What does a publisher do? Manage stakeholders
In my initial post in this series “What does a publisher do?” I said that the series would seek to specify, in concrete terms, what a publisher actually does. All of the subsequent posts in this series will indeed concern themselves directly with the nitty-gritty. The current post, however, works on a somewhat more abstract level, the reason being that its purpose is to provide a framework for all subsequent posts in the series. It is, as it were, a meta-post.
Over the last couple of decades or so the conception of stakeholder management has become increasingly popular. In essence, stakeholder management consists of, first, identifying your stakeholders and then seeking to ensure you have the stakeholders you want and that you are managing (your relationship with) them effectively. This includes, but is not limited to, a consideration of contractual and financial arrangements.
To do all this, it helps to have a taxonomy of stakeholders in place. Many such taxonomies have been proposed – see Friedman & Miles, Stakeholders: Theory and Practice (OUP, 2006) for an excellent review. None is ideal for all circumstances. For pragmatic reasons, I find it useful to use a very straightforward approach.
I visualise our taxonomy in the form of a sandwich. The top layer comprises our suppliers. They range from publishing-specific suppliers – for example, authors and freelancers – to general suppliers (for example, business that supply utility-type services such as water, electricity, mail, and transport).
Thus we have:
The bottom layer comprises our clients and customers. They include ‘B2B’ clients – other businesses, such as wholesalers and library suppliers – and customers (typically, readers buying our publications). So:
In between, we have three sets of stakeholders:
- the owners/investors;
- the workforce;
- what I broadly (and reasonably accurately) think of as our ‘non-trading’ partners. They include: (a) the state – local, national, and supra-national governments; (b) communities – principally the local community and professional communities of practice; (c) the media (in which I include not only professional journalists and broadcasters but also various Web 2.0-ers – for example, prominent bloggers); and (d) the environment which, though non-human and inarticulate is a stakeholder by virtue of the fact that we influence it and it influences us.
|Owners, investors||Workforce||The state|
In fact, however, we don’t have a workforce (other than ourselves). Though we’d like to employ people, the state would penalise us for doing so – principally by imposing a payroll tax known in the UK as ‘national insurance’. We therefore rely on outsourcing work to suppliers. I maintain the category of ‘workforce’ in our schema, however, in the hope that we will one day find ourselves working in a less punitive regime.
In the rest of the series, as we specify the operations that we perform as publishers, we will employ this taxonomy, considering the work that managing each set of stakeholders entails.