Virtual stakeholder dialogues

Key findings of the study

  • Potential: The study suggests that communication professionals see digital nudging as an interesting and promising method to increase the effectiveness of communication activities. Learning about digital nudging could be useful even if the method can’t be applied by communication professionals directly.
  • Application possibilities: Most interviewees hadn’t yet implemented digital nudging themselves. But the interviewees identified the following applications as particularly promising:
    • Supporting digital transformation
    • Encouraging learning and development as well as knowledge sharing
    • Increasing compliance behavior, especially regarding cybersecurity
    • Improving employees’ health and well-being

  • Challenges:  The applicability of digital nudging depends on whether the organization uses digital platforms that allow for customization, if there is leeway regarding corporate design, and whether ethical concerns can be sufficiently addressed.



The study was directed and conducted by Daniel Ziegele, Hannah Kurtze and Ansgar Zerfass at Leipzig University. As part of the project, an extensive literature review and numerous interviews were conducted:

  1. Literature review of both academic literature and practitioner manuals on the topics of stakeholder dialogues and virtualization.
  2. Expert interviews: A qualitative empirical study was designed to identify communicators’ experiences with virtual stakeholder dialogues, the challenges, and what requirements result from them. Two major groups of experts were interviewed:
    – companies and organizations who conduct stakeholder dialogues and 
    – consultancies who support companies in this field.

Thirty-nine interviews with experts in the field of stakeholder dialogue from thirty-five German corporations, consultancies, and service providers were conducted between April and May 2021.

Research background

Is it possible to conduct stakeholder dialogues virtually? 
This was a question often asked when discussing the results of the Communications Trend Radar 2021, a research project recently completed by the Academic Society for Management & Communication. The study describes five key trends from society, management and technology that will influence corporate communications in the near future. The virtualization of communications was one of them. 


Research team

  • Ansgar Zerfass is Professor and Chair in Strategic Communication at the Institute of Communication and Media Studies at the Leipzig University.
  • Daniel Ziegele, M.A., is a research associate at the chair for Strategic Communication at the Leipzig University. 
  • Hannah Kurtze, B.A., is a research associate at the chair for Strategic Communication at the Leipzig University.