Who’s your target?  A vitally important question, and not asked nearly enough in the world of PR strategy.  Sure, we often find out their geographical target, languages spoken, what industry they are in, job position or even social-economic indicators, but there is another, possibly more beneficial, way to view this.

According to the classic writings of Edward Freeman, Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach, there are three types of stakes:

  1. Equity stakes: have a direct ‘ownership’ in the company, such as shareholders, directors or minority interest owners.
  2. Economic (or market) stakes: held by those who have economic (but not ownership) interest in the organization, including employees, customers, suppliers and competitors.
  3. Influencer stakes: from various groups (economic or moral in nature) for example, consumer advocates, environmental groups, trade organizations and government agencies.

Right from the offset it is clear for any PR pro to see that these different stakeholders require different, often specialized, public relations (such as internal communications or public affairs).

At NettResults we like to consider a simple stakeholder analysis (or reflection) to make communications more efficient:

  1. Who are the organization’s stakeholders?
  2. What are their stakes?
  3. What opportunities and challenges are presented to the organization in relation to these stakeholders?
  4. What responsibilities (economic, legal, ethical and philanthropic) does the organization have to all its stakeholders?
  5. In what way can the organization best communicate with and respond to these stakeholders and address these stakeholder challenges and opportunities.

Next, to aid tactical priority, we look at the stakeholder salience. In other words, how visible or prominent a stakeholder is to the organization based upon the stakeholder possessing one or more of three attributes:

  1. Power: the power of the stakeholder group upon the organization.
  2. Legitimacy: the legitimacy of the claim laid upon the organization.
  3. Urgency: the degree to which stakeholder claims call for immediate action.

The more salient or prominent stakeholders have priority and therefore need to be actively communicated with.  Smaller or hardly salient stakeholders have less priority and it is less important for an organization to communicate with them on an ongoing basis.

Without getting all MBA’ish on you and drawing out a Venn diagram (remember those three overlapping circles?), it’s probably evident that with three saliency variables there are seven different types of stakeholders – the stakeholder that falls in the center which has power, legitimacy and urgency is clearly the priority and where the PR effort should be focused.

Target your stakeholder.