The three types of stakeholder communication


Series on Effective Stakeholder Engagement

By Lynda Bourne, PhD

Melbourne, Australia

Stakeholders are a very wide and diverse group, some supportive and useful, others negative and obstructive and all with different needs and aspirations. Depending on the type of project, between 50% and 90% of the risks in the risk register are associated with stakeholders. People are a major source of uncertainty, both opportunities and threats (and sometimes both), and consequently need managing. But unfortunately, it is impossible to ‘manage’ most of the stakeholders that matter, the only tool available is communication, focused on engaging effectively with the various members of your stakeholder community.

Effective stakeholder engagement = effective stakeholder communication.   But what does effective mean? There is probably not a lot of point in communicating if you do not want an ‘effect’; but there is never sufficient time and resources available to focus an intense communication effort on every stakeholder.

The whole point of the ESEI approach to stakeholder engagement is to analyse the overall stakeholder community and then determine who is important at this point in time. After using the techniques discussed in the earlier articled in this series, you will know who’s important, but you cannot ignore all of the other stakeholders (if you do you are creating problems for the future). A strategic approach to communication is the key, deploying the three general classes of communication; reporting, project relations and directed communication at the right times, to influence the right stakeholders in the best way to assist in achieving a successful outcome.

Directed communication

Directed communication is hard work and needs to be focused on the important stakeholders (both positive and negative) with whom you need to cause a specific effect. This includes providing direction to your team members and suppliers and influencing the attitude or expectations of other key stakeholders.

Directed communication needs to be planned, which means you need to know precisely what effect you are seeking and then work out how to achieve the effect. This usually means you want the stakeholder to start to do something, do something differently or stop doing something. Some of the tactics that can be used to make your communication effective include:


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Editor’s note: This series of articles on effective project stakeholder engagement is by Lynda Bourne, PhD, Managing Director of Stakeholder Pty Ltd (Australia) and author of the books Stakeholder Relationship Management and Advising Upwards, both published by Gower (UK). Dr. Bourne is one of the world’s leading authorities on program/project stakeholder relations. See her author profile below.



About the Author


pmwj36-Jul2015-Bourne-PHOTODr. Lynda Bourne

Melbourne, Australia




Dr. Lynda Bourne is Managing Director of Stakeholder Management Pty Ltd – an Australian based company with partners in South America and Europe. Through this global network she works with organisations to manage change through managing the relationships essential for successful delivery of organisational outcomes.   Lynda was the first graduate of the RMIT University, Doctor of Project Management course, where her research was focused on tools and techniques for more effective stakeholder engagement. She has been recognized in the field of project management through her work on development of project and program management standards. She was also included in PMI’s list of 50 most influential women in PM.

She is a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Management (AIM) and a Fellow of the Australian Computer Society (ACS). She is a recognized international speaker and seminar leader on the topic of stakeholder management, the Stakeholder Circle® visualization tool, and building credibility and reputation for more effective communication.   She has extensive experience as a Senior Project Manager and Project Director specializing in delivery of information technology and other business-related projects within the telecommunications sector, working as a Senior IT Project Management Consultant with various telecommunications companies in Australia and South East Asia (primarily in Malaysia) including senior roles with Optus and Telstra.

Dr Bourne’s publications include: Stakeholder Relationship Management, now in 2nd edition, published in 2009, Advising Upwards published in 2011, and Making Projects Work, published in 2015. She has also contributed to books on stakeholder engagement, and has published papers in many academic and professional journals and is blogger for PMI’s Voices on Project Management.

Dr. Bourne can be contacted at [email protected].

To see more works by Lynda Bourne, visit her author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/dr-lynda-bourne/