Stakeholder engagement: we need to stop mapping and start listening

When we hear the term ‘stakeholder mapping’ it tends to conjure up images of grandiose mind maps that tell us exactly who we need to speak to in order to fix the issues our business is facing. In reality, they are often convoluted Excel sheets that include hundreds of names that tell us nothing about how we can communicate with real impact.

Whilst there is always a need for a strong database of contacts, what really helps us to engage in a meaningful way is by actually listening to and understanding our stakeholders pain points.

Stakeholder listening is something that we view as fundamental at Spurwing. It is a necessary first step in developing any communications strategy worth its salt.

If you’re looking to change opinions in the media on topics as complex as food safety or vaccination, you need to first understand your baseline. Some questions you might want to consider are:

  • Do journalists have a good understanding of the industry?

  • What is their current position on your organisation?

  • Do they have everything they need to write a well-informed article on your target subject?

Having answers to these questions before developing a plan of action can move you from being another voice in the crowd to a real opinion leader.

Another benefit of a good stakeholder listening exercise is to step outside of your echo chamber.

By making the time to speak with journalists, leaders from outside your industry, or even stakeholders at different stages of the supply chain, your eyes may be opened to opportunities or potential issues that may otherwise have been missed.

It also provides an opportunity to learn from one another. With emerging technologies that span different industries, such as medical food and precision nutrition, we are noticing non-traditional players advising global companies, and finding common grounds for collaboration. This is especially true in our specialist industries of healthcare, food and nutrition.

Listening can also provide an opportunity for organisational growth, as it’s a chance to hear first-hand where your work has been less impactful in the past.

With a better understanding of those that think like you, those that bring new perspectives and those you need to convince, communications can become much more targeted and effective.

A communications campaign designed around real, timely insights is infinitely more impactful than one based on assumptions or status quo engagements. If you’d like to get informed through proactive stakeholder listening, reach out to us at

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