Analysis and evaluation are integral to the public relations discipline, taking the time to reflect on your organisation’s communication efforts can inform how these lessoned can be used within your communication strategies for the future.
If the coronavirus pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that crisis can happen at a moment’s notice, especially if you aren’t proactive in identifying issues that could affect your organisation. Regularly taking a candid look at your organisation, its industry and operating environment to identify what risks and issues could impact your business is a necessity for the future. Turn threats into opportunities with issues management.
From external issues such as climate change and cyber crime to internal problems with corporate governance and available resources, anything and everything can be an issue that might affect your business. In addition to global issues, what issues affect you, depends on your industry, your product or service offering, and operating environment. Not to mention whether it’s of interest to your key stakeholders or target audience. Being proactive about knowing what issues could impact your organisation can give you a competitive edge and secure the long term success of your business. (Or at the very least, given the current climate, ensure its survival.)
In its most simplest form, issues management is a process that identifies problems, issues or trends that could impact your organisation and manages the approach required to deal with the situation. After identifying potential issues for your organisation, it’s important to acknowledge those which are a high risk. Whether that’s due to the severity of impact, or likelihood of occurring. And to mitigate the risk by developing an appropriate response. Whilst it’s clear issues management can help you navigate any problems that might come your way, it can also be beneficial to other areas of your business too.
Issues management can open up opportunities for everything from PR campaigns and consumer engagement to Corporate Social Responsibility opportunities and new revenue streams. For example, identifying an issue that’s of concern to your audience can lead you to create a proactive communications campaign that supports their cause.
At the very least, assessing the risks and issues that could befall your business gives you time to decide the best response to the situation that benefits your reputation. It allows you to identify any weaknesses within your organisation, which, if approached correctly, can become opportunities. Opportunities that you can capitalise on and risks you can minimise. Resulting in enhancing your ability to secure a competitive advantage.
Look at how the global pandemic has forced organisations to adapt and change to an issue that became a crisis. From the big shift to remote working and digital ‘office spaces’ thanks to the likes of Zoom and Teams, to brick and mortar brands moving online and suppliers pivoting to include a business to consumer offering. All of these changes were brought on by a need for survival in a locked-down world. If you had already identified the risk of a global pandemic, its effects on your business, and had time to plan your approach, could you be in a different position now?
Whilst we all wish we had the power of foresight, risk and issues management (alongside business continuity and crisis management) are as close as anyone can get to knowing what to prepare for. Taking those necessary steps to identify the threats to your business, and how you can mitigate, or even better, benefit from them, is a task that every business should undertake. And not just once, either. Ongoing monitoring and assessment should be integral going forward. With such an uncertain future for us all, it would be a travesty not to plan for any eventuality. Failing to plan, after all, is planning to fail.
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