The Two T’s of Stakeholder Relationships and Reputation

Stakeholders are important to your business because they have influences (opinion, advocacy, action) that matter to your current and future success. Both stakeholder relationships and the communications that feed them can be transactional or transformational.


Think of transactional as being one-off interactions with each feeding a shorter-term relationship status. Transformational are interactions with sustained effect feeding real connections and a longer-term relationship status with stakeholders.


Transactional stakeholder relationships are like casual dating, while transformational relationships are deeper and longer term, like a marriage


Transactional communications tactics have short-term value. These are communication interactions with stakeholders that are one-offs and tend to be created mostly from the organization’s point of view. An example of a transactional communication might be a press release.

Transformational communications tactics have longer-term impacts on your reputation. These are growth investments that build in reputation value over time. They are valuable because they are stakeholder-centric, carrying deep meaning and insights that can create long and lasting stakeholder bonds. These communications can change hearts and minds, and perhaps even behavior, for the better.  Examples include communications programs that allow people to connect based on shared values or insights, like citizenship or internal culture programs, and thought leadership programs.


Nothing about transactional versus transformational communications assumes one is good and the other bad. You’ll keep doing press releases and other tactics that are the nuts-and-bolts activities of most communications teams. Likewise, it’s probably unrealistic that every single stakeholder interaction will be a transcendent moment. The point should be to have a reasonable balance if not a weighting toward transformational communications programs and stakeholder relationships.

Marylou McNally is author of The Reputation Bank, an interactive planning tool and training program that is designed to help people and organizations build stronger stakeholder relationships, improve stakeholder-centric decision-making, and drive positive reputation. Learn more at