Brand stakeholders: Who they are and how to interact with them

10 minute read

Brand stakeholders: Who they are and how to interact with them

Highlights:

  • Brand stakeholders are any individual or group with an interest in your company’s outcomes.
  • Understanding what each stakeholder needs and how to cater to them can help your business succeed.
  • Overlooking a stakeholder might mean overlooking a business opportunity.
  • The various stakeholders can have different (and sometimes conflicting) interests, so sometimes a company must make tradeoffs to please them all.

What are stakeholders?

Brand stakeholders are any individual or group with an interest in your company’s outcomes. Taking stock of your main stakeholders can help you understand what you’re doing to serve them and how best to communicate with them.

If you’re unaware of a stakeholder or unsure of their needs, you might overlook them in your branding and reputation management efforts. People are the most important aspect of any successful business, and stakeholders encapsulate the people who make your business what it is.

We’ll walk through a company’s many stakeholders and how you should be interacting with each to engender the best results and strengthen your corporate reputation.

Who are brand stakeholders?

Most companies have 13 key stakeholders.

  1. Employees
  2. Consumers/customers
  3. Leadership team
  4. Investors/shareholders
  5. Business partners
  6. The media
  7. Suppliers/vendors
  8. Competitors
  9. Your company’s community
  10. Governments
  11. Prospective customers
  12. Prospective employees
  13. Prospective vendors

Why are stakeholders so important?

Understanding what each stakeholder needs and how to cater to them can help your business succeed. Overlooking a stakeholder might mean overlooking a business opportunity. Consider what might happen if you only cater to your customers and not your investors? The investors might pull funding, making it challenging for you to serve your customers. Likewise, failing to consider your employees might mean high turnover rates and difficulty creating synergy in your business practices.

Is a customer a stakeholder?

Yes, customers are some of the most important stakeholders for your business. When you make changes to your business practices or products, your customers are impacted directly. Consider them carefully before making changes to your company.

stakeholders-1

Corporate brand stakeholders and how to speak to them

Being able to capture the attention of your stakeholders in a way that creates positive interest towards your corporate brand is key. They must feel informed about your brand and connected to your customer story in order to continue to view your reputation in a positive light.

Employees

Employees include contractors, part-time workers, remote workers, and anyone who works on your business. Don’t forget your remote team that might feel more disconnected from your brand because of their distance.

How to speak to them: Host regular all-hands meetings to share progress and details about your company. Listen carefully to employees to learn more about their perceptions of working for your organization and what you can do to improve your relationship with them.

Consumers/customers

Customers are some of your most important brand stakeholders. Your branding, products, and packaging will all have a large impact on your customers. But don’t forget your messaging, customer service, and warranties. These all communicate something to your customers. And, no matter how long it’s been since a customer has placed a purchase, remember to stay in contact with them.

How to speak to them: Everything that you put out about your organization is something that your customers could see or hear. Think about your social media, news releases, website content, email marketing, etc. Some communication channels are direct to your consumers, like email, direct mail, and text messages. Others are messages that your consumers may or may not see based on their interest and how closely they're following your brand. But in today’s connected economy you must stay in contact with your consumers and respond to their inquiries and customer service requests.

Leadership team

Your board of directors and leadership team are essential market differentiators for your business. Their strategic oversight and guidance help make your company who it is.

How to speak to them: The leadership team needs to be able to communicate your brand clearly. While they provide overarching strategic direction, they aren’t in the weeds with your brand’s personality and traits. Communication with your leadership team matters, but keep it concise and only when needed. Focusing on customers and long-term planning consumes their time and attention.

Investors/shareholders

While your investors don’t normally play a role in your company’s day-to-day operations, they certainly have an interest in what’s happening within your organization. The decisions you make impact their investments and your overall shareholder value. Their financial backing is based on believing in your brand, mission, and pecuniary numbers. If things change, they might pull their financial investments.

How to speak to them: Issue quarterly and annual updates that show how your business is doing. But don’t only focus on the financial side of the business. Talk about your accomplishments with your customers, new product lines, changes in measurements like net promoter scores, reviews from your customers, etc. This will tell the whole story of your brand instead of just the monetary part.

stakeholder v shareholder

Business partners

Business partners can be other companies you collaborate with, such as retailers or resellers of your product or service. Keeping business partners informed and happy can have a large impact on your bottom line and the availability of your products and services to your customers.

How to speak to them: In a way, business partners are like investors, as they have a stake in the financial success of your business. Keep them informed about large changes you’re planning and how they might experience impacts. Share sales information and ways they can entice more people to purchase products from them.

The media

A quite different form of brand stakeholder is the media. You want to stay on their good side because the publicity they provide affects your organization. And yet, they also may illuminate challenges or difficulties you’re facing to serve as a sort of consumer watchdog. Keep that in mind when communicating with this stakeholder.

How to speak to them: Issue news releases for new products, services, community partnerships, etc. If you have a relationship with your local media outlet(s), consider a personal phone call to your top contacts when something big happens at your organization. The right communication with the media can help you manage the messaging about your company that makes it to the public. Failing to comment on issues or face them authentically could mean that the media turn to another source for the information – and it might not be as flattering.

Suppliers/vendors

Your company’s suppliers and vendors are essential to delivering your products and services to your customers. Changes in your order volume or contracts could impact your suppliers and vendors immensely. The more open and honest you can be with them, the better. And, ideally, they then will reciprocate so that changes in availability or cost of supplies don't come as a surprise to you.

How to speak to them: Planning to launch a new product? Get (and keep) in touch with your suppliers and vendors to see how they can collaborate with you. If you are planning to change suppliers or vendors, be open and honest about that process. You never know when you might need an old contact again, so the stronger your relationships, the better. Share important company news with your suppliers and vendors to help them feel invested and up to date on your business.

Competitors

Other companies who are direct or indirect competitors with your organization can also be stakeholders, but in a very different way from those we've covered so far. You want to keep tabs on what your competitors are doing and collaborate on issues impacting your industry. Outside of that, you don't want to give away your secrets and what makes you unique, naturally.

How to speak to them: For the most part, you won’t speak directly with your competitors. You might respond to changes in their product offering by showing how you serve your customers in similar ways. Keeping tabs on what your competitors are doing and what they are offering customers is essential to staying a leader in your industry.

Your company’s community

The community where your business is located and the main communities you serve will also be stakeholders in your business. Your business impacts the local economy, which affects the community. And 90 percent of businesses contribute to local causes. Businesses also supply jobs for the local community.

How to speak to them: Get your company involved in your community. Promote environmental friendliness, share news about job growth, and give back both financially and through volunteer hours from your employees. Most of this information will reach your community through public relations efforts, so don’t forget those media relationships we talked about earlier.

Governments

Changes in regulations, taxes, and employment laws all have an impact on your company. Join the conversation about key industry issues and legislation. Consider how government changes could impact your customers and think about joining those conversations as well to show you care about your customers.

How to speak to them: Your representatives should know your key leadership team members. Attend open houses and other government gatherings to keep relationships strong. Reciprocate and invite your representatives to your networking sessions and open houses as well.

Prospective customers

While about half of your annual revenue likely comes from repeat customers, the other half is from new customers. You can never stop prospecting and generating new leads for your business. Prospective customers are a large and significant part of growing your business, so consider them carefully in your brand decisions.

How to speak to them: Website content, guides, whitepapers, brochures, and other product information tools and materials are essential to show the value of your product or service. Prospective customers will also get information from your public relations efforts, discussions with employees, conversations with customers, interaction with social media review sites, and more. Make sure you have plenty of content, information, and knowledgeable team members to answer prospective customer questions and showcase the value your organization brings its customers.

Prospective employees

Employing top talent will help your organization innovate and serve customers to the fullest. To recruit top talent, you must constantly be thinking about potential job seekers. Consider perceptions of your business in the marketplace. What your existing and previous employees say about their experience working for you will directly impact your ability to recruit top talent.

How to speak to them: Make clear the benefits your employees receive from working for your organization. The more you listen to existing employees and adapt business practices to delight them, the more likely it will be that the finest prospective employees will consider applying for a job with your company. Your public relations efforts also will affect how prospective employees view your business.

Prospective vendors

Vendors help power your business. How you treat your existing vendors can affect your ability to work with other vendors in the future. Local vendors will be especially tuned in to what it's like to collaborate with you.

How to speak to them: In this case, your actions will speak volumes. Treat vendors with respect and others will want to work with you. Your communications and interactions with prospective vendors will also affect how they view you. Respect their time, don’t try and get low-ball or unfair pricing, and remember that they have a business to run just like you do.

Key considerations for stakeholders

Most likely, you will struggle to please all stakeholders at all times. Sometimes, that means making tradeoffs to accommodate different stakeholders at different times.

potential conflicts between stakeholders

For the most part, if you stay in regular communication with your key stakeholders, you’ll be able to keep them apprised of what’s happening with your business. Reputation management and listening to your stakeholders will help you better understand perceptions about you in the marketplace.

Brand stakeholders FAQs

Who are your brand stakeholders?

Most companies have 13 key stakeholders. Here’s the list: employees, consumers/customers, leadership team, investors/shareholders, business partners, the media, suppliers/vendors, competitors, your company’s community, governments, prospective customers, prospective employees, and prospective vendors.

Why are stakeholders so important?

Understanding what each stakeholder needs and how to cater to them can help your business succeed. Overlooking a stakeholder might mean overlooking a business opportunity. Consider what might happen if you only cater to your customers and not your investors? The investors might pull funding, making it challenging for you to serve your customers. Likewise, failing to consider your employees might mean high turnover rates and difficulty creating synergy in your business practices.

Is a customer a stakeholder?

Yes, customers are some of the most important stakeholders for your business. When you make changes to your business practices or products, your customers are impacted directly. Consider them carefully before making changes to your company.