Considering Your Stakeholders
Audience Analysis: Building Information About Your Readers? discusses your communication's complex audience and provides key questions you can ask to determine readers' needs, values, and attitudes. This section also provides useful charts to help you with your audience analysis.
Contributors:Allen Brizee, Dana Lynn Driscoll, Anthony Sutton
Last Edited: 2015-04-23 12:47:27
A challenge that is unique to professional writing is that the writer is asked to be aware of the stakeholders in professional situations. In any given situation, a business can have any number of stakeholders who will be influenced by their decisions. It is for this reason that the communication and internal documents of a business should keep the stakeholders in mind.
Stakeholders and Audience
The stakeholders in professional writing are different from the audience in that stakeholders are not likely to be readers of a business’s documents, but will still be affected by the decisions they contain. Because stakeholders are implicitly affected by a business’s decisions, it’s important that professional documents are written with their consideration. Examples of stakeholders can include:
- Customers— Customers are the clear examples of stakeholders since while most of a business’s customers will not know its internal workings, a business’s decisions work either to a customer’s benefit or disadvantage.
- Shareholders— Because shareholders have shown interest in a company through investing, a shareholder’s financial gain is linked to the business they’ve invested in.
- Local residents—Even if they are not customers of a business, the residents surrounding a business’s location are affected by the business’s presence. For example, if a business opens or closes a location by a residential neighborhood.
- Employees of a company—The employees of a company can be stakeholders of the company they work in the case of policies and actions that affect them. This can include normal worker policies to employee layoffs.
Stakeholders and the Rhetorical Situation
The question of who are the stakeholders is both a practical and philosophical one because it requires one to think about both the ethical impact of an argument and the stance a writer must take. Three philosophical lenses that one can use to be aware of their stakeholders as they write are the Utilitarian Approach (Kant), The Rule- or Duty-based Approach (Deontological), and The Golden Rule.
- The Utilitarian Approach cites that ethical decisions should be made with consideration of all parties who will be affected by that decision. For instance, if a major chain shuts down a regional location, how will that affect the customers and the people who work at that location? Are there other people who could be impacted?
- The Rule-based Approach asks one to consider the rules in place when considering a moral dilemma. This can mean thinking about how stakeholders are affected by terms and conditions being ignored by a decision making individual. The deontological approach also asks us to consider what it would mean if all individuals ignored the terms and conditions of a situation.
- The Golden Rule requires one to “treat others as they would like to be treated.” It’s important for people who make business decisions to be considerate of others who are impacted by their decisions. Because businesses make decisions that affect individuals inside and outside the business means that an ethical decision maker will make decisions as if these decisions affected him or her to the same degree it affects others.
These three lenses can guide a writer who considers them in terms of the rhetorical situation. With what kinds of stakeholders will it be important for a rule-based approach to be used? Is there a type of stakeholder that should be considered through a Utilitarian lens? Each of these questions supposes a different purpose and stance even if their audiences were the same.
Writing With Stakeholders in Mind
Since stakeholders are different from the audience, but like the audience are individual who are a part of the rhetorical situation, a writer needs to understand how to write with both in mind. The questions such writers need to keep in mind are “who will read this?” and “who will be affected by this?” A good argument for a business will appeal to those who enact the policies of a business and those who are affected by the policy.