1. Identify stakeholders and their influence
First try to gain an overview who might possibly be affected by your project - directly or indirectly. Then take another step and ask who might have an interest in your project, whatever these interests might be. When you believe that the list is complete, ask yourself: Who else? Usually there are a lot more people, especially those who hide behind heavy curtains. Expand your list with everybody who comes into your mind. Having done this it's important to analyse who has how much influence on the success of your project. With these steps you produce a good picture of the powers related with your project.
2. Analyse expectations and interests
With every change, with every project there will be winners and loosers in your organization. Or at least people who think they might belong to one of these two groups. So be careful to identify the specific hopes and fears of any single stakeholder related to your project.And you will have a first view on possible supporters and probable opponents. Think about what the specific interest of any single stakeholder might be. For the next stept you now have a solid basis.
3. Develop strategies and key messages
The preferences of your stakeholders tend to be very heterogene. You should keep that in mind when you develop your strategies. Most likely you will need different channels and media to approach the different stakeholders in order to make them supporting yor project. Try to analyse which kind of change you can expect from whom and check carefully which move you want them to do. Then think who in your team is the best contact person for wich stakeholder. In the end you need a bunch of key messages for the different stakeholders. What's the story, you want to tell?
4. Plan the activities and media
Now, not earlier, you will be able to draft a meaningful communication strategy. What are the messages, what are the adequate media, what is the best rhythm to contact whom exactly? Be prepared to evoke reactions, how do you manage them? Are you prepared to deal with possible feedback, ideas or concerns? The earlier in your project you know these ideas, suggestions or objections the better you will adopt and direct your project. Maybe some of the objections turn out to be valuable improvements.
5. Contact humans and strenghen relations
There is no way, you have to be active. Perfect strategies and plans won't help if you stay at distance, it has to be personal. So don't expect too much from e-mails or bulk mails, that's just about spreading information. You never will evoke engagement or enthusiasm with e-mails. It's all about direct contact of human beeings! For some stakeholders the means could be workshops or focus groups. The key players you will have to contact face-to-face.
6. Monitor and alalyse results
Do not forget to monitor carefully whether you do achieve the desired results. Which messages and media works with which stakeholder groups? You project is dynamic, so is your environment. Some of the stakeholders will become more importand, others will loose influence. And new stakeholders will get on the scene. Adopt your stategies, plans and activities accordingly and continuosly.
Turn towards people and relations!
For each of the desribed six steps there are a lot of good to excellent methods. But the most important approach is to - maybe just for a moment - forget about the tasks. Turn your head and focus on the environment, the people, the relations, the interests, the emotions and powers of influence. And do not do this job alone, the co-operation with a good team raises the quality of your stakeholder management a lot.