications workstream.

Download the Communications Plan template

Don't forget that after "Who, What, Why, How and When" comes "Do",   It's very easy to develop a beautiful Communications Plan which is approved by the Project or Programme Board and then languishes forgotten in a file.  The important part is to carry out the planned engagement and communication activities, and to check the effectiveness of this in informing and involving stakeholders ("Review").