Project single

Managing Stakeholder Media

An overview and funding proposal from The INSEAD Social Innovation Centre in collaboration with EABIS.


Project summary: The power of stakeholder media    

We have identified a powerful sector of media that are controlled by stakeholders with the purpose of influencing other stakeholders and organisations (like governments or firms). Various case studies and articles have described these media at work.


Current work focuses on predictive models of their processes and effects to develop frameworks and templates to understand their underlying mechanisms and to drive actionable strategies and tactics.

Background: Why stakeholder media matter to firms

Stakeholder media are not identical to “social media” – though ironically, they are more influential in many cases. Certainly, social media such as Facebook may be used by stakeholder groups. But the primary purpose of stakeholder media is not to make friends. Stakeholder media drive solutions to perceived issues.

We have shown that stakeholder media generate potent effects on firms:

  • In a consumer boycott, stakeholder media drove down the firm’s market cap by 30% after news media declared victory for the firm;
  • Consumer forums not only shape successful products, but also impact prices, “equalising” new brands with high-spending incumbents;
  • An alliance of employees with stakeholder media led to the subversion of BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” rebranding campaign.


Organisations responding to stakeholders “by the book” are often blind-sided by practices that aren't in the books yet. Firms that succeed in dialoguing with stakeholder media are still rare. The objective is to define that dialogue.

Objectives and implications for firms

The goal is to define how organisations may usefully engage with these “stakeholder media” – for example, to support CSR initiatives, to avoid or manage crises, or to engage customers in innovation. In the next three years we will concentrate on:

a) How stakeholder media change the effects of media, especially in setting public agendas, with or without the newsmedia. This has implications not only for reputation and crisis management, but also for marketing and branding.

b) How communities of influence are formed with and through stakeholder media.  We are concerned with how stakeholder media attract participants and connect to other stakeholders. This has implications for firms facing protest, as well as firms seeking to create or manage customer communities.

c) How organisations may engage and dialogue with stakeholder media. Here we are investigating rules of engagement appropriate to stakeholder media (for example, the ethics of stakeholder “news”). The key here is that firms cannot control stakeholder media; how, then, to influence (and be influenced by) them?

Expected outcomes

The Centre produced four published articles from working papers, three other working papers that have not completed peer review, and seven case studies in the three years since this project began.

This work is being noticed: one of the working papers was a “Top 10” download on the SSR academic database throughout 2010, and response at academic and practitioner conferences has been enthusiastic.

The team and partners

The project team combines competencies in content analysis, resource and process analysis and system dynamics – within the INSEAD Social Innovation Centre. To our knowledge, this is the first time that they have been applied conjointly to the study of new media. 

  • Dr. Mark Lee Hunter is an expert on investigative news media.
  • Prof. Luk N. Van Wassenhove is famous for his work on supply chains, and brings his expertise in processes to this work.
  • Dr. Maria Besiou is an expert in system dynamics, key to understanding long-term media effects.

We also have working partnerships with the Reputation Institute at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, with whom we have published a working paper, and with Rutgers University (USA). 

Costs and benefits for sponsors

We seek 3-4 sponsors willing to provide €30-50,000 per annum. The funds will be used to pay salaries and travel (for research and conferences) for team members.  A budget will be provided on request. 

We offer sponsors priority access to our research, including managerial briefings and in-company presentation sessions followed by discussions. We provide:

  1. Our findings in managerial language, as actionable items;
  2. The willingness to present our work in a customised workshop/discussion format.




Consumer Behaviour,
Strategic Management,


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