Strategic stakeholder relationship management in a professional organisation : an exploratory enquiry into SACOMM
The South African Communication Association (SACOMM) is a Southern African professional organisation for academics in communication, journalism, media studies, marketing communication and related fields. SACOMM’s broad objective is to encourage discussion and co-operation between tertiary education institutions that offer Communication Studies. SACOMM hosts an annual conference that provides an opportunity for their members and non-members to have discussions and cultivate a community of scholars. The conference is the most important channel of communication between SACOMM and their members or prospective members. SACOMM faces various challenges, such as (i) a lack of growth in member numbers and disengaged members, (ii) a lack of contingency in management and the management of stakeholder relationships with members, and (iii) a lack of understanding for the role the annual conference can play in relationship building with members and prospective members. There is also (iv) the challenge that academics have to manage the organisation over and above their current workload, leaving limited time to be spent on SACOMM activities. Given this background, the aim of this study is to understand how strategic stakeholder relationship management can be applied to a professional organisation such as SACOMM to assist in its growth and survival? In order to provide guidance to this professional organisation on this issue, the systems theory as meta-theory was used in the study. Systems theory makes it possible to understand the components and dynamics of a system in order to interpret the problems and develop balanced intervention strategies by advocating connectedness, interrelatedness and interaction. To describe the interaction needed between the systems theories from the corporate communication domain was used. According to the stakeholder relationship management theory the interests of the organisation and publics should be aligned by managing the organisation-public relationships. Two-way communication theory describes the flow of communication between the organisation and its stakeholders in building and maintaining long-term relationships. Strategic communication management describes how communication should be planned in order to achieve organisational goals, while simultaneously managing relationships with key publics and also reaching the goals of these stakeholders. To provide data to illuminate the research problem semi-structured interviews were conducted with the president and a founding member of the organisation. This was followed by questionnaires to the SACOMM members attending the annual conference. It was found that SACOMM focuses mainly on their contribution and less on the contribution of the members as part of an open system, resulting in a one-sided approach to relationship building. This could be explained by the fact that SACOMM does not have a dedicated resource to manage communication or strategic stakeholder relationships, nor does their management have time available to conduct these tasks. For survival and growth SACOMM needs a strong strategic communication management approach in their communication with stakeholders. It can also be deduced from the study that corporate communication theories could assist professional organisations in ensuring their growth and survival.
- Humanities