Stakeholder engagement as communication design practice

Date01 May 2015
Published date01 May 2015
Special Issue Paper
Stakeholder engagement as
communication design practice
Mark Aakhus
*and Michael Bzdak
School of Communication & Information, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick,
New Jersey USA
Johnson & Johnson, New Brunswick, New Jersey USA
Stakeholder engagement competence is here framed as an ongoing matter of communication designthat is, profes-
sionals and organizations of all sorts are challenged to invent forms of engagement with organizational stakeholders
making communication possible that may otherwise be difcult, impossible, or unimagined. An original framework
for articulating logics of communication design that addresses extant shortcomings in understanding stakeholder en-
gagement competence is introduced. The framework draws into relief how communication for stakeholder engage-
ment is conceptualized and valued by professionals and organizations. The communication design practice
framework provides a path for opening up the black box of stakeholder engagement to advance communication com-
petence in professional practice and organizational communication. The framework is illustrated by reconstructing,
from current corporate social responsibility practice, two competing communication design logics for constructing di-
alogue and stakeholder engagement. One logic, grounded in the shared value framework, reprises a common theme
about business that points to constructing communication to maintain the primacy of shareholders in stakeholder net-
works and to seek protability in social, environmental, and economic problems. The other logic introduces an alter-
native communication design logic grounded in commitments to collaborative governance and open innovation. This
logic is for stakeholder networks to generate and manage multiple values that address matters of social, cultural, en-
vironmental, and economic concerns. We then consider some key implications for engagement practice and compe-
tency for inventing forms of dialogue and stakeholder engagement to create value in the new globalized, mediated
context. Communication design practice opens new ways of thinking about stakeholder engagement that has impli-
cations for cultivating professional practice and improving organizational decision-making about investing in com-
munication resources and infrastructure. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
The publication of FreemansStrategic Management:
A Stakeholder Approach (Freeman, 1984) highlighted
and reframed fundamental questions about value
creation through business. Companies could no lon-
ger be seen as black boxes with no obligations out-
side of efcient production but instead were more
clearly dened as entities designed for engaging in
multiple relationships for conducting business
within society (Donaldson & Preston, 1995). The en-
suing 30 years of business practice and research
shows that all functions of a business, from strategic
management to marketing to accounting, are af-
fected by stakeholderspursuit and denition of
value creation (Parmar et al., 2010). Stakeholder en-
gagement is thus a complex competency to be de-
veloped by organizations and the professionals
that run them. The initial insights of stakeholder
theory highlight that organizations have positive
and negative consequences in which many kinds
of actors have a stake. The competence imperative
is for management to gure out a companys obli-
gations and what role or inuence stakeholders
*Correspondence to: Mark Aakhus, School of Communication &
Information, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New
Brunswick, NJ, USA.
Journal of Public Affairs
Volume 15 Number 2 pp 188200 (2015)
Published online in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/pa.1569
Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT