5 Tips for Working with Stakeholders

Stakeholders are a necessary component of nearly every content project. Without their unique perspectives, even the most talented writers and strategists would fall short of creating the best, most customized product possible.

As a result, they are incredibly important and impactful players– and not only because of their unmatched expertise and invaluable feedback. Stakeholders have the ability to:

  • Delay or halt projects
  • Change direction or process
  • Impact budget or scope
  • Approve the final product or …
  • Send everything back to the drawing board

You can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. That’s why all marketers should follow this advice: When it comes to stakeholders, handle with care.

Common Stakeholder Problems

Whether you are a client working with internal stakeholders or a marketer who regularly manages them, the challenges are the same. You may have encountered setbacks or challenges from any of these common personalities:

  • The Break Pad: These stakeholders have jam-packed schedules and may be repeat “no-shows” for interviews. They sit on content for weeks past deadline, holding the review process hostage. It’s a common situation because the most valuable stakeholders often hold very senior positions and are legitimately busy.
  • The Charlie Brown: Everybody on the project wants these people to weigh in, but they do not understand their value. Interviews are challenging because they don’t provide clear, direct answers or often defer to other people, who may or may not be stakeholders. As a result, their feedback is light on the key details you need.
  • The Expert: While all stakeholders are experts in their areas, this stakeholder is also an expert in your job – whether it’s writing content, developing an SEO strategy or designing a webpage. It may be hard to convince this stakeholder of well-accepted industry best practices if he or she disagrees. Prepare for intense edits and feedback.
  • The Monday Morning Quarterback: The no. 1 reason for project delays? Either the Charlie Brown or The Expert can morph into this stakeholder in the final stages. They see the first draft and disagree with its direction, possibly even contradicting their own input. Be aware: It’s very common for stakeholders to change their mind or be surprised when they see their words spun into something more tangible like a webpage or blog.

Best Practices for Managing Stakeholder Relationships

The best way to work with stakeholders is a very proactive approach. We have compiled our best practices for interviewing and managing stakeholders to help avoid those frustrating project delays and setbacks:

  • Establish a clear process from Day 1: Put yourself in the uninformed stakeholder’s shoes: They do an interview with you or your team, you disappear for weeks, then re-emerge with a sudden need for feedback and approval at a time that may not be convenient. You would be annoyed, too, right? Take a few minutes during your stakeholder call to walk them through the process, timeline and what you will need from them so they are prepared.
  • Don’t be afraid to over-prepare: If you want to get the most out of your stakeholder interview, do not show up as a blank slate. Do your homework by researching as much as you can about the subject matter, client, competitors and even the stakeholder ahead of the interview. Asking basic questions is the best way to waste an interview. Instead, use your time to delve deeper and get into messaging, differentiators and help with more complex topics.
  • Communicate key dates and repeat, repeat, repeat: Stakeholders are very busy. They will quickly scan your email, so make it easy for them: Clearly state your time frame in bold font. At your interview, remind them at the start and end when they will receive a draft for review. Follow up with an email reminding them of this date and how much time they will have for feedback. Send reminders ahead of the deadline.
  • Avoid sending a list of questions in advance: It may sound counter-intuitive. But if you want the most out of your discussion, don’t fence yourself in with a script. When given a list of questions, stakeholders tend to offer stiff, careful answers. You miss out on the rich details that a more organic conversation can uncover. Instead, provide an overview of topics and write a few short sentences describing your goals for the interview.
  • Control the review process: Lay the groundwork for a clear review process before scheduling the first stakeholder call. If you are working with multiple stakeholders, it’s a good idea to establish the following:
    • Which stakeholders need to review/approve the final product, and whether anyone’s feedback is more authoritative or should be last
    • How many rounds of revisions are included within project scope
    • Whether stakeholders are editing for content, accuracy, messaging, or all of the above
    • A process for ensuring consolidated feedback so you don’t get back conflicting feedback and direction
    • A clear timeline and how feedback delays will affect project completion


Interested in learning more about content marketing? Check out Charles River Interactive’s blog View from the Charles:

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Out With the Old, In With the New: Google’s Updated Expanded Ad Text (ETA)

In May of this past year, Google announced what they are calling the biggest change to text ads since AdWords, which launched 15 years ago. Soon-to-be-gone are the days of the tried and true 25-35-35 character limits of current standard ads, and here is the future: extended text ads (ETAs) catering towards AdWord’s “mobile first” world. What exactly do these extended text ads mean for agencies and their clients?

The new extended text ads will be available for both search and display campaigns and will feature two new headline fields at 30 characters each, replacing the old 25 character headline. In lieu of the 2, 35 character description boxes, there will now be one, long description field with an 80 character limit. The new 140-character extended ads are designed to stand out among mobile search results and maximize ad performance. As more and more searches are done on these devices, we will now have more opportunity than ever to engage users within the first click. Below is a comparison of the old standard ads and the new extended ones, on both desktop and mobile.

Google Extended Text Ad Before and After

What is the opportunity for AdWords Marketers with expanded text ads?

Along with the sheer amount of clickable space doubling, advertisers can now make every extra character count, extending their clients’ emotion-evoking stories, descriptive product features, and compelling promotions. No longer will advertisers feel that they have to exclude important information in their descriptions. Google has offered advertisers the perfect chance to reinvent their messaging in search, not just add meaningless text to fill space. Advertisers will now be able to utilize ads even more to their advantage and target potential customers more accurately than ever. ETAs provide additional opportunities for advertisers to connect with users and drive more qualified leads.

Does character limit really affect clicks?

Charles River Interactive (CRI) has already started rolling out ETAs amongst clients, and the results are very promising. Within a month of running the new ETA’s for one client, CRI found that click-through-rate (CTR) for the expanded ads was 53% higher than that of the remaining standard ads. With the same client, CRI analyzed that conversions also increased and the average cost per conversion for expanded ads was 41% lower than that of standard ads. Other early reports indicate that ETA’s increase CTR by 20% on average. So, from what we can tell, the expanded ads are having a positive effect all around for advertisers.

Google Expand Ad Text

What other changes are being made?

Along with expanded descriptions and headlines, expanded text ads in AdWords will also now automatically pull the display URL from the final URL. Advertisers will then be able to add up to two optional paths to boost the display URL, both of which can be up to 15 characters long. These paths offer another opportunity for strategizing which allow advertisers to add short terms to describe to users what they will find on their landing page, and show them that it’s exactly what they were looking for, enticing them to click even more.

New Expanded Text Ad Google

When will ETA go into effect?

Previously, Google had announced that all ads had to be switched from standard to expanded format by the end of October, but this past week, this deadline was pushed back a few more months to January 31, 2017. While this may seem like a while away, this extra time shouldn’t be ignored, and it’s smart to get a head start before advertisers and clients are rushed to write and approve all new copy. This additional extension also gives agencies, advertisers and clients extra time to strategize on how they want to implement these changes. Have clients been able to say what they want in their ads, or do they get cut off? It’s important that all advertisers consider how this may affect their brand – and how they want to use the new characters to tell more about their brand story and products.

Interested in learning more about marketing trends? Check out Charles River Interactive’s blog View from the Charles:

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