Issues management: Why every business needs it
Issues management sounds like a fairly broad area but in public relations terms
it refers to keeping an eye on any issue that has the potential to disrupt or
damage your business reputation.
So you might be thinking now that issues management is not for you but there
isn't a business out there that doesn't have 'issues' that could dent their
Of course there are businesses that have bigger and more complex issues to
handle because they are larger and more exposed to multiple stakeholders like
Woolworths which faces a myriad of issues every day. These range from big
ongoing things like market domination and go right down to stray shopping
trolleys at individual store level.
But you'd be surprised about what issues can affect even small specialised
organisations. For example, an accounting firm could have its reputation damaged
if a client was disgruntled and took legal action against them and gained media
coverage. A small retail outlet could have a disgruntled customer who went
online and slammed them on Twitter or on an influential forum.
So what should you do about issues management? Some would say you just deal with
things as they arise but there are ways you can 'plan' in advance so you are at
least prepared to handle issues.
After all, most crises were just a minor issue before they became a full-blown
crisis for a business. Many a business reputation has been sullied online
without the knowledge of the business. In extreme examples, the business notices
a significant drop in sales before they even become aware that they're being
discussed online. For some it may be too late to salvage the lost reputation.
A great way to avoid online conversations getting out of control is to monitor
them yourself. Identify forums that are relevant to your business, get yourself
on Twitter, Facebook and other relevant social media channels for your business
and get familiar with them. See if your competitors are there too. Then set up
RSS feeds to relevant forums, websites, etc to keep an eye on what is being said
about your business and industry.
You could also come up with a list of potential issues that could affect your
business and then think about how you could respond. This will vary from
business to business so there's no one answer here. For example, if you have a
workplace with manual workers and there's potential for an accident, have all
the relevant phone numbers for unions, insurers, etc on hand so you can react
quickly if the worst happens.
The key to issues management is being prepared. Don't let a small issue because
a big one and do real damage to your precious reputation.