Margaret McGann

Issues Management: do you know what your issues are?

In communications and marketing, issues management, issues note, monitoring, planning, public relations, writing on October 4, 2010 at 7:14 am

Issues management is the art of identifying an issue early enough to gather, organize and communicate in both a strategic and timely manner to avoid it becoming a crisis.

What is an issue

  • Long-standing problems that are difficult to resolve
  • Perceived lack of action or too much action
  • Direct attack/criticism by opponents
  • Positive pressure from government, stakeholders or partners
  • Critical events (news) that focus attention on the subject

How to identify issues

The key to identifying issues is to pay attention to what is happening around you and not to take anything for granted. Issues are easy to perceive if you:

  • Listen to your audiences – tweets, emails, phone inquiries, etc.
  • Monitor the media and the blogosphere
  • Pay attention to scheduled events, the release of reports, studies or surveys
  • Regularly check Freedom of Information requests (if you work for government)

The three types of issues

There are three main types of issues:

  • Current
  • Dormant
  • Past

Current issues are usually the ones senior management are reacting to now as they have a direct impact on their day-to-day responsibilities. Ultimately, these can turn issues management into damage control overnight.

Dormant issues don’t have a direct impact on daily decisions or actions. These can often be the most difficult to keep track of as they are below the radar but can without warning pop up like a jack in the box.

Past issues are dealt with, filed away and forgotten but can sometimes roar back to life.

All three issue types gravitate and interact at any given time around your organization’s daily affairs and need integration into the decision-making process.

How to manage issues

Issues awareness can become a state of mind. It’s crucial to keep track of and manage the issues your organization is facing. You can do this by:

  • Being Proactive.
  • Using early warning tools to assess an issue’s priority
  • Reading media clips
  • Doing media analysis
  • Creating an issues forecast
  • Preparing an issue note(s)

If you prioritize the issues you’ve identified and review them regularly this consistent attention ensures you’re managing your organization’s issues and are ready to react.

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