In the corporate set up, businesses are encounter issues and crises that require the attention of the management team. In such cases, the management should be in a position to handle the emerging issues in a bid to improve an organisation’s public relations. The difference between issues and crises communication is meaningful, and it should be kept in mind when reviewing sources for best practice. Issue management and crisis communication reveal an organisation’s best practices that can save it from succumbing to the crisis. The main objective of this paper is to evaluate the importance of issue and crisis management in contemporary organisations.
Definitions – The practice of issue and crisis management
According to Jaques (2007), issue management started toward the end of the 1970s with researchers associating this concept to a matter that requires decision-making. Furthermore, this concept involves the identification of future potential events and trends that influence an organisation. From this definition, it is evident that issue management requires the implementation of both tactical and strategic elements to resolve the unsettled matter.
On the other side, crisis management focuses on implementing reactive measures to solve a situation that is out of control. Unlike issue management, crisis management demands the implementation of reactive tactical measures that integrate interrelated measures such as crisis prevention and preparedness to respond to the emergencies. With these definitions, it is clear that contemporary organisations have to integrate issue and crisis management in their management processes. As companies will encounter issues and crisis throughout their lifecycle, failing to address the two can lead to business failure. Such claims reveal crisis and issue management as a way through which organisations can acquire a competitive advantage in the global market (Lecture 2 n.d.).
The relevance of issue and crisis management
Heath (2002, p. 211) posit that issue management is a ‘strategic process that entails an anticipatory nature and it helps organisations in detecting and responding aptly to rising trends in both political and social environments’. In the corporate sector, it is inevitable for companies and organisations to encounter changes in the social and political environments. Changes in the socio-political environment occur due to factors that are not in control of an organisation. According to Heath (2002), the role of issue management at this point is to build, maintain, and repair relationships between a company and the society or legal environment.
As a strategic tool, Heath (2002), Jaques (2007), and Palese and Crane (2002) agree that leaders should use issue management to deal with threats arising from public policy. As public policies are characterised by-laws, litigations, and regulations, the management can forge opportunities from these changes to the advantage of the organisation (Heath 2002; Jaques 2007; Palese & Crane 2007).
From an issue that seemed to pose adverse effects to the organisation, the management uses it as a platform to define the scope of its responsibilities, thus highlighting constructive roles rather than focusing on reactive roles (Heath 2002). For example, in a situation in which the government passes legislation that poses adverse effects to an organisation, the same government provides an opportunity for the organisation to challenge such laws in a court of law. Challenging such laws in court can be resource consuming, costly, and tedious. Instead, the management can focus on restructuring its roles to be in line with the changes in the legal environment. Apart from fulfilling legal requirements, the organisation ends maintaining relationships with the stakeholders.
In addition, issue management reveals the management’s ability to incorporate strategic measures in business planning. In the course of laying strategic plans, the management focuses on activities that will generate long-term benefits to the organisation. However, the management cannot achieve such benefits without dealing with the external factors that depict opportunities and threats that influence the progress of the organisation (Lecture 2: MDIA 3008 n.d.; Jaques 2007). However, interacting with crucial markets and public influences the making of public policy that organisations can identify opportunities and threats.
As Jaques (2007) states, issue management entails solving an unsettled issue. Issues within an organisation depict a need to put it in order. According to Heath (2002), management has the responsibility to implement control standards to eliminate issues in an organisation. In such a case, the management must implement controls that meet or exceed the stakeholders’ expectations. Similar to the processes that occur in a market environment, issue management undergoes a process prior to the implementation of appropriate strategies. For example, the management can hardly succeed by implementing strategies prior to scanning the issue and consulting with the appropriate persons when a need arises.
With issue management, the management is forced to scan the issue, identify the problem, monitor and analyse possible solutions, and prioritise available solutions depending on their viability. Such a process signifies the management’s ability to follow a logical procedure in providing rational solutions to an issue. Furthermore, through this process, an organisation creates an opportunity for rational communication (Heath 2002).
According to Palese and Crane (2002), issue management provides an appropriate strategic procedure through which organisations solve global issues. Heath (2002) highlights the procedure through which the management can implement issue management, starting with scanning the issue to prioritising possible solutions. Palese and Crane (2002) further add that this process adds value to an organisation by diversifying the management process. For the management to succeed in dealing with the emerging issue risks, it has to consider the perspectives of people in and outside the company. The modern world is becoming complex, and thus diversified programs and execute strategies that draw a balance between corporate interests and crucial audiences contribute to the creation of competitive advantage in an organisation.
Through crisis management, the management gets the opportunity to shield an organisation from negative results of a crisis. Furthermore, the application of appropriate protection measures ensures that stakeholders do not suffer adverse effects of the damage (Coombs 2008). However, both Coombs (2008) and Ulmer (2001) agree that effective crisis communication and management strengthen the relationship between management and stakeholders. Coombs (2008) states that during the pre and post-crisis stages, the management analyses the situation at hand and processes the information for presentation to the stakeholders.
The crisis manager should achieve situational awareness and make decisions regarding the appropriate response. From this argument, one can denote that situational awareness creates an opportunity for employee development. Prior to communicating a crisis to the stakeholders, the crisis team needs to make decisions (Lecture 3: MDIA 3008 n.d.). Nevertheless, crisis management and communication requires proper structuring of decision-making for the team to meet its objectives. Such a move requires the provision of adequate training to equip crisis management team with appropriate knowledge to deal with unforeseen problems and crisis at hand.
Coombs (2008) further highlights that communication determines the stakeholders’ reaction in the course of managing a crisis. Crisis management uses both financial and reputational resources of an organisation, and it can deplete them if not handled appropriately. In the course of responding to a crisis, it is the responsibility of the crisis managers and the involved team to present a proper communication to the stakeholders in a bid to manage the reactions (Coombs 2008).
The significance of appropriate crisis communication as a tool for strengthening the relationship between an organisation and its stakeholders is illustrated by the Malden Mills’ incident. The factory’s CEO, Feuerstein, developed a strategy after the incident to restore the factory’s image and repair, strengthen, and maintain a good relationship with the stakeholders. In the course of managing a crisis, the management and stakeholders should build a mutual relationship with both parties focusing on corporate responsibility (Ulmer 2001).
Heath and O’Hair (2008) further emphasise the significance of shared responsibility between an organisation and stakeholders in the course of dealing with a crisis. An organisation’s reputation is the responsibility of both stakeholders and management. With the urge to maintain the legitimacy of the organisation, the management and stakeholders share responsibility during crisis management, thus implementing an effective response aimed at strengthening relations between the two parties (Heath & O’Hair 2008).
Crisis and issue management influence management processes significantly. With the issue management, the process leads to the creation of competitive advantage, whereas crisis management leads to the strengthening of relationships between the management and stakeholders. Both procedures are beneficial to an organisation as they deal with public relations, thus maintaining a positive image of the company despite encounters with crises and issues.
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Heath, R & O’Hair, D 2008, The Handbook of Crisis and Communication, Routledge, New York. Web.
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Lecture 2: MDIA 3008 n.d., Issues and Crisis Communication: A Relational Model-IM and CM. Web.
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Ulmer, R 2001, ‘Effective Crisis Management Through Established Stakeholder Relationships’, Management Communication Quarterly, vol. 14, no. 4, pp.590-615. Web.