In public relations work the target audience is often referred to as the “stakeholder.” Defined by Merriam-Webster as “one who is involved in or affected by a course of action” the stakeholders are those groups of people that an organization must positively influence. Just as the advertising message is intended to influence customers to regard your product positively, the public relations message is intended to influence stakeholders to regard your organization positively.
Stakeholders whose opinions or actions can positively or negatively affect an organization include:
- Customers: people who don’t feel good about a company won’t buy their products
- Investors: bankers, stockholders, financial analysts and others who have committed (or advise others to commit) funding to an organization won’t maintain their support if they don’t believe in what the company is doing
- Legislators / government regulators: lawmakers who feel a company or industry is doing harm, or who get complaints from their constituents, will be likely to propose restrictions or regulations
- Employees: the people who work within an organization must have high regard for their employer or they won’t be good representatives of the organization
- Activists / philanthropic groups: organizations that have an interest in the area in which the organization operates can exert economic or policy pressure if they don’t support the organization’s work
- Business partners: most organizations work with a network of suppliers, vendors, and other types of business partners who help them maintain their position in their industry or field; partners are an important stakeholder audience for PR professionals
A 14 year old died after drinking, over the course of a few hours, three of the energy drinks your company sells. Which “stakeholders” would you need to reassure that your product is safe? Why do they matter?