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Business Strategy Best Practice

Engaging Your Stakeholders: How To Make Allies of Investors and Activists

by Peter Firestein

Executive Summary

  • The cultures of corporate managers and investors are vastly different, requiring managers to learn the language of investors to derive fair value in financial markets.

  • Systematic research by companies into the perceptions of investors is essential in converting market skeptics into supporters.

  • Insularity is the enemy of good decision-making. The airing of diverse perspectives provides the best protection against a management’s own excesses.

  • The sustainability of an enterprise requires its alignment with the society in which it functions.

  • A company’s reputation depends on the narrative that it creates through its actions and its communications.

  • A company’s reputation depends ultimately on its values.


No company exists without the consent of widely diverse groups of individuals and organizations. These range from customers to investors to social and civic groups—in fact, to the entire society that surrounds the corporation. It is a mistake—sometimes a fatal one—when any company takes the position that it is free to ignore those who have an interest in its financial health or the impact of its operations. But if the company chooses to take these relationships seriously and implements objective strategies to accommodate the interests of those who consider themselves part of its orbit, it maximizes the chance that it will survive crises and achieve long-term sustainability as a healthy and productive enterprise.

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Further reading


  • Bennis, Warren G., and Burt Nanus. Leaders: Strategies for Taking Charge. 2nd ed. New York: HarperBusiness, 2003.
  • Dowling, Grahame. Creating Corporate Reputations: Identity Image and Performance. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.
  • Firestein, Peter. Crisis of Character: Building Corporate Reputation in the Age of Skepticism. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2009.
  • Fombrun, Charles J. Reputation: Realizing Value from the Corporate Image. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 1996.
  • Gaines-Ross, Leslie. CEO Capital: A Guide to Building CEO Reputation and Company Success. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2003.
  • Gardner, Howard. Changing Minds: The Art and Science of Changing Our Own and Other People’s Minds. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press, 2006.
  • Joiner, Bill, and Stephen Josephs. Leadership Agility: Five Levels of Mastery for Anticipating and Initiating Change. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2006.
  • Larkin, Judy. Strategic Reputation Risk Management. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003. Peters, Glen. Waltzing with the Raptors: A Practical Roadmap to Protecting Your Company’s Reputation. New York: Wiley, 1999.


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