Choosing the right stakeholder relationship management tool is crucial for any organization that values effective communication and engagement with its stakeholders. In this blog post, we will explore the various levels of stakeholder engagement tools, ranging from basic methods like Excel sheets to advanced and comprehensive software solutions. 

We also included some perspectives for professionals in external affairs, corporate affairs and sustainability leaders. According to research from the Oxford-GlobeScan Global Corporate Affairs 2024 Survey, stakeholder engagement has become a much more prominent part of Corporate Affairs professionals' responsibilities. Hence, it’s important that EA professionals select and leverage the most suitable tool for your organization.

Whether you are just starting or looking to upgrade your current system, this guide will help you understand the options available and choose the right tool for your needs.



What Is Stakeholder Relationship Management?

Stakeholder relationship management involves the systematic identification, analysis, planning, and implementation of actions designed to engage with stakeholders. For professionals in corporate affairs, managing these relationships is particularly vital to achieving organizational goals, complying with regulations, and fostering community trust. 

Related reading: Stakeholder Management in Public Affairs & Government Affairs


Why Should We Digitise Stakeholder Relationship Management?

In today's volatile business environment, where external factors like economic downturns, regulatory changes, and supply chain disruptions can significantly impact a company's profitability, digitizing stakeholder relationship management (SRM) has become a strategic imperative. With 30-50% of EBITDA constantly at risk, businesses can no longer afford to rely on outdated, manual processes. 

Digital SRM platforms offer a lifeline, enabling organizations to proactively identify and mitigate potential threats by streamlining communication, automating tasks, and providing real-time insights into stakeholder sentiment. 

This shift towards data-driven decision-making not only safeguards the bottom line but also fosters stronger, more resilient relationships with key stakeholders, ultimately positioning the company for long-term success.

Excerpt from The New Influence Playbook

Level 1: Basic Stakeholder Tracking

For many small organizations, Excel sheets and manual methods are the starting points for stakeholder management. These tools offer simplicity and flexibility, making them suitable for small projects and small organizations with limited resources. 

Tools: Microsoft Excel, Google Sheets, Airtable

Pros:

Cost-effective and easily accessible
Simple for initial stakeholder mapping and basic data collection
Customizable for your specific needs

Cons:
Limited in scalability and complexity for larger stakeholder networks
Limited collaboration features
Lacks advanced features for in-depth analysis and engagement tracking
Non-GDPR compliant
Multiple versions of Excel sheets everywhere
Static and becomes outdated

Ideal for: 

If you are in a small organisation with limited resources, and just need to input a few stakeholders and track repeating engagements - this is a good starting point. Though this does not suffice for Corporate Affairs professionals, it can be effective for general project managers - who just need basic stakeholder management. 

Additional Resources: 
Creating a Stakeholder Map in Excel: A Step-by-Step Guide
11 Free Stakeholder Engagement Planning Templates
Why Spreadsheets Will Disrupt Stakeholder Data Management

Level 2: Intermediate-Level Stakeholder Management Software

As your stakeholder management needs grow, entry-level software solutions can offer more functionality and efficiency compared to manual methods. Entry-level stakeholder management software typically includes features such as managing stakeholder lists, communication tracking, and automated reporting. These tools are user-friendly and require minimal training, making them ideal for small to medium-sized organizations.

Tools: Simply Stakeholders, Engagement Hub

Key Features and Benefits: 

Centralized database for comprehensive stakeholder profiles
Communication tracking and history logging for transparency
Basic reporting features for analyzing engagement trends

Ideal for:

Small and medium-sized organisations managing a growing number of stakeholders
Teams that need more structured relationship management
Teams that want to gain more insights from engagement trends

Limitations:

These software are great for tracking stakeholder engagements across team members. For example for sustainability managers, they can leverage these tools to efficiently track and manage interactions with a diverse range of stakeholders, from environmental groups, regulatory bodies, and community organizations. Transparent and well-documented engagement tracking demonstrate compliance with sustainability standards. An example of stakeholder engagement fits into ESG workflow is shown below.

However, the tools are limited in capabilities in terms of empowering stakeholder engagement planning. Furthermore, the stakeholder data imported into the platform is constrained by the existing database possessed by the team. Teams seeking a tool with embedded stakeholder data for project expansion in the platform may find these tools insufficient for their needs.

Additional Resources:
Evidence-based policy making and stakeholder engagement from OECD
Stakeholder engagement: An essential part of sustainable development

Excerpt from The ESG Playbook


Level 3: AI-Powered Stakeholder Intelligence & Engagement


For bigger organisations with complex stakeholder engagement needs that more advanced features such as real-time analytics, AI-powered insights, event calendar integration, sentiment analysis and larger datasets - tools such as Quorum and Borealis offer a wide range of features designed to manage and analyse stakeholder interactions effectively. In addition, These tools facilitate the entire stakeholder engagement process, from initial planning, through engagement execution, to comprehensive tracking and analytics.

Tools: Borealis, Quorum

Key Features and Benefits: 

Engagement planning
Integrated communication tools
AI-powered analytics including sentiment analysis

Ideal for:

Large organisations with complex stakeholder engagement operations
Teams that require communications to be done on the platform
Organisations seeking predictive insights and data-driven strategies

Limitations:

The tools in this stage contain very comprehensive features that support the entire stakeholder engagement journey. The tools also include limited US elected officials’ data which may be suitable for projects focused on engaging with US officials only. However, the tools may fall short for teams requiring a more extensive stakeholder database that encompasses individuals beyond government officials and US regions.

Additionally, if your project necessitates stakeholder identification based on specific issues or media analysis, these tools might not be adequately equipped to fulfil that requirement.

Additional Resources: 

The Impact of Artificial Intelligence on Stakeholder Relations Management Practices
Impact Of AI On Project Stakeholder Management
Stakeholder Management and Reputation


Level 4: Stakeholder Engagement tool coupled with Issues Intelligence

For organisations operating in a global context that need to do stakeholder engagement in tandem with issues monitoring - more advanced tools such as TSC.ai should be considered. 

Apart from being involved in the whole stakeholder management process, the tool also helps users identify stakeholders from media for proactive engagement and stakeholder reputation tracking. 

Issues monitoring helps the team understand issues affecting them and correspondingly identify stakeholders associated. This is especially useful for external affairs and sustainability leaders who require stakeholder identifications as part of the process - rather than relying on existing data in the organisation. 

Key Features and Benefits: 

Access to a massive database of over 1 million stakeholder profiles
AI-powered issue monitoring to identify emerging trends and related stakeholders
Real-time insights into stakeholder sentiment and influence

Ideal for:

Proactive team that needs to identify stakeholders from media and projects
High stake projects that require proactive monitoring of stakeholders
Teams that require global stakeholder data 

Limitations:
The communication integration in this platform is relatively limited when compared to alternative solutions. Organizations that prioritize robust communication capabilities may find this limitation challenging. Additionally, the combination of Data as a Service (DaaS) and media monitoring features on top of the stakeholder engagement platform results in a higher cost point. 


Conclusion


Selecting the right stakeholder engagement tool is a critical decision for organizations aiming to foster effective communication and build strong relationships with their stakeholders. From basic solutions like Excel sheets to sophisticated AI-powered platforms, the options available cater to a wide range of needs and complexities.

At TSC.ai, our integrated stakeholder and issues intelligence elevate the stakeholder engagement strategy one step up from the existing tools in the market. The platform and data will be designed customised to your business objectives and projects needs.

If you are in reputation management, risk management, corporate affairs and sustainability; we invite you to request an executive briefing. Discover how our platform can provide SaaS and DaaS tailored to your orgnisation’s needs.