Effective communication and engagement is an essential component in helping to implement improvement. Developing a Communications and Engagement Plan will help you to manage your communication and engagement activities.

The first step in developing a communications and engagement plan is working out who you need to communicate with so before you can develop your plan you need to carry out Stakeholder Analysis and Mapping.

This analysis identifies who your stakeholders are and the mapping identifies their degree of power and influence on the changes being planned. Knowing their power and influence on the change will help you to decide on the frequency and form of your communications and engagement activities i.e. whether they simply need to be aware of the change or whether you require their active support.  You may wish to add other information to this such as their particular areas of interest within the change and the topics that will need to be communicated.

From this information you can then develop your communication and engagement plan. In your plan you should list the methods you plan to use.

Stakeholder analysis and mapping

Stakeholder analysis is one of the first steps you should take in any change project. It enables you to identify everyone with a concern or interest who needs to be involved. Once you have come up with the full list, you then need to categorise it: from people with the greatest involvement, through to more peripheral individuals or groups. The more important the stakeholder is to the success of the project, the more time and resources you need to devote to maintaining their involvement and commitment.

To improve service delivery processes you will need to actively engage a wide variety of people such as clinicians, administrative staff, patients and user groups. Thorough analysis and proper planning will facilitate this engagement. It also helps you  to avoid conflict and associated delays caused by inadvertently failing to involve key people.

The steps are;

1. Identifying your stakeholders
Assemble a group of subject matter experts, those with good networks. Then brainstorm a list of all the people and groups likely to be affected by the proposed change. The list is recorded onto a flipchart, or typed onto a laptop, for the group to see.

2. Prioritising your stakeholders
Analyse the list in terms of power, influence and the extent to which they are affected by the project or change. Insert each name into a four sector table (see below).

A useful acronym for ensuring that you have included all likely stakeholders in the health service is the ‘9 Cs’ listed below:

  • Commissioners: those that pay the organisation to do things
  • Customers: those that acquire and use the organisation’s products
  • Collaborators: those with whom the organisation works to develop and deliver products
  • Contributors: those from whom the organisation acquires content for products
  • Channels: those who provide the organisation with a route to a market or customer
  • Commentators: those whose opinions of the organisation are heard by customers and others
  • Consumers: those who are served by our customers: ie patients, families, users
  • Champions: those who believe in and will actively promote the project
  • Competitors: those working in the same area who offer similar or alternative services.

Four sector table

High power
Opinion formers. Keep them satisfied with what is happening and review your analysis of their position regularly.
Key stakeholders who should be fully engaged through full communication and consultation.
Low power
This group may be ignored if time and resources are stretched.
Patients often fall into this category. It may be helpful to take steps to increase their influence by organising them into groups or taking active consultative work.
Low impact/stake-holding
High impact/stake-holding


3. Understanding your key stakeholders
You now need to know more about your key stakeholders: how are they likely to feel about and react to your project? You can also use a readiness for change analysis to assess who may help or hinder the project.

You also need to know how best to engage and communicate with them.

Key questions to help you understand your stakeholders:

  • What interest do they have in the outcome of your work?
  • What motivates them most of all?
  • What information do they want from you?
  • What is the best way of communicating with them?
  • If they are not likely to be positive, what will win them around to support your project or manage their opposition?

4. Managing your stakeholders

From the stakeholder mapping and analysis the project team can devise an action plan that sustains supporters’ interest and commitment and wins round doubters.

Communication and Engagement Plan

From the information above you can then develop your communication and engagement plan. In your plan you should list the channels (methods) you plan to use. Here are some of the most commonly used channels.

  • Email
  • Posters
  • Intranet
  • Staff newsletter
  • Flyers
  • Staff meetings
  • Drop-in sessions.

Face-to-face channels are the most effective for engagement. Ensure that you include engagement activities for your most important stakeholders

In your plan, consider at what stage of the project you need to communicate with each stakeholder/stakeholder group. There may be some stakeholders who only need communicating with at the beginning and end of the project; others will require more regular updates as they are more heavily involved in the improvement. This can also be helpful for looking at where there is lots of activity in one particular period – helping you to manage your activities so that you do not overload your audience with information at any given time.

Your may find your local NHS Communications Department may be able to offer support in developing and implementing a communication and engagement plan. They may also help you to access resources, such as; logos, photo library, publishing to the local intranet or in the staff newsletter.