By reviewing the literature in stakeholder theory, stakeholder management, and public relations, this paper arrives at a model that prioritizes stakeholders through a four-step process:
1) Identifying all potential stakeholders according to their relationship to the organization
2) Prioritizing stakeholders by attributes
3) Prioritizing stakeholders by relationship to the situation
4) Prioritizing the publics according to the communication strategy
Studies in stakeholder theory, stakeholder management, and public relations provide many different ways of identifying key stakeholders or publics. At the heart of these attempts is the question, “How much attention does each stakeholder group deserve or require?”
Since it is impossible that all stakeholders will have the same interests in and demands on the firm, one scholar specifies that stakeholder management be about “managing potential conflict stemming from diverging interests.” Once organizations have identified their stakeholders, there is a struggle for attention: who to give it to, who to give more to, and who to not give it to at all. Sacrificing the needs of one stakeholder for the needs of the other is a dilemma with which many organizations struggle. When these conflicts arise it is important to the success of the organization that it has prioritized each stakeholder according to the situation.
By synthesizing research in stakeholder management and public relations, this paper will clarify the difference between a stakeholder and a public, then provide a model that moves from the broadest attempts at identifying all stakeholders, to the more specific need of identifying key publics for communication strategies. The model is situational, and priority of stakeholders and publics will change according to the situation.
This is a Gold Standard paper that has been selected by the Commission on Public Relations Measurement & Evaluation for its expert contribution to the theoretical structure of measurement and evaluation. These preeminent papers have become part of the core curriculum for public relations practitioners, clarifying, systematizing and informing the way we think about research, measurement and evaluation.
Prioritizing Stakeholders for Public Relations (PDF)
Brad L. Rawlins
Brigham Young University