Enacting Reputation Management

Hopefully you realize the importance of being aware of trends or issues that may affect your business, commonly known as issues or reputation management. But you may have some questions on what this entails – specifically what are some types of issues your company may face?

Issues can have a lifecycle comprising of five stages: early, emerging, current, crisis and dormant. As the issue moves through the first four stages, it attracts more attention and becomes less manageable. In other words, if you detect issues earlier on in the stages, then you will have more choices for responses or how to handle the situation. As the issue or situation matures, the number of engaged stakeholders and other influencers expand, causing the strategic choices available to shrink as positions on the issue become more entrenched. If and when the issue becomes a crisis, the only available responses are reactive and can be imposed by external parties. Not all issues reach the crisis stage and many crises are not the result of an underlying issue. Being prepared is essential.


So you are engaging in issues management, what type of professionals should you look for to help?

Professionals who are well versed in issues management usually are public relations types with some knowledge of public affairs, communications or government relations. When a problem arises, the way the company handles the issues can have a positive or negative effect on their brand so it is important to have a public relations specialist who can effectively share information regarding the problem and the plans the company has to fix the situation.

Public relations professionals continue to maintain and promote the interests of the company during an issue or crisis situation. Communication is an important strategic component of issues management.


How can you manage a public relations issue?

There are five steps to managing a public relations issue:

Step 1: Identify potential issues

When you identify a potential issue, you become aware of a current or likely problem based on feedback from customers, employees or vendors. As you learn of a problem, you can move forward to the next steps to manage the problem.

Step 2: Set priorities

Take time to understand what needs to be done, which steps need to be handled first, and how the issue will be managed.

Step 3: Establish a position on the issue

Create a plan for responding to the problem, what the company will share about the problem, and how the issue will be presented to the public.

Step 4: Develop the response

Once you have clarified your position in the problem, you can create a response or issues communication that will be shared externally.

Step 5: Monitor the issue

Watch and evaluate the response to the issue, how the resolution is working, and if changes need to be made to the plans.


How can you start monitoring their issues management?

Usually, most crises are a minor issue before they become more full-blown. Some businesses have experienced a negative reputation online without even their knowledge. A way to avoid online conversations getting out of control is to monitor them yourself. Identify forums relevant to your business or go on relevant social media channels to see what is being discussed. See if your competitors are there too. Keep monitoring these forums, websites, etc. to keep an eye on what is being said about your business and industry.
Also come up with a list of potential issues that could affect your business and think about how you would respond.

The key to issues management is being prepared. Don’t let a small issue become a big one and do real damage to your company’s reputation.