By Robyn Osgood, Managing Director
In brief: A 3-step issues management program is your best defence against reputational crises and the damage they can inflict.
In detail: It’s a Friday evening. Suddenly your phone is buzzing, social feeds are pinging and your weekend has disappeared into the ether, replaced by the all-hands-on-deck effort required to manage an unfolding crisis. You are determining the impact on your customers, investors, members and team, and working to minimize the damage to your organization’s reputation. Whether it is your first crisis or your tenth, you will inevitably find yourself thinking, ‘there must be a better way.’
An issues management program is the stealth tool in the communications kit, working quietly behind the scenes to ensure you can avoid, address or diffuse issues before they devolve into crises.
- Scan the horizon – What are the political, economic or competitor moves that could have a negative impact on your business? During your regular strategic planning cycle, identify your biggest areas of concern, assign key member(s) of your team to watch for them and then pay attention to their feedback. Issues often evolve slowly but even when they don’t, a formal scanning program means you will be able to see what’s moving toward you. Rather than waiting passively for the moment of truth, take a proactive approach and address the issue while it’s still developing. The best defence is a good offense.
- Scan your organization – Issues aren’t always rooted externally; organizations can create problems all by themselves. Be alert to one of the most toxic – the disconnect between what leaders say and do. Nothing diminishes employee or member trust more than when leaders pay lip service to an organization’s values. It can be easy to dismiss the occasional lapse but internal cultural issues that remain unaddressed are like continental drift – a slow moving force almost impossible to reverse.
- Scan the plan – You have the data from your scanning program. Now put your action plan in place. Get your business units involved and decide how you’re going to address the issues on the horizon. Hold leaders accountable, demonstrate progress and remind everyone of why you’re doing this. The value of avoiding a negative is tough to measure but after you’ve lived through your first crisis, you and the team will be highly motivated to do what it takes to avoid another one.
A comprehensive issues management program is your best insurance policy when it comes to preventing a crisis. The McMillan Vantage team can help set up the program that works best for your organization.