Margaret McGann

Issues Management: how to write a plan

In communications and marketing, issues management, media relations, planning, public relations, research, strategy, writing on October 11, 2010 at 9:30 am

Once you have identified an issue you need to decide how you’ll manage it.  Creating an issues management plan is the best way to help you do this.

The template below shows what you need to include in your plan plus it’ll keep you focused and help you think through how you should deal with the matter.

Issue description:

Describe the issue in detail, outlining the challenges and opportunities. Explain why it is an issue. Details should include:

  • Context
  • Timelines and important dates
  • How the issue has evolved
  • Project life cycle of the issue
  • Public awareness surrounding the issue

Strategic considerations:


A brief synopsis of all related current or past media coverage including online should be provided to allow senior management to identify re-occurring themes and better position the organization to respond in an effective and timely manner.

The media analysis should include key quotes that illustrate positions of key stakeholders, public officials and those in support or opposition.

Relevant market research can help identify trends, viewpoints and interest in an issue.

Stakeholder reaction:

Identify key stakeholders and present an overview of their position on an issue.

Communications objective:

Clearly state your communications goals, objective and how you would like to see your organization positioned on this issue.

The objective may be to make the issue “go away” or minimize the damage it causes. Or perhaps it is an opportunity for your organization to communicate the good things it is doing.

Action plan:

Provide a step-by-step plan for addressing the issue and developing solutions.

Key messages:

State the key messages that will allow your organization to achieve its communications goal.

The messages – no more than four or five – should be written as if your company president is using them in a speech.

Your organization should also be prepared to back up the messaging with key facts that can be put in a fact sheet or backgrounder.

Strategy/tactical plan:

Describe how your organization will respond to the issue (reactive or proactive) and describe what tactics will be used to communicate this position and why to your desired audiences and the media. Considerations include:

  • Identification of lead and supporting spokespeople
  • Senior executive involvement
  • Communications product development – news release, Qs & As, issue note, fact sheet/s, backgrounder/s
  • Media relations (press conference, targeted media, exclusive, background only)
  • Timing

Now that you’ve decided how to manage the issue you’re ready to present it to senior management for their approval. Good luck!

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  1. […] Issues Management: how to write a plan « 2M Communications Ink […]

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