Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

PhD in Business


Department of Management

First Advisor

Pierre Berthon

Second Advisor

Linda Edelman

Third Advisor

Michael Parent


Secondary stakeholders are thought to differ from primary stakeholders in that they interact with the firm mainly for the purpose of changing its ethical, societal, and environmental policies and practices. Research on secondary stakeholders has shown that they are successful in influencing their corporate targets despite the relative lack of power, legitimacy, and urgency of their requests. One explanation for the success of secondary stakeholders can be found in the `political process model' from the social movement literature. The political process model describes and predicts how social movements are formed and the conditions that are necessary for them being sustained and successful. Originally developed to explain state-level social action, such as the civil rights movement or the French revolution, the political process model sees successful stakeholder action as a function of political opportunities, framing, and mobilizing structures. King (2008) suggests that this model can be used to shed light how secondary stakeholders influence their corporate targets. However, the political process model was developed in the pre-internet era and social media and the internet connectivity have had a significant impact on the way that social movements communicate, coordinate and act. This research seeks to update the political process model to the internet age by posing the question: How does social media and internet connectivity change the political process model for secondary stakeholders?

To answer this question this research looks at the case of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the rise of stakeholder outrage against BP, and the way in which social media was used by stakeholders to influence the company. The study contributes to existing stakeholder theory by developing the political process model into a 'stakeholder process model for the internet age.' Specifically, the enhanced framework redefines and introduces new elements into the traditional political process model: 'Political opportunities' are differentiated and redefined as 'pre-existing conditions' and 'disruptive events'; 'framing processes' and 'mobilizing structures' are reinterpreted; and 'stakeholder action' differentiated into 'direct' and 'indirect' influence strategies. The implications of the new model for theory and practice are explored.