January jobs for stakeholder engagement professionals

As we bring our holiday-mode work engines back to life, we can ease into the new year by reviewing those important but not urgent tasks that never seem to be a priority when we are busy.

Communications, Engagement, Stakeholder Engagement, Strategy

Renee Wilkinson 10 Jan 2024
3 mins

As we bring our holiday-mode work engines back to life, we can ease into the new year by reviewing those important but not urgent tasks that never seem to be a priority when we are busy. 

For stakeholder engagement professionals, there is no better time to take a hard look at our projects and other ongoing work to determine whether it still meets current stakeholder and wider community expectations and needs. 

It is clear already that the year ahead will be quite different from 2023, with new challenges and considerations. 

One thing that hasn’t changed is that an enormous number of projects are awaiting environmental and other licence approvals to move forward.  Communities are becoming jaded with projects popping up and then seemingly disappearing. 

The State Government has recognised this and late last year promised to overhaul the environmental approvals process. With a state election due just over a year, we can expect more heat from the business community to maintain pressure. 

However, at the same time, government and corporates are facing increasing pressure on the environmental front.  Even engagement previously viewed as positive, such as the corporate sponsorship of community events, is being scrutinised and, as a result, we have seen several relationships come to an end. 

This comes in an environment where information – factual or not – is being used to damage credibility and influence the approvals process. 

I expect this may be the catalyst to return to greater face-to-face engagement in the year ahead. 

Artificial intelligence will continue to influence our field with a greater ability to gather intelligence and scrutinise stakeholder views. But I expect stakeholder groups will become increasingly wary as trust in data security continues to be eroded. 

So, with that in mind, here are my January jobs. 

Re-map key stakeholders. You may have done a great job identifying stakeholders a year ago or more – but a lot happens in a year. 

New activist groups form, some groups or individuals shift their focus, and others not originally considered of interest or influence suddenly emerge as key players. 

The Santos v Tipakalippan High Court decision in late 2022 determining that Tiwi Islanders were “relevant persons” and should have been consulted by Santos is a compelling case in point. 

The message is clear. If your stakeholder mapping has not been reviewed for a few years it is time to go back and revisit all potential stakeholders now! 

January is the perfect time to consider the wider environmental and other factors and to re-map stakeholders so your 2024 engagement efforts are targeted towards priority stakeholders and, importantly, that you are not leaving any out. 

Update stakeholder lists. December is traditionally a time when resignations or other staff movements are announced – this certainly was the case in Western Australian public service with the heads of the Department of Health and Department of Water and Environmental Regulation both announcing they would be moving on. A quick look at LinkedIn yesterday also confirmed that several private sector contacts had moved to new roles. 

It is a slow and tedious task, but you will thank yourself for updating stakeholder contact details when you come to use them. 

Plan stakeholder research. If you are only relying on social media or media coverage to assess stakeholder sentiment, you are only getting part of the picture. Independently implemented stakeholder research is the best way to assess the views of current and potential stakeholders and determine the value of existing stakeholder engagement investment. 

Scan your plans and consider current political and social environment. While you may not have time or inclination to overhaul stakeholder plans completely, they should be reviewed to ensure they are in line with the current political and social environment and take into account how they could impact your stakeholders. Adapt your engagement plans to align with these changes, ensuring that your strategies are proactive rather than reactive. 

Enhance Digital Engagement Platforms: With the increasing reliance on digital platforms for engagement, it is a good time to enhance these tools. Ensure that your digital engagement platforms are user-friendly, accessible, and equipped to handle the diverse needs of your stakeholders. 

Work on yourself: Finally, dedicate time for professional development. Keeping up-to-date with the latest trends, tools, and strategies in stakeholder engagement is crucial. I’ll be updating my knowledge and skills in Artificial Intelligence this month. If you have been putting off any learning, now is the time to get it done! 

 

This is quite a long list – but the good news is that Cannings Purple can help with all of the above from strategy development to digital development – we can even provide media or AI training if that is your area of need. If you would like to chat more, feel free to get in touch! 

 


Renee Wilkinson More from author

Renée is an experienced and award-winning stakeholder engagement and government relations professional with more than twenty years in the communications industry.

A consultant with Cannings Purple for 13 years, Renee has experience developing and implementing effective strategies in the resources, infrastructure, agriculture, health and education sectors.

She works with clients from early project stages through to official opening (and beyond) to ensure stakeholders at the corporate, government and community levels are engaged suitably to help clients reach project goals.

Prior to joining Cannings Purple, Renee worked in communications roles in the state Government, including time with the WA Health Minister.

Her stakeholder engagement work with the development of an inner-city women’s prison was recognised nationally by the Public Relations Institute of Australia’s Golden Target Awards. Renee holds a Bachelor of Commerce and is a qualified IAP2 Practitioner.

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