Successful stakeholder relations are more crucial than ever in today’s interconnected business world. Stakeholders, including customers, employees, investors, suppliers, and the broader community, play a pivotal role in shaping an organisation’s success. Building and maintaining positive relationships with these stakeholders requires a nuanced understanding of their expectations and active engagement strategies. In this offering, we will explore the various levels of stakeholder engagement and provide actionable strategies for fostering fruitful relationships.

Understanding the Levels of Stakeholder Engagement

Effective stakeholder engagement can be viewed through a spectrum of five distinct levels, each indicating the depth of interaction and relationship-building:

1. Informing: At this basic level, organisations inform stakeholders about their activities, decisions, and initiatives. Communication is primarily one-way, and there is minimal interaction. For example, a company might issue press releases to inform the public about a new product launch.

2. Consulting: In this stage, organisations actively seek stakeholder input through surveys, focus groups, or feedback mechanisms. This two-way communication helps gather valuable insights and opinions. A classic example is a corporation seeking employee feedback on potential workplace changes.

3. Involving: At this level, organisations go beyond gathering input and involve stakeholders in decision-making processes. For instance, a municipality might collaborate with citizens in designing a new park, considering their preferences.

4. Collaborating involves deep engagement and partnership with stakeholders in shared goals. Nonprofits often collaborate with donors and volunteers to achieve their mission. This level requires a high degree of trust and shared responsibility.

5. Empowering: The highest level of stakeholder engagement involves empowering stakeholders to lead initiatives. This can be seen in open-source software communities where users actively contribute to project development.

Strategies for Building Successful Stakeholder Relations

Now that we’ve explored the levels of engagement let’s delve into practical strategies for building successful stakeholder relationships:

1. Active Communication: Clear and regular communication is key regardless of engagement level. Use channels like newsletters, social media, and face-to-face meetings to keep stakeholders informed and engaged.

Example: A tech company updates its users with regular emails about new features and listens to their feedback through an online forum.

2. Transparency: Be open and honest about your organisation’s goals, challenges, and performance. Trust is built when stakeholders feel they have the completepicture.

Example: A food manufacturer openly shares its ingredient list and sourcing practices, reassuring customers about the quality of their products.

3. Feedback Mechanisms: Create easy avenues for stakeholders to provide feedback and suggestions. Act on this feedback whenever possible to show that their input matters.

Example: An e-commerce platform continually improves its website based on customer feedback, enhancing the user experience.

4. Customized Engagement Plans: Tailor your engagement approach to each stakeholder group’s unique interests and needs. What works for investors may not be suitable for employees.

Example: A hotel chain designs separate engagement strategies for its guests, staff, and shareholders, recognising the distinct needs of each group.

5. Regular Updates: Keep stakeholders informed about your progress and the impact of their contributions. Show how their involvement is making a difference.

Example: A nonprofit organisation shares regular reports with donors, detailing how their contributions have positively affected the community.

6. Conflict Resolution: Be prepared to address conflicts and concerns swiftly and professionally. A fair and respectful resolution process can salvage relationships.

Example: An airline offers compensation and assistance to passengers affected by flight delays, turning a negative experience into a positive one.

7. Community Engagement: If applicable, actively participate in community initiatives and support causes that matter to your stakeholders. This demonstrates a commitment to shared values.

Example: A local brewery sponsors environmental conservation projects in its community, aligning with its environmentally-conscious customer base.


Successful stakeholder relations are not a one-size-fits-all endeavour. Organisations must recognise the varying levels of engagement required for different stakeholders and implement strategies that foster trust, collaboration, and shared goals. Businesses and institutions can build strong relationships with their stakeholders by actively listening, responding, and customising their approach, ultimately contributing to their long-term success.

Follow the LinkedIn newsletter, “The Power of Stakeholders”, by Dr Thabang Chiloane, Chairperson of the Institute for Stakeholder Relations Southern Africa, by clicking here.