Issues – more commonly known as problems – happen in business and daily work all the time.

People have certain expectations about an organisation or brand, and when those expectations are not met, problems can arise. This can happen for many reasons, both inside and outside of the control of the organisation or brand.

Issues can have significant consequences – across commercial, financial, legal, or regulatory areas – so it is essential to address them quickly and effectively.

Sometimes issues can arise due to external factors such as changes in market conditions or societal values, making it difficult to predict or prevent them. Other times, problems arise due to internal factors such as poor decision-making or inadequate communication with stakeholders. This can be frustrating because these issues are usually able to be prevented through proper planning, communication, and processes.

A goal of any organisation/brand should be to continuously improve and address potential issues before they become significant problems.

Contrary to the lived experience of many communicators, it is possible to identify and address issues before they become problems.

Issues are the path to lost time.

strtgcommsgrp - issues management

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

In the same vein.

Issues are the path to lost time. Lost time lead to gaps in delivery. Gaps lead to a failure with execution. Failure to execute results in more issues.

This can be time spent on growing, scaling or improving areas of the business from product/services to processes and systems.

With this lens, issues management is less ‘management’, that is, managing the issue in real time. If you are already at this step, then time has already been lost, and the best way to manage forward is through good project management.

Issues management is effectively anticipation and pre-emption.

For many communicators, I suggest that it is critical to create an issues management strategy and plan and secure co-ownership with internal stakeholders of the process, steps and actions required. This must be done prior to an issue surfacing that must be dealt with.

An effective issues management strategy should include the following:

Think about the strategy and plan as insurance. With insurance, the communications/PR team can effectively manage issues as they arise and prevent them from escalating.

Bonus points: Executing the issues management plan – especially with assessments and engagement – can help the team build trust and credibility with internal stakeholders. At the minimum, the team becomes more familiar with the business, and how different teams are working together to deliver business goals and outcomes.

What do you have to lose?

Issues management: Anticipate and seek to prevent them.

As part of the issues management strategy, a large success factor is the communications/PR team’s ability to anticipate issues.

If there is a failure to prevent the issue from occurring, the next best step is to pre-empt the second and third level outputs resulting from the development of the situation.

However, prior to the issue happening in real-time, there is the chance to prevent it and head off whatever negative impact there is.

How do you anticipate issues successfully?

Issues do not happen overnight – no matter how blindsided you or the team might feel about it – and typically has a gestation period.

To keep your senses attuned to potential issues, you have to go beyond your immediate environment and engage with the stakeholders in your industry. The following suggestions can form part of your ‘tool kit’:

strtgcommsgrp - issues management tool kit

Sidebar: Why do people like to bury their head in the sand when there are issues/problems to deal with?

People – and leadership/management are people – tend to bury their head in the sand when there are issues or problems to deal with due to a range of cognitive and emotional biases.

Some of these biases include:

From an issues management perspective, the biases are demonstrated through behaviour such as:

As the communicator in the room, recognising the bias or the behaviour and addressing them – with information, a strategy/plan, outlining advantages/disadvantages, providing reassurance – can go a long way in securing cooperation, support and ownership.

3 best practices for issues management that you can implement today in your organisation or for your brand/s.

Issues management is a means of anticipating, pre-empting and preventing problems from escalating and delivering a negative impact to the organisation/brand.

Consider adding these best practices to your issues management plan:

The practice and application of an issues management strategy and plan by a communications/PR team should be viewed as a way for a business to demonstrate leadership and customer-first thinking by taking ownership of an issue and ensuring that customers do not suffer from the impact. This is a way that the organisation/brand can differentiate themselves against their peers and competitors.

I provide communications and PR solutions for organisations and practitioners through counsel, consultancy and training. With over 20+ years in the industry, we have created frameworks, methods and content that enable you and your team to launch, grow, level up and earn revenue effectively and efficiently.

Here are 3 ways I can help communications, marketing and PR practitioners:

Set up a meeting with us if you are looking for to deliver growth outcomes for your organisation, brand or team.

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