The Stakeholders in Public Relations

Stakeholders are a central part of public relations.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Stakeholders play a cent­ral role in pub­lic relations.

In pub­lic rela­tions, we typ­ic­ally seg­ment three audi­ences; pub­lics, influ­en­cers, and stake­hold­ers. They over­lap but are used for dif­fer­ent purposes.

Pouring Coffee in PR Mug
I love PR, but first coffee.

How To Define Public Relations

Someone once tried to count the num­ber of actu­al defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions, but they allegedly gave up after find­ing over 2,000+ dif­fer­ent versions. 

Amongst so many defin­i­tions of pub­lic rela­tions, here’s the defin­i­tion that I find to be most useful.

Public Relations (PR) = the stra­tegic and tac­tic­al use of com­mu­nic­a­tion to devel­op and main­tain pro­duct­ive rela­tion­ships with stake­hold­ers, influ­en­cers, and publics.

Please note:

Stakeholders in PR = incentiv­ised rep­res­ent­at­ives with vari­ous interests in the organisation.

Influencers in PR = inde­pend­ent gate­keep­ers with audi­ences of import­ance to the organisation.

Publics in PR = situ­ation­al groups with sim­il­ar com­mu­nic­at­ive beha­viours affect­ing the organisation.

Learn more: How To Define Public Relations

Influencers and pub­lics exist regard­less of the organ­isa­tion, where­as stake­hold­ers exist because of the organisation.

In a cor­por­a­tion, a stake­hold­er is a mem­ber of “groups without whose sup­port the organ­isa­tion would cease to exist”, as defined in the first usage of the word in a 1963 intern­al memor­andum at the Stanford Research Institute. The the­ory was later developed and cham­pioned by R. Edward Freeman in the 1980s. Since then it has gained wide accept­ance in busi­ness prac­tice and in the­or­ising relat­ing to stra­tegic man­age­ment, cor­por­ate gov­ernance, busi­ness pur­pose and cor­por­ate social respons­ib­il­ity (CSR).“
Source: Wikipedia

The Stakeholder Model in PR

Arranging groups of people as stake­hold­ers is so com­mon that most PR spe­cial­isa­tions have been named fol­low­ing the model.

Stakeholders in Public Relations

In PR, we often dis­cuss stake­hold­ers. And our PR spe­cial­isa­tions are named based on which stake­hold­ers we’re respons­ible for man­aging. 1The stake­hold­er mod­el is far from per­fect. There are plenty of over­laps, espe­cially when it comes to media rela­tions. Also, the cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tions func­tion is often regarded as an umbrella … Continue read­ing

Here’s the stake­hold­er mod­el in PR:

  • Corporate Communications = External and intern­al pub­lics, busi­ness journ­al­ists, reg­u­lat­ory insti­tu­tions, part­ners, sup­pli­ers, vendors etc.
  • Investor Relations (IR) = Shareholders, fin­an­cial mar­kets, mar­ket ana­lysts, fin­an­cial insti­tu­tions, trade journ­al­ists etc.
  • Media Relations = Journalists, edit­ors, influ­en­cers etc.
  • Digital PR = Inbound web traffic, brand com­munit­ies, sub­scribers, fans, fol­low­ers, influ­en­cers, social net­works etc.
  • Public Affairs (PA) = Voters, polit­ic­al journ­al­ists, polit­ic­al ana­lysts, colum­nists, interest groups etc.
  • Lobbying = Politicians, legis­lat­ors, gov­ern­ment offi­cials, com­mit­tees influ­en­cers etc.
  • Internal Communications = Coworkers, poten­tial recruits etc.
  • Crisis Communications = Crisis vic­tims, wor­ried pub­lics, the gen­er­al pub­lic, cowork­ers, journ­al­ists, influ­en­cers, cus­tom­ers, share­hold­ers etc.
  • Marketing PR = Potential cus­tom­ers, exist­ing cus­tom­ers, trade journ­al­ists, mem­bers, affil­i­ates etc.
  • Industry PR (B2B) = B2B cli­ents, B2B pro­spects, trade journ­al­ists, trade organ­isa­tions, niche influ­en­cers etc.

A wide­spread mis­con­cep­tion is that the PR func­tion only deals with journ­al­ists, edit­ors, and influ­en­cers (Media Relations) with­in the scope of attract­ing new cus­tom­ers (Marketing PR). But such work rep­res­ents only a tiny per­cent­age of all the stake­hold­er rela­tion­ships PR pro­fes­sion­als must man­age daily.

Learn more: Stakeholders in Public Relations

Developing and main­tain­ing rela­tion­ships with vari­ous stake­hold­ers is a sig­ni­fic­ant chal­lenge for PR pro­fes­sion­als since their inform­a­tion needs are typ­ic­ally very dif­fer­ent. From a resource per­spect­ive, the PR func­tion must con­stantly struggle to find bal­ance in pri­or­it­ising these needs.

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

1 The stake­hold­er mod­el is far from per­fect. There are plenty of over­laps, espe­cially when it comes to media rela­tions. Also, the cor­por­ate com­mu­nic­a­tions func­tion is often regarded as an umbrella cat­egory for the oth­er disciplines.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

The Cover Photo


Grab a free subscription before you go.

Get notified of new blog posts & new PR courses

🔒 Please read my integrity- and cookie policy.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” The harder you attack someone publicly, the more you convince their fans of their existing belief, not yours.
Most popular