Stockholm Accords Glossary
The following text is an attempt by Toni Muzi Falconi to clarify the intended meaning of some of the terms included in the Stockholm Accords draft. In no way do they intend to be considered normative. They simply try to describe, in the author’s view, the average intentions of the many drafters.
Stakeholder governance model
Implies that a corporation’s board of directors -as well as the elected leadership of a social or public sector organization- has the responsibility to define. monitor and implement relationship policies with all primary stakeholder groups. In the case of conflicts between contrasting expectancies by stakeholder group, the Board decides which needs to be taken more into account, on the basis of a thorough listening of their diverse expectations. The shareholder model instead -even when it recognizes that other interests beyond those of the shareholders need to be taken into account- in the case of conflicting expectations, privileges the latter.
In the network society, the traditional and consolidated strategic planning process from the late seventies of the 20th century, based on Michael Porter’s value chain, mostly linear and material, is at least integrated by another planning process based on value networks. This recognizes that a substantial part of the value created by the organization is generated today from fuzzy (nonlinear) and immaterial networks that normally disrupt the distinction between internal and external publics. Members of these networks play specific and value added roles defined by their relationships rather than by their formal position. The generated value is based on the quality of the relationships that exist between members of each network and on the quality of the relationships which exist between the various networks.
A communicative organization recognizes that even the most empowered public relations director cannot realistically hope to directly ’manage’ more than 10% of an organization’s communicative behaviour. Therefore the communication leader of the organization plays two fundamental and strategic roles:
°a ‘political’ role in supporting and providing the organization’s leadership with the necessary, timely and relevant information which allows it to effectively govern the value networks as well as an intelligent, constant and conscious effort to understand the relevant dynamics of society at large;
°a ‘contextual’ role which implies the constant delivery of communicative skills, competencies and tools to the members of its value networks so that they may improve the quality their relationships and therefore create more organizational value.
Licence to operate
To reach its stated objectives the organization needs to constantly nurture and improve its ‘licence to operate’ by improving relationships with its stakeholder groups and society at large, on whose opinions, attitudes, behaviours and decisions the achievement of organizational objectives rely. And, of course, the ‘licence to operate’ stems from the organization’s legality, the demand for its services and the willingness of people to deal with it.
Boundary spanning and/or issue management
Beyond its direct and indirect relationships with active or potential stakeholder groups, the organization needs to identify and analyse those economic, political, social, technological issues whose dynamics impact on the achievement of its strategic and tactical objectives. In doing this, and in prioritizing those issues through a careful importance/possibility-to-influence analysis, the organization must identify those subjects who either directly or indirectly impact on those dynamics, and dialogue with them to con-vince them to either reduce their hostility or increase their support for the organization’s objectives.
Communicative and relationship value
The value of communication for the organization can be assessed by measuring source credibility, content familiarity and content credibility -before and after the conversation with stakeholder groups; as well as by measuring -before and after the conversation with stakeholder groups- the satisfaction, commitment, trust and power balance of each relationship.
This term (also defined as corporate social responsibility or CSR) is used to indicate those policies and programs which ensure the economic, environmental and social being of the organization beyond the short and medium term, and is directly related to its licence to operate, to the quality of its stakeholder relationships, as well as the concern for societal and presumed expectations of future generations.
Sustainability policies and programs, beyon their significant external consequences for the organization, represent a relevant leverage for its leadership to stimulate and facilitate cultural change and transformation. When these policies also value and nurture risk taking and innovation, sustainability is not an essence of organizational conservativism.. and also becomes a competitive advantage.
Are those active publics, aware and interested in dialogue with the organization because its activities bear consequences on them and/or whose activities bear consequences on the organization. Potential stakeholders are instead publics that, if made aware of the organizations strategic or tactical objectives, would be interested in dialogue with the organization. The prevalent communicative mode with the first is pull and for the second, at least initially, is push.
Falling boundaries between internal and external communication
With every individual potentially being a globally accessible medium, and with general decline in the credibility of institutions and authorities, traditional internal publics are increasingly being considered as the most trusted sources of information from the organization. Vice versa, and for the same reasons, any customer or supplier or competitor opinion on the organization is immediately accessible by traditional internal publics. What is more, border publics such as shareholders, consultants, agents, suppliers and partners are considered highly credible subjects by both traditional internal and external publics.
Organizations increasingly define and attempt to implement policies and programs which imply coherent and cross functional leadership styles. This is a core and natural role for public relations professionals.
The sharing of knowledge inside and increasingly also outside the organization is considered one of the more precious immaterial assets in and amongst value networks. This is enhanced by smooth and productive relationships amongst members of value networks. The public relations professional ability in performing the ‘contextual role’ can be crucial.
Decision making processes
Effective and timely decision making process are essential to the success of the organization. By professionally listening to – understanding – and- interpreting stakeholder expectations before decisions are made by management, the public relations professional allows leadership to improve the quality of those decisions and to accelerate the time of their implementation. In those recurring circumstances when decisions do not include a specific stakeholder group expectancies,the organization can better anticipate and prepare to deal with potentially disrupting actions by that specific stakeholder group.
Processes and structure
Ever changing processes and structures inside and amongst value networks are constantly framing change management programs of the organization. If and when it is professionally conducted with the essential support of an organization’s leadership, change management processes are highly effective and mostly rely on sound and realistic objectives and effective relationships, which in turn are driven by good communication, involving both internal and external partners of the organization.
These are individuals and organizations who are aware and interested in developing a relationship with the organization because the organization’s actions bear consequences on them or through their actions they bear consequences on the organization. Not necessarily a favourable relationship. These stakeholder groups are not chosen by the organization, but decide by themselves to be and act as stakeholders. It is clearly up to the organization to decide on acknowledging them and to responsibly involve and/or engage with them..
Stakeholder groups may also be situational as they form and dissolve according to social and organizational dynamics which need to be carefully monitored by the public relations professional.
An established marketing term which has grown to include the quality, the trust, the commitment and the power balance of the relationship that a specific customer or any other stakeholder group engages with the organization.
This is one of the immaterial values attributed to an organization’s capitalization. Often expressed in monetary terms, this value is calculated by conventions amongst peers which relate monetary value to immaterial indicators.
An organization’s stakeholder relationships may be differently segmented according to their acknowledgement, involvement, engagement, separation and divorce programs. A relationship begins with the two subjects acknowledging each other; then proceeds when the organization stimulates its stakeholder groups to access the information they believe stakeholder groups require to keep abreast on their relationship and are enabled to provide feedback (involvement); the organization may also sometime decide that in order to more effectively achieve its objectives to engage some of its stakeholder groups in direct dialogue and conversation o specific issues in order to find mutually beneficial outcomes (engagement). Sometimes this does not work, and there is a period of time between separation and divorce in which the organization can attempt to at least ensure their involvement.
Success, evaluation and measurement
The most important measure of success for public relations professionals -beyond the visible and tangible achievement of the organization’s specific objectives within a given time frame and a given amount of financial and human resources- is achievable by one or more evaluation or measurement tools which today are abundant and certainly not fewer than those available to other management functions. Evaluation implies the prevalent use of qualitative tools while measurement implies a prevalent use of quantitative tools.
A communicative issue is one which implies and requires an above normal focus on stakeholder relationships and effective communication.
Multifaceted, multi stakeholder, inter relational
The concepts of network society, value networks and communicative organizations imply that issues are often multifaceted (they provide different perspectives and angles according to the single stakeholder group perspective); multi stakeholder (individuals and organizations increasingly belong to parallel stakeholder groups who may even have conflicting interests, for example shareholders, employees and sometimes even suppliers…); and inter relational, as members of value networks may in parallel belong to others and perform different roles…. which implies that relationships amongst these may also be in conflict.
In our global 24/7 connectivity, networks are today the core components of contemporary society, as well as of individual public, social, private or mixed organizations.
Mission, vision, values, strategy, business plan
A mission describes the organization’s identity. A vision describes the organization’s aspiration to be in a defined time frame. Values are related to the defined behaviour the organization intends to enact in migrating from mission to vision. Strategy is the path the organization decides to pursue in its migration from mission to vision. While the business plan defines the operative steps the organization intends to implement to pursue that strategy.