Identifying stakeholders

This guidance includes information about how to identify stakeholders who may be interested in engaging with your statistical outputs.

If you would like further information after reading this guidance, please contact

There are resources linked throughout this guidance.

Policy details

Metadata item Details
Publication date:22 May 2024
Owner:The Engagement Hub at the Office for National Statistics (ONS)
Who this is for:Anyone who is trying to reach users of their statistics

What we mean by stakeholders

The word ‘stakeholder’ refers to people and organisations you work with, who use your products, and who may be affected by your outputs. This could include:

  • Government Statistical Service (GSS) organisations
  • external organisations who work with your statistics
  • producers of statistics that you work with or source data from
  • individual professionals
  • interested citizens
  • other users and producers of statistics

When you are trying to identify stakeholders, it is important to consider why they are using your statistics. It may help to group stakeholders based on how they interact with your statistical outputs. You could consider:

  • statistical themes they are interested in
  • sectors they work in
  • levels of data expertise
  • what they use data and statistics for

If your organisation has developed user personas, these will be a useful resource.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) user personas are available on the ONS website. They describe different groups of people who use the website, based on how they use or view ONS data and statistics.

How to identify stakeholders

Step 1: set objectives

Objectives are statements which describe what you are trying to achieve.

If you have objectives in place before you start to identify your stakeholders, this can help to refine your search toward stakeholders who can help meet your needs. The objectives you select may be different for each type of stakeholder that you are contacting. For example:

  • a government department may need different information to a business
  • different stakeholder groups may support your work in different ways
  • how stakeholder groups feel about your work may vary

Writing your objectives

The ‘SMART’ framework is useful for setting objectives. It recommends that your objectives are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timebound.

Think about the who, where, what, how and why.


  • which stakeholder groups would you like to reach
  • what action would you like them to take
  • how you would like them to feel about your work

Think about what will tell you how your project is going.

Consider tracking data such as:

  • the sentiment of stakeholders
  • the reach of your contact
  • the steps taken by stakeholders to support or challenge your work

Think about whether your goals are realistic.

Consider whether:

  • you have enough time and resource to complete each activity
  • you have access to the audiences you need
  • you are able to achieve your goals in the timeframe you have

Think about how the objectives are related to what you would like to achieve and to your wider organisational goals.

Consider whether the objective will:

  • help to reach the end goal of the project
  • align with your organisation’s priorities
  • build relationships for your team
  • enhance the reputation of your organisation

Think about when you need to complete the objectives by, based on the timings involved in your work.


  • how much time you have to deliver the project
  • when you need each objective completed by
  • if there are milestones throughout the project to align communications with

The OASIS framework by the Government Communication Service (GCS) provides useful information about how to set objectives for communication.

Step 2: gather information

Start with what you know

You do not need to identify every stakeholder at the start of your project. Instead, start by identifying a representative portion of stakeholders. This could include a selection of stakeholders who:

  • rely on your statistics for their daily work
  • engage with your statistics, but do not use them for decision making
  • have a passing interest in your statistics, such as through the media
  • experience issues that are represented by your statistics
  • have a strong interest in the topic your statistics relate to

If your work affects the general population, you should try to identify stakeholders who can represent an accurate range of user needs and data understanding.

If your organisation has developed user personas, you should try to represent stakeholders from each relevant persona.

Identifying stakeholders is a continuous process. Once you have identified some initial stakeholders, they may be able to support you with further information or contacts. You can read about this in step 3 of this guidance.

Use tools which are available to you

Search engines

Consider what users might search for when they are trying to find information about your outputs or your topic area online. Your search could include:

  • potential keywords
  • Boolean strings
  • titles of your products, events, or consultations
  • the name of your organisation
  • the authors of your outputs

Keywords are words which users search with to find information. For example, a user may search for ‘population statistics’ or ‘births’.

A Boolean string is a search which uses a string of keywords with operators:

  • ‘AND’
  • ‘OR’
  • ‘NOT’
  • wildcards, which are represented by an asterix, or ‘*’

The search will then return results based on the combinations. For example, ‘birth’  OR ‘population’ AND ‘statistic*’ AND ‘2020”, or something similar.

Sector-specific websites

Websites which act as directories for sectors can be useful when identifying organisations. For example:

Searching for domains with your keywords may be useful for finding sector specific organisations. For instance, searching ‘statistics’ with ‘’ may identify webpages for government organisations who publish statistics. Examples of domains include:

  • ‘’ , ‘’ and ‘’ for UK government websites
  • ‘’ for not-for-profit organisations
  • ‘’ for academic institutions

During your search, you should only click on links which you know are trustworthy and are within your technology acceptable use policy.

Alerts and analytics

Alerts or analytics databases can lead you to stakeholders based on who is discussing your work or topic area.

You can set up Google Alerts or use Google Trends to monitor how your outputs are mentioned online. Find out how to monitor your outputs on Google Search Help.

Your communications team may have a license for a social media listening tool. Social media listening tools can track how your organisation is discussed online, and by whom. Examples include Pulsar, Hootsuite, and Brandwatch.

Step 3: work with others

Gain support from others

Consider who is best placed to identify stakeholders for your project. These may be colleagues inside or outside of your organisation, and could include:

  • project teams
  • communications professionals
  • policy professionals
  • colleagues who already work with the organisations you wish to reach
  • external partners in your topic area
  • your professional networks
  • recruitment partners

You may wish to hold ‘idea sessions’ with project groups to share expertise.

Make sure you work within your organisational policies and procedures when contacting stakeholders. This could include following contact procedures, data sharing agreements, and data protection policies. For example, you may need to:

  • contact an organisation through the team who owns the relationship
  • ensure you are only sharing information that is within your data sharing agreement
  • ensure you are not sharing others’ contact details without consent

There are data protection considerations at the end of this guidance.

Arrange stakeholder mapping sessions

Stakeholder mapping sessions will help you to identify further stakeholders for your project, and establish the type of relationship you should have with them. Stakeholder mapping should take place when you have gathered your initial list of stakeholders.

Read stakeholder mapping guidance from the Engagement Hub at the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Step 4: ask your networks

Once you have started communicating with stakeholders for your project and they are supportive of your goals, you can ask them who else may be interested in your project. You can ask about other connections once the stakeholder sees the benefit of your project and is happy to receive communications.

Examples of questions you could ask include:

  • Do you work with others who will want to know about this project?
  • Do you know others who use these statistics?
  • Are you interested in sharing information about this with your contacts?

You should only approach others through publicly available contact information. If the contact your stakeholder suggests does not have a publicly available contact point, ask them to introduce you.

Consider attending external events where there may be opportunities to meet new stakeholders in your topic area. This could include theme days, information events about statistical products or methodology, and networking events.

Step 5: offer a contact point

Adding contact details to communications about your project can help new stakeholders to get in touch with you. Consider adding a project email address to outputs by your organisation or the organisations associated with your stakeholders. This could include:

  • social media posts
  • newsletters
  • mailing list outputs
  • publications

To remain safe online, you should use project contact details such as a team email address instead of your personal details. Each organisation will have different procedures surrounding this, so you should read any available guidance or contact your communications team before adding contact details.

Data protection considerations

It is important to act responsibly and ethically when you are gathering and sharing information about stakeholders. Make sure all your actions adhere to your organisation’s data protection and data sharing policies.

If you do not belong to an organisation or do not have policies in place, the UK GDPR guidance from the Information Commissioner’s Office may be useful.

When you ask for information from stakeholders, specify that any information they share must be publicly available and should not breach data protection regulations. If they would like to share private information with you, they should first gain written consent from the data owner.

Make sure that any personal information you receive is stored in a secure location that only authorised colleagues can access. This information must be deleted when you no longer need it.

Accessibility considerations

You should make sure that all your communications are accessible so that stakeholders can engage with them. You should read and implement your organisation’s accessibility guidance.

Useful resources:

Next steps

When you have identified stakeholders to engage with, you should:

  1. Record them in a relevant location, such as a stakeholder recording sheet.
  2. Continually add new stakeholders that you identify to your list.
  3. Read the stakeholder mapping guidance and create a stakeholder map.
  4. Create an engagement plan to explain how and when to contact stakeholders.

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