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Finding Stakeholder Alignment

Building Trust with Stakeholders

Ultimately, stakeholder alignment and engagement call for a tailored and open communication approach. Developing transparent relationships with stakeholders should benefit everyone as well as the process, plus create accountability. It’s also important to build trust and cooperation. This will benefit shared communications and any feedback you may gain—as well as any influence you may wield.

According to Mural’s “How to build trust with stakeholders for better outcomes,” there are several ways to lay the groundwork for better trust and alignment:

  1. Lay the groundwork for a collaborative relationship: You can start building trust the moment you meet your stakeholders by making it clear you care about their problems and want to understand them more. And the best way to do that? Organize a discovery meeting.
  2. Understand stakeholder needs and expectations: It’s important to also define what stakeholders expect from you and your project team, as well as what you expect of them. Don’t leave any roles or needs ambiguous. Make sure that everyone knows what their responsibilities are, what success looks like, and how feedback is given.
  3. Set realistic expectations of your own: When setting down expectations, be sure to consider what you can realistically ask from your client. Work with them to establish expectations that align with both your goals and theirs.
  4. Create a stakeholder engagement strategy: Building out a plan that helps you understand which stakeholders you should engage for each element of your project, as well as their preferred rhythm of communication and collaboration, will not only keep you organized and working efficiently — it will also show that you are prioritizing their needs and following the preferred systems for receiving approval and contacting stakeholders for key decision-making. A quick method for building out your engagement strategy is by creating a stakeholder map.
  5. Build common ground with warm-ups: Building trust is also about making stakeholders feel comfortable and engaged. That’s why it can be worth breaking out of your comfort zone (and breaking down some barriers) by utilizing warm-ups. Warm-ups are your chance to have some fun, be creative, and set everyone at ease.
  6. Practice radical transparency: It’s easy to understand why you should practice radical transparency —everyone appreciates staying up to date and in the loop, especially when it comes to complex projects. A good way to start is to schedule a time (either weekly or monthly, depending on the project timeline) to share regular updates and project progress.
  7. Be consistent and predictable: Consistency is a key part of creating stakeholder trust because it enables them to plan and work more efficiently. They know when they’ll receive an update and that a deliverable will arrive on their desks on time.
  8. Create opportunities for frequent feedback and follow-up: By making it as easy as possible for your stakeholders to share their thoughts, offer feedback, and follow-up, you can help streamline communication and simplify what many often think of as the most difficult aspect of working relationships: giving criticism.
  9. Address conflict with a problem-solving mindset: Conflict is bound to happen at some point, which is why you can build trust by knowing how to address it. Try to look at every conflict as an opportunity to solve a problem. Start out by recognizing it promptly, then engaging in an open dialogue to discover what exactly is wrong.
  10. Know when to challenge them: Listen to your stakeholders when it comes to certain items, such as their preferred working style, the goals they’d like to achieve, and how they define success. But making them see you as trustworthy and competent also means knowing when to push back against their ideas and expectations.

Increase Your Stakeholder Engagement Strategy

All Things Insights’ “Build A Durable Stakeholder Engagement Strategy,” looked deeper into this topic. How frequently do you communicate and engage with your business and insights stakeholders? If you are unsure of the answer, it may be time to level up your game plan when it comes to tracking and monitoring stakeholder engagement. Establishing and managing stakeholder communication should be a top concern as you develop actionable insights for the business and aim to influence their strategic priorities and directions.

Looking forward to TMRE 2024? The conference, which will be held October 8 to 10, will feature the session, “Strategic Research Workshops: Fueling Stakeholder Alignment and Action,” presented by Kathleen Blum, Vice President, Shopper Insights at C+R Research, and Jenny Rechner, Shopper Insights Manager at Hormel Foods. In today’s fast-paced world, many internal stakeholders can get caught up in the daily demands of their jobs and forget to take a step back and really think about how to turn their research findings into actionable strategies. Hormel and C+R Research teamed up for an interactive workshop that brought together a cross-functional team to collaborate and share ideas that maintained a shopper-centric focus, streamlined planning efforts, and provided inspiration for future creatives and communications. In the session, they will reveal ways to improve research utilization to make your job easier and more effective. Register for TMRE 2024 here.

Creating Collaboration with Stakeholder Alignment

Stakeholder alignment can further significantly benefit insights professionals in several ways. We asked ChatGPT to highlight some of the key opportunities:

  1. Enhanced Collaboration and Support: When stakeholders are aligned, there is better collaboration and support across departments. This unity ensures that market research professionals have access to the necessary resources, information, and cooperation needed to conduct comprehensive and effective research.
  2. Clearer Objectives and Priorities: Alignment among stakeholders helps clarify the objectives and priorities of the research project. With a shared understanding of goals, market researchers can design studies that directly address the most critical questions and deliver insights that are highly relevant to the organization’s strategic needs.
  3. Increased Buy-In and Utilization of Insights: When stakeholders are involved and aligned, they are more likely to value and use the research findings. This increases the likelihood that insights will be acted upon, leading to tangible business outcomes and demonstrating the value of market research within the organization.
  4. Streamlined Decision-Making: Aligned stakeholders contribute to a more streamlined decision-making process. With consensus on research goals and outcomes, the organization can make quicker, more informed decisions based on the insights provided, enhancing agility and responsiveness to market changes.
  5. Better Resource Allocation: When stakeholders are aligned, it is easier to secure the necessary budget and resources for market research projects. Stakeholders understand the importance of research and are more willing to invest in tools, technologies, and talent that will drive high-quality insights.
  6. Improved Research Quality: Alignment ensures that the research scope, methodology, and execution are well-defined and agreed upon by all parties. This leads to higher-quality research outputs that accurately address the needs of the business and provide actionable insights.
  7. Enhanced Communication and Reporting: With stakeholder alignment, communication of research findings becomes more effective. Researchers can tailor their reports and presentations to address the specific interests and concerns of different stakeholders, ensuring that the insights are understood and valued by all relevant parties.
  8. Increased Innovation and Strategic Thinking: Aligned stakeholders are more likely to engage in collaborative brainstorming and strategic thinking. This environment fosters innovation, as diverse perspectives contribute to a richer understanding of market dynamics and customer needs, leading to more creative and impactful research solutions.
  9. Stronger Relationships and Trust: Alignment helps build stronger relationships and trust between market researchers and other departments. When stakeholders see that their input is valued and that the research is directly contributing to business success, trust is built, leading to more open and productive working relationships.
  10. Long-Term Research Success: Consistent stakeholder alignment ensures that market research is continuously aligned with the evolving strategic goals of the organization. This long-term perspective helps maintain the relevance and impact of market research, ensuring that it remains a critical component of the organization’s decision-making process.

Stay Committed to the Stakeholder Alignment Process

Building trust and stakeholder alignment benefits insights professionals by fostering collaboration, clarifying objectives, securing resources, enhancing the quality and impact of research, and ultimately ensuring that insights are effectively used to drive strategic business decisions.

But make no mistake. This is likely a gradual process that develops over time starting with your first interaction. Stay committed to the process, notes Mural: “Show that you plan to communicate openly and regularly, are dedicated to transparency, and genuinely care about their ongoing needs. While this may take time, as well as effort on your part to practice these strategies regularly, the result will be a more productive and rewarding relationship —both for your stakeholders and yourself.”

Video courtesy of Adriana Girdler

Contributor

  • Matt Kramer

    Matthew Kramer is the Digital Editor for All Things Insights & All Things Innovation. He has over 20 years of experience working in publishing and media companies, on a variety of business-to-business publications, websites and trade shows.

    View all posts

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