Humanitarian Relief and Development Organizations’ Stakeholder Targeting Communication on Social Media and Beyond

Lai, CH. & Fu, JS.
Publication language
Date published
05 Mar 2021
VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
Research, reports and studies
Comms, media & information, Coordination, Technological, humanitarian action

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have become important tools for humanitarian organizations to communicate with at-risk populations and increase marginalized groups’ resilience in the digital age (Madianou et al. 2015; Merchant et al. 2011; United Nations 2015). In particular, humanitarian organizations have used social media (SM) such as Facebook and Twitter to communicate with a variety of stakeholders, including the media, other organizations, volunteers, and community members (Briones et al. 2011; Hou and Lampe 2015; Lai et al. 2019). Because humanitarian organizations have relatively diffused stakeholders, including the populations most at risk to natural and man-made hazards, they consider stakeholder targeting communication (STC) a particularly salient issue in accomplishing operational goals (Brown and Moore 2001; Lindenberg and Dobel 1999). Hence, in order to advance understanding of how humanitarian organizations use SM to achieve accountability, it is necessary to examine how they engage in STC—strategic communication with disparate groups of stakeholders.

Nonprofit scholars have long considered stakeholder targeting communication, an important mechanism of organizational accountability to meet stakeholders’ diverse interests and needs. However, research has yet to systematically examine the antecedents and outcomes of organizations’ STC to advance a more comprehensive understanding of how organizations manage accountability demands in the digital era. To address this gap, this study proposes a conceptual framework to explain how organizations’ STC on social media (SM) is shaped by STC via non-SM channels and their external communication capacity and the resulting STC outcomes in the SM domain. Survey data from 156 humanitarian relief and development organizations on four continents showed that using non-SM channels to engage various groups of stakeholders helped build organizations’ external communication capacity, which in turn helped improve their engagement in STC on SM. STC on SM further contributed to organizations’ success in information dissemination, community building, and action mobilization outcomes on SM.

Lai, CH. & Fu, JS.