Prof. Dr. Ansgar Zerfaß

Prof. Ansgar Zerfaß

About the research project

Title: Virtual stakeholder dialogues: Challenges and success factors using the example of sustainability dialogues

Team: Professor Ansgar Zerfaß, Daniel Ziegele, Hannah Kurtze (Leipzig University)

Project period: February 2021 – September 2022

Hardly any company could do without virtual communication formats during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even after that, the trend has continued unabated. But can these replace face-to-face dialog with stakeholders, especially on critical issues? A research team from Leipzig University has investigated the advantages and disadvantages of virtual dialog formats compared with face-to-face events. In addition, prerequisites and success factors for virtual stakeholder dialogues were compiled.

Ansgar Zerfaß, Universität Leipzig

“Moving stakeholder dialogues from reality to virtuality is more than a technological challenge. It’s a new opportunity to engage with stakeholders.”

Professor Ansgar Zerfass, Leipzig University


  • Definition of virtual stakeholder dialogues
  • Balancing the advantages and disadvantages of virtual stakeholder dialogues
  • Eight success factors for planning and conducting virtual stakeholder dialogues
  • Interview with Pfizer
  • Insights from industry experts by Fraport, B.Braun, and imug


The study was led by Professor Ansgar Zerfass, Daniel Ziegele, and Hannah Kurtze at Leipzig University. The findings are based on an extensive literature review and approx. 40 interviews:

  1. Literature review of academic literature and practice manuals on stakeholder dialogues and virtualization.
  2. Expert interviews: A qualitative study was conducted to investigate the experience communicators have had with virtual stakeholder dialogues, the challenges they face, and the requirements they have to meet. Two groups of experts were interviewed: Companies and organizations conducting stakeholder dialogues and consulting firms supporting companies in this area.
Companies and organizations that participated in the study