Stakeholder engagement as communication design practice

Mark Aakhus, Michael Bzdak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Stakeholder engagement competence is here framed as an ongoing matter of communication design-that is, professionals and organizations of all sorts are challenged to invent forms of engagement with organizational stakeholders making communication possible that may otherwise be difficult, impossible, or unimagined. An original framework for articulating logics of communication design that addresses extant shortcomings in understanding stakeholder engagement competence is introduced. The framework draws into relief how communication for stakeholder engagement is conceptualized and valued by professionals and organizations. The communication design practice framework provides a path for opening up the black box of stakeholder engagement to advance communication competence in professional practice and organizational communication. The framework is illustrated by reconstructing, from current corporate social responsibility practice, two competing communication design logics for constructing dialogue and stakeholder engagement. One logic, grounded in the shared value framework, reprises a common theme about business that points to constructing communication to maintain the primacy of shareholders in stakeholder networks and to seek profitability in social, environmental, and economic problems. The other logic introduces an alternative communication design logic grounded in commitments to collaborative governance and open innovation. This logic is for stakeholder networks to generate and manage multiple values that address matters of social, cultural, environmental, and economic concerns. We then consider some key implications for engagement practice and competency for inventing forms of dialogue and stakeholder engagement to create value in the new globalized, mediated context. Communication design practice opens new ways of thinking about stakeholder engagement that has implications for cultivating professional practice and improving organizational decision-making about investing in communication resources and infrastructure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Public Affairs
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations


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