About The Author: This is the first in a series of articles on issues management from our digital colleague, Rodger D. Johnson, who is a social media public relations counselor. He helps global companies, small businesses, and non-profits use public relations and social media strategies to strengthen brand equity. You can learn more about him at Get Social PR.
Organizations large and small, for profit or not, must struggle with issues that affect the way they do business. Learning how to spot, and take part in shaping issues can strengthen brand equity and give you a competitive advantage.
But don’t think for minute your organization is immune from issues. All organization must manage issues on some level. While many never evolve into a full-on crisis, issues can hinder your business. So, managing them well, ensures your business can continue to operate and be profitable as the environment changes.
What is an issue, anyway? Well, it’s a trend or condition developing in your industry that has the capacity to change how you do business. Sometimes this change is good, other times it’s not so good. When trends are good, the strategy is to make them better. When trends seem bad, the strategy is to make the issue as good as it can be. At this stage, you want to weather the storm.
Managing issues requires an organization to create habits of scanning the environment, what I like to call storm tracking. So, you need to watch traditional and online media. Here’s a brief list of both:
Traditional media to watch:
- Business magazines
- Network news
- Trade journals
- Stakeholder opinions
- Government publications (especially if your company is regulated)
Online media to watch:
- News and business wires
- Professional association, special interest, and government archives
- Other forums connected to your business and customers
Collecting information from these and other sources will do you no good unless a communications professional can spot worrisome trends, track them over time and craft messages that address and influence them early. To accurately address issues, you need to identify their likelihood of gaining steam and their impact, which is assessing how they will affect profits or how business is done.
The idea behind issue management is to find warning signs that can affect you organization and address them early.