Stakeholder Engagement - Is It Authentic?

Stakeholder engagement is really popular right now. That’s great for consultants like me. And it has some pitfalls.

The hazard that bothers me the most is the lack of authentic stakeholder engagement. When we complain about “greenwashing,” for example, we’re saying that we don’t think the engagement was authentic. When an organization asks for our input and doesn’t come back to us to tell us what they’ve done with the input, we wonder, “Why did I bother?”

The pivot point for creating authentic stakeholder engagement is getting clarity about your intentions. Then if you act in alignment with those intentions, your engagement will be authentic.


  1. Identify the stakeholder groups you want to engage with.

  2. Identify how much influence each group has on your organization currently – high, medium or low.
  3. Identify how much interest each group has in your organization and what it does– again, high medium, or low is adequate.
  4. Choose an engagement strategy for each group appropriate to their level of interest and influence.


Simple updates via your website, email, social media or other forms of outbound communication.

Two way communication that gives them an opportunity to provide insights and opinions which you will then use in a meaningful way.

Partner with them to do something neither of you could do alone. Joint ventures and collective impact projects fall in this area. Or it might start simply as involving them in a project in a meaningful way. In this quadrant, real transformation can happen through stakeholder engagement!

All four quadrants can provide authentic stakeholder engagement. It’s when you aren’t clear about how you intend to engage that it can leave a bad taste for stakeholders.

How have you engaged your stakeholders in ways that felt authentic for you and for them?