The impact of online media on stakeholder engagement and the governance of corporations

Published date01 May 2015
Date01 May 2015
Academic Paper
The impact of online media on stakeholder
engagement and the governance of
Christian Pieter Hoffmann*and Christoph Lutz
Institute for Media and Communications Management, University of St. Gallen, St. Gallen, Switzerland
Online toolssuch as social media providenew opportunities for citizensand stakeholder groupsto be informed, identify
common interests, express and share opinions and demands, organize, and coordinate interventions. Therefore, the
Internet could be expected to increase stakeholder engagement in corporate affairs and facilitate good governance. In
order to provide an overview of current ndings on the impact of online media on governance and stakeholder
engagement,we conduct a systematicliterature review.Our analysis revealsve topical categoriesof inquiry.We analyze
studies from the eld of business participation and nd a strong bias towards consumer engagement and marketing
issues.Only few studies are foundto critically explorethe effect of online mediaon power and value distributionbetween
corporations andstakeholders. We then turn to the more established eld of political and civicparticipation in order to
further analyze antecedents, forms, and outcomes of online engagement in civic affairs, and derive a framework for
future research. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons,Ltd.
In an enthusiastic review of the Internets political
impact, Clay Shirky (2011) writes: social media
have become coordinating tools for nearly all of
the worlds political movements. This might be
somewhat optimistic, but in fact, research has been
quick to explore the notion that new technologies
will facilitate political participation and create
access for non-elite citizens (Davis, 1999; Hacker,
1996; Stromer-Galley, 2000). Online media not only
make citizen participation in political decision mak-
ing logistically feasible, they also support delibera-
tive processes by providing access to a wide range
of information and online conversations (White,
1997; DiMaggio et al., 2001; Stromer-Galley & Foot,
2002). A range of studies have therefore explored
the impact of online media on citizen participation.
Nisbet et al. (2012) nd that Internet use increases
demand for democracy. A meta-analysis by
Boulianne (2009) also nds evidence for a positive
effect of Internet use on political engagement. Social
media use, too, has been linked to political interest,
online and ofine civic as well as political participa-
tion (Vitak et al., 2011; Towner & Dulio, 2011; Gil de
Zuniga et al., 2010). So if online media do in fact
increase citizen engagement in public governance,
how does this translate to the governance of market
institutions? Will the Internet also contribute to more
active, critical, and engaged stakeholders? Do they
provide new opportunities for good governance?
To date, research on citizen participation is
focused on issues of public governance (Andersen
et al., 2011; Ebbers et al., 2008; Heeks & Bailur,
2007). Yet, there are signicant similarities between
citizen participation in public and corporate gover-
nance: both are characterized by hierarchical
decision-making processes, a delegation of power
to professionals and select committees, and a strong
asymmetry of power between professional decision
makers and members of various interest groups
*Correspondence to: Christian Pieter Hoffmann, Institute for
Media and Communications Management, University of St.
Gallen, Blumenbergplatz 9, St. Gallen, Switzerland, 9000.
Journal of Public Affairs
Volume 15 Number 2 pp 163174 (2015)
Published online 25 June 2014 in Wiley Online Library
( DOI: 10.1002/pa.1535
Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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