What Is The Life Cycle Of An Issue?

Photo credit: duboix from morguefile.com

About The Author: This is the second 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

Last week I started a series on issue and crisis management and opened with a brief discussion about how to manage issues before they become a crisis. While I explained the importance of issue and crisis management, gave you some tips on what media you should be watching and stressed the importance of collecting information; it’s helpful to know the life cycle of an issue.

Understanding where issues lie in their cycle is important because where they lie will determine how you will engage and manage them.

One of the important points to remember about issue management is that they live in a cycle. Issues will always follow this cycle, so knowing how to detect and respond accordingly will save you enormous amounts of time, energy, manpower, and, perhaps, brand equity.

The life cycle of an issue has four parts:

  1. Potential: At this stage, there is no clear and present issue on the horizon, however the conditions for on to arise is evident. In this stage, there is significant media coverage, however the public, stakeholders, regulators or your industry does not define the issue.
  2. Emerging: At this stage media, the public, your stakeholders or your industry and regulators clearly define and name the issue. Additionally, the issue is applying pressure to your organization. Potential change is on the horizon.
  3. Crisis: When a crisis hits, and they will hit. It’s time to baton down the hatches. A crisis is a crisis when there is a public outcry for change, media scrutiny and regulatory involvement. Stakeholders are well aware of the change, and the organization or industry in crisis is experiencing significant lose in brand equity, as well as profit. While there are several definitions of a crisis offered by researchers, they all converge on this one point. “A crisis is an event that is an unpredictable, major threat that can have negative effect on the organization, industry or stakeholders if handled improperly. “ There is much to say about crises, which we will cover later.
  4. Dormant: After a crisis has subsided, it moves into a dormant stage, which is the end of the cycle of an issue. At this point much ado about the issue ceases in media and with regulators. And, in some way, the organization or industry has fundamentally changed.

Understanding the cycle issues move through help organizations and companies like yours prepare message strategies for each stage of the issue. The point with issue management and knowing its various stage is to control issues before they become crises.


About the Author

Harry Hoover
Harry Hoover is a partner in My Creative Team, the agency that makes Fortune 1000 clients look good. His communications career spans 35 years and runs the gamut from print and broadcast journalism, government and corporate communications to advertising and public relations agencies. He is the author of Born Creative: Free Your Mind, Free Yourself and Moving to Charlotte: The Un-Tourist Guide.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.