A generally accepted definition of issues is that an issue pertains to any situation where there is a significant gap between the way an organization performs in one particular domain and how at least one key stakeholder group expects and wants the organization to perform in that same domain. Issues that are not well managed can cause long term reputational damage to an organization and even erupt in a full blown crisis.
Issue management is still very young, both as an academic discipline and as a specialized practice for communications consultants. Dutch issue managers have now created a new platform called PIM (Platform Issuemanagers) to further promote the professionalism of the practice of issue management. Among the founders of PIM are two Dutch PR agencies and Arco Timmermans who is a Professor in Public Affairs at the University of Leiden.
A better position for issues management
Frank Körver, partner at consultancy firm GKSV, is a Dutch thought leader on issue management and author of the seminal book ‘Issuesmanagement’. Frank applauds the initiative. “Professional issues management can be of strategic importance. We’ve seen how issues like privacy, obesity, bonuses, etc can have financial and reputational impact. The consequences of mishandling these issues can be huge. But as we all know, these issues can also create new market opportunities. The Dutch Communication Management Benchmark of GKSV and Technical University Delft shows the rising importance of issues management within companies in the Netherlands. However, I do believe there is still a lot of work to be done. Has top management embraced the concept of issues management? Do organizations exploit its full potential? Absolutely not”.Has top management embraced the concept of issues management? Absolutely not. Click To Tweet
Körver believes in the importance of issues management, but he also believes that issues management needs to be better positioned. “We need to fundamentally think about the concept of issues management and how we position it. To further develop the professionalism of the practice of issues management, we first have to agree on three things: what is the essence of issues management? What do we expect from issues managers? And what needs to be done subsequently? Managing issues is of course much more than just smart PR or managing stakeholder relations. And it is much more than just problem solving or handling the media. In my opinion, issues managers are both strategists and tacticians, who need to possess business acumen, have a deep understanding of societal developments and know how to connect with the board room agenda.”