Keystone Posts by Katherine Hesketh

It takes collaboration to successfully complete any community project so ensuring that everyone who is impacted, either positively or negatively, is engaged throughout the lifespan of the work is so important. Based on our extensive experience of communicating with stakeholders for both community and commercial projects, here is our guide to delivering effective stakeholder communications.

1. Create a stakeholder map and carefully consider how you will engage with each individual /group.

A simple but essential exercise at the start of any project is to create a list of all of your stakeholders. Not sure who to include on the list? Just think about everyone likely to have an interest in your project’s progress. Decide how you will communicate with them and how frequently they will want to hear from you. Keep in mind that while email updates can be an efficient way for you to share news with groups of people, some stakeholders might require a 121 relationship, nurtured through face-to-face contact.

TOP TIP: Create a communication plan that doesn’t just broadcast your project’s news, but ensures that each stakeholder feels seen and heard.

Define and categorise your stakeholder audience too – community stakeholders differ from those working in a business environment. For example, stakeholders in a commercial setting tend to understand the business rationale and know what activity is expected from them. Conversely, stakeholders for a community project have often volunteered their time for many years to make an impact – and they are likely to feel very passionate about it.

TOP TIP: Be sensitive to the history of a project – take time to understand what has happened “before your time” and acknowledge this when you first reach out to your stakeholders.

Members of the public are often considered a stakeholder within community projects, especially if the outcome impacts them personally. Engagement might involve asking members of the public to give their time to share opinions about a community action free-of-charge, so be aware of this, recognise it and show your appreciation for their invovement in your approach.

TOP TIP: Offering a small incentive is a good way to initiate engagement with the general public.

2. Create stakeholder toolkits

Need your stakeholders to cascade some information for you? Creating a stakeholder toolkit will make things easy for you and them! Include ready–to-go email content, talking points, images and direct links to reshare posts from social channels. Both you and your stakeholders will have confidence that information and news about the project are shared with consistency – and asking your stakeholders to share your message directly with their audiences is more likely to gain that wider engageemnt too.

TOP TIP: Avoid overloading your stakeholders with too much information in one go. Rather than sharing the whole toolkit, break it down into bitesize tasks. For example, one week provide your stakeholders with one LinkedIn post for them to copy, paste and publish, the next week, offer an article for their newsletter.

3. Bring people together

We’ve found that stakeholders in community projects or those that bring in leads from multiple business departments rarely work together on a regular basis, so we often kick-start a project by inviting all of the key stakeholders to a face-to-face meeting. It creates an opportunity for disparate stakeholders to meet each other, for colleagues to reconnect and more often than not, brings a sense of excitement and buy-in at the start of the project!

TOP TIP: Use an independent person to facilitate this meeting – stakeholders will feel they can share information and opinions in a safe place, knowing that this will not impact their day-to-day work.

4. Work hard to make stakeholders an integral part of the project

When people are listened to, they are more likely to take ownership in making the project a success. Consider workshops, small meetings, and even informal chats over coffee. Once engaged, look for continuing ways to show that you value the stakeholder input.

TOP TIP: For one of our projects, we invited stakeholders on-site and filmed them sharing their opinions about the value of the work being done. They felt heard, played a part in the story and we had a great piece of content that we could share more widely.

5. Don’t take it personally

Spending time writing the perfect piece of communication but not hearing back from your stakeholders might leave you feeling discouraged – but don’t be! There are a lot of factors at play here and it’s unlikely you’re one of them. People rarely respond the first time – sometimes the timing is wrong, or maybe the message doesn’t resonate, or more likely, they just didn’t read or see it!

TOP TIP: It’s often said that a message needs to be seen 7 times before action is taken, so don’t be afraid to repeat your information across multiple channels. Better to have an over-informed stakeholder than an under-informed one! And don’t always rely on email – pick up the phone for a chat, pop and see them or arrange a catch up virtually.

6. Demonstrate your experience

From day one of the project, give your stakeholders confidence in you by showing that everything you do is backed up by a strategy and project plan. At the end of the project, when you review how things went always be transparent about what worked well and where there are opportunities to do things differently.

TOP TIP: When you share updates, prove that you are sticking to the plan and be proud to talk about what you have achieved. Stakeholders will respond well to this show of leadership.

7. Think about the longer-term

Going the extra mile, being kind and helping people where you can, and generally making a great impression on stakeholders will not only help you with a project, it can open doors for the future. Maybe it will ensure you have support for your next project, or help you to secure your next opportunity… you never know when you will meet the stakeholders again.

TOP TIP: We all want to feel appreciated – so try to find a way of making every stakeholder feel like this. Don’t just generically thank them for their time. Be specific and make it personal.

With considerable stakeholder engagement under our belt, we have lots of other hints and tips that we would be happy to share with you. Just give us a call!


Earlier this year, Keystone was chosen to lead communications for an exciting local project that will see a £3 million investment made in Hinchingbrooke Country Park. With an emphasis on community engagement, our approach will include the development of a social media campaign and the creation of a promotional film.

Led by Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC), formal plans for the proposed developments are currently being shared in a public exhibition. If planning permission is granted, the construction work is expected to begin in early 2023. The changes to the park will include:

  • a new car park,
  • upgraded footpaths,
  • and new café located at the countryside centre.

As a precursor to the main works, this summer saw four new play areas installed in the park along with specialist, fully-accessible play equipment.

Hinchingbrooke Country Park new play areas, 2022

All photos © Matthew Power Photography

Covering 150 acres, Hinchingbrooke Country Park is a much-loved open space in Cambridgeshire that receives large numbers of visitors throughout the year. Throughout the 18 month project, Keystone will be responsible for a dedicated campaign designed to communicate progress of the work to the public, stakeholders and partners. Local interest is expected to be high, so a clear focus will be on providing timely and high impact social media messages that inform and inspire.

While most activity will be delivered from early 2023 once construction begins, the building of campaign assets has already got underway; with Keystone working to create a unique brand identity for the project and undertaking filming for the promotional video that will tell the story of HDC’s investment in the park.

Example of social media posts promoting the public exhibition about the Hinchingbrooke Country Park Investment programmeThis work was awarded to Keystone following a competitive tender process, led by Huntingdonshire District Council. It is the fourth high profile project the team will deliver for the district council in the last two years, following on from the Reopening Huntingdonshire and Think Local campaigns at the height of Covid, as well as the Godmanchester Mill Steps community engagement project which came to an end earlier this year.

Community engagement campaigns continue to be a core skill for the team at Keystone. During the pitch process for this latest project, our team drew upon a broad range of experience built from wider campaigns delivered for St Neots and Huntingdon Town Councils, as well as regional membership body Cambridgeshire ACRE.

For many organisations, an annual conference, seminar series, or awards ceremony has always been a key date in the calendar. A chance to get in front of clients, prospects, members and stakeholders; to shake hands, meet old friends and make new connections. And for many businesses, a revenue-generating activity too.

Unsurprisingly, virtual events have become a much bigger entity in the last 12 months. Event organisers and businesses have adapted quickly to create online events that deliver the goods in replacement of the traditional face-to-face activity.

As the communications lead for membership body National Enterprise Network, Keystone has supported the delivery of its flagship event for many years – the NEN Annual Conference and Awards.

For obvious reasons, the 2020 event required a new approach – and here we share some of those top tips and tricks that made the event so successful. And not just because we say so, in the post-event feedback, 91% of delegates rated NEN’s “What’s the Future” digital event as Outstanding or Good!

 1. Serving your audience matters the most, so prioritise this to be the best host

Ask yourself – Why is this event important to this audience and what are their expectations? Answering this is absolutely essential. Virtual events risk a lot of distraction and disengagement. For NEN, we knew exactly what delegates expect from the NEN Annual Conference and Awards – high energy, motivational contributors, and unbeatable networking opportunities. Above all, our delegates expect to leave the event feeling inspired and motivated. We needed to translate that online. And with this showcase event taking place annually, there is always a need to excel on each year’s successes, so that was in our mind too.

2. Teams, Webex, Google or Zoom… are you addressing that elephant in the room?

It’s important to acknowledge and mitigate for key online event challenges:

1. Screen fatigue

2. Physical disconnect

3. Potential technical difficulties

3. Don’t send your delegates off to sleep… Keep it short and keep it sweet!

It’s obvious that interactivity is crucial for making an online event successful. But what might be less obvious is how quickly delegates start to switch off – literally in some cases! What works for a face-to-face event doesn’t necessarily fit as well for online. Ask yourself how you can break content into bite-sized chunks to reduce audience switch off.

4. Mix it up, split it up… And use a host to pep it up!

Don’t give your delegates the chance to zone out. Keep the programme constantly moving with short segments and mix it up with live and pre-recorded footage. Use online “rooms” to run breakout sessions with small groups if relevant. Consider the role that chat functions can have to build networking and engagement. And tie it all together with a host who can tread that fine line between bouncy enthusiasm and gentle humour.

5. Not all your script needs writing… impromptu can be much more exciting!

The “live” nature of an event may feel amplified when it takes place online, so it can be tempting to script and rehearse every moment. Your audience isn’t really there, so you can just read from notes right? Wrong. Keep it natural where possible to create a deeper connection, to build anticipation, and create joy.

6. A group ticket price is a great way to entice!

Pricing online events is tricky, especially when so many events are offered at no cost. Online events may not incur venue hire or catering costs, but don’t sell yourself short. Planning and delivering an event still takes time, and if the event is usually a revenue earner for you, you may still need to sell tickets. Just think carefully about pricing. With no travel times or expenses to worry about, an online event is suddenly accessible to more people than ever – so why not encourage whole teams to attend?


Virtual events aren’t going anywhere any time soon, but event management expertise is still important.  We can help your next online event make a big impact.   

Ask us how

What have you discovered about your colleagues and clients during the last 50 days of the UK lockdown? How has this new information changed the way you feel about them?

I’ll share my findings.

1. I’ve had confirmation that Hayley’s house is as stylish as her personal presentation (enviable wallpaper, intriguing collection of mini plates hanging on the wall).
2. There’s no better ice breaker during a client call than the unexpected appearance of a pet or a child.

And what’s changed as a result? Primarily, this little peep into the “home” window of my colleagues and clients has resulted in me feeling closer and more strongly connected to them.

Who do we thank for this? Zoom, Skype, Facetime, and all the other video call platforms? The great levelling effect of the pandemic? The impact of enduring collective trauma? Or perhaps a heady combination of all these things, which has created a huge blurring of boundaries.

I think the biggest reminder we’ve had is that we are all human. I’m not suggesting that robots have been walking amongst us, other than those food delivery robots in Milton Keynes!

But I wonder whether those erratic, unfathomable days in March, which flipped our lives upside down and inside out, left us craving, on a primitive level, human connection, at the very same moment we were urged to literally step away from one another?

At the heart of all this came a big reminder that it’s not just that the technology that has brought us closer. It’s the fact that as humans, we take comfort from one another. Not because we want to, but because we need to.

What remains when the barriers come down?

In our pre-Covid lives, our society generally revolved around a set of unspoken, but very conventional boundaries. Home life and office life were separated quite neatly. It was very easy to control how you presented your preferred version of your “self”.

This ability to “mould and manufacture” applies to brands just as much as it does to people. Fake. Genuine. Filtered. Natural. Staged. Freestyle. Curated. Organic. This infinite flexibility came at a cost – it became really hard to tell whether something was authentic or not.

How can you trust something when it’s hard to see what really lies beneath all that polish and shine?

The silver lining hiding in plain sight

We’re all looking for silver-linings at the moment, and I think we’ve got one right in front of us at the moment.

The resurgence of authenticity.

This unique situation we’re in is truly awful, but I defy anyone who isn’t searching for positive outcomes. With these boundaries (temporarily) down, there’s a freedom to gain a new level of openness and honesty. If you haven’t done so already, I’d urge you to grab this opportunity. Connect with your colleagues, employees, customers and clients, and grow deeper bonds.

Just keep communicating

Communication is playing a huge role in this pandemic. From a marketing perspective, it’s been quite a journey so far, and there’s a long road ahead. But for now, my advice is to relish the opportunity to be authentic. Don’t worry about letting down some of those barriers, there is far more to gain than there is to lose. Take this golden opportunity to learn more about your customers, colleagues and clients – the better you know them, the better you can serve them.

Do I really have to reveal everything?

One last thing – I know there’s one thing playing on your mind. Yes, you are absolutely allowed to strategically angle your webcam so your dirty dishes/laundry/children/pets/secrets are hidden! Full exposure is never usually a good thing! Have a read of this great article about the “two yous” which can exist while you’re working from home.

On the completion of a campaign that drew on a client’s key network, Keystone Marketing Manager Katherine Hesketh reflects on a network’s impact and importance.

“nepotism”: Noun – the practice among those with power or influence of favouring relatives or friends. In short – it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.

“networking”: Noun – the action of interacting with others to exchange information and develop professional or social contacts.

Are these two totally different concepts? Do we network in order to benefit from nepotism? Love it or hate it, most people recognise that networking can be a very positive activity that can lead to constructive outcomes.

Humans have an innate desire to make connections with other people, in order to learn from one another, to socialise and grow communities. Whichever way you look at it, your network – be it personal or business – is really important.

3 things you should always do with your network
How much time are you spending on your network?

  1. Are you growing it?
  2. Are you staying connected to it?
  3. And (here comes the one that might make you feel uncomfortable), are you maximising it?

How to grow and stay connected to your network
This is so simple. Get out there, either physically or online, and meet people. Make introductions, ask for recommendations and make new connections. Once you’ve made connections, keep them informed by communicating with them – talk about your business, share ideas, and collaborate.

The secret to maximising your network 
Why is it so hard to ask for help? Maybe it’s just a British trait, but it can feel hard asking others, especially those outside your organisation, for help can’t it? But what if you knew that the person you were asking wasn’t going to think of your request as a chore, or an inconvenience? Here’s a secret – if you grow your network and keep them up to date, your network will be packed with advocates who are informed, and (with a bit of luck) only too happy to help when you ask.

Our experience of maximising a network
We recently ran a campaign for a client who wanted to sign up new members to their membership organisation. On the face of it, it was an easy sell. Membership fees were £0 for the first year and the target audience was huge. But there was a big sticking point – there was no central database containing the contact details of everyone that we wanted to reach. So in this new GDPR world, how could we reach them?

The answer lay in the existing members of the membership organisation – we had to maximise the existing members, and use them to our advantage. “Member get member” is by no means a new concept, but it’s a good one! And here’s why – because your existing members already know people, like them – you don’t have to go out and find them. And here’s the crux, they’re much better placed to do the ‘selling’ because they’re impartial. They can speak from the heart about what they perceive to be the benefits, because they believe in them, and have already signed on the dotted line.

In our case, we were selective. We didn’t run the campaign as a complete MGM scheme, with incentives. We kept it small and personal. We built a personal relationship with each advocate through a detailed phone call and provided them with everything they needed to support the campaign.  As for the result, well I’m delighted to report that we smashed our KPIs!

You’re human – look after your network and it will look after you
Is spending time on your network high up your priority list? It should be, because that need for connection is hard-wired into our DNA – you can’t escape it, it’s what makes us human! Just remember, when you lay great foundations in your network, you can build great connections on top of it.

Drop us a line to find out how we can help you fully utilise your networks as part of your marketing strategy…