5 tips for building consensus with senior stakeholders

Or, how to get the A-OK from the C-Suite.

Joanna Drury.png
Joanna Drury Senior Consultant

So, you’ve got the go-ahead for your next big comms initiative. The budget’s been signed off and the PO’s been raised. But how exactly are you going to get the final creative work past your boss, your boss’s boss, the C-Suite and the Board of Directors?

Here are our 5 top tips for reaching consensus with senior stakeholders:

  1. Identify the big hitters
  2. Establish your success criteria
  3. Speak to them one-on-one
  4. Get everyone in the same room
  5. Hold them accountable

1. Identify the big hitters

Before starting to engage with your stakeholders, make sure you can clearly explain the business need that your project will solve. This will help you with:

  • identifying relevant stakeholders, 
  • establishing success criteria,
  • and getting stakeholder buy-in. 

Of course, you’ll need to speak to all relevant stakeholders, but there will be at least one or two who have the power and influence to make or break your project.

Who these key stakeholders are will vary depending on your company culture and the specific business area your project applies to. For example, if you are planning on launching a new set of values, your key stakeholders are likely to be your CEO and your Chief HR Officer.

2. Establish your success criteria

To work out your success criteria, ask yourself, “What future state do I want or need to create?” Think about the impact you (and your key stakeholders) will want to see in one month, six months, or a year. Then consider what your project deliverables would need to look and sound like to give you the best chance of achieving that impact.

Make sure you share your success criteria with your senior stakeholders and get collective agreement before starting any creative work. This will be invaluable for resolving any conflicting opinions and feedback at the approval stage.

“By defining the goal, you can help stakeholders understand the purpose and value of the process.”
Source: LinkedIn

3. Speak to them one-on-one

By organising individual interviews with each of your senior stakeholders, you can make sure that they feel their voices have been heard and valued.

These interviews will also help you to get a better understanding of each stakeholder’s priorities – something that isn’t always possible in larger meetings where the loudest voices will dominate the discussion.

By keeping notes of each of these stakeholder meetings, you’ll create a helpful resource that you can use later.

“It is important to understand […] the concerns, requirements, and priorities of individuals and groups that may be affected by the decision.”
Source: Mural

4. Get everyone in the same room

Once you’ve heard what each of your stakeholders has to say, and you have a working draft to share, it’s time to get everyone in the same room to provide feedback.
Bringing all your senior stakeholders together creates an opportunity for the group to see how their priorities fit with those of their colleagues, and to collectively decide which changes should be made.

We know it can be difficult to align senior stakeholders’ diaries, so make sure you plan this group session well in advance. 

5. Hold them accountable

Having a record of the success criteria you agreed and the notes from each of your stakeholder interviews will be crucial at this stage. The aim is to provide a rational framework for approval – an agreed bar that the solution must meet.

When it comes to presenting the final creative work, you can explain how your solution meets each stakeholder’s priorities. If there are disagreements or conflicting opinions, you can refer back to the success criteria to make a final decision.

“Groups […] should seek unanimity, but settle for overwhelming agreement that goes as far as possible toward meeting the interests of all stakeholders. It is absolutely crucial that this definition of success be clear at the outset.”
Source: MIT

Take the stress out of stakeholder management

To find out more about how our consultants could help you to navigate your stakeholder approval process and ace your next comms initiative, get in touch with us at hello@thirtythree.co.uk.

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