Most brands and companies have issues. But not all companies neither take these issues seriously nor are they good at handling them before they develop into a crisis.
Issues management is a strategic communication tool to change, maintain, or develop how a brand is perceived by its key stakeholders. A brand’s reputation.
Many managers and CEOs think of PR and marketing as disciplines they can keep at a distance – away from the important decisions they have to make every day. As something, they can sprinkle on their business like sprinkles on a birthday cake. This is wrong.
One minor question: Do you know a communications manager or a brand manager who is repeatedly met by the expectation of ‘being able to look around corners’? The management expects the communications manager to know, anticipates, and counteracts their target groups’ reactions to matters which relate to the company’s business.
And in fact, it is possible to ’look around corners’. It merely requires training, rehabilitation, and team building. With preparation, target group analysis, and being alert on trends in society, you can know your stakeholders’ point of view and be ready to respond whenever required. And that’s what issues management is all about.
An innocent Delicacy or an Outrage
An issue doesn’t necessarily have to be a problem. But an issue can become a serious problem if not dealt with correctly. Issues are topics in which there are or occur discrepancies between the brand and the stakeholder’s expectations to actions and responsibility. If the distance between these parties’ point of views is significant, an issue arises and will have consequences.
An issue can be found in everything from the process of the production, ingredients, working conditions, transport, and packaging methods, as well as in topics such as sustainability, animal welfare, and child labour.
A good example to show the importance of issues management is the Danish confectionary, Toms.
What is Toms view on child labour today? Is child labour excluded at the suppliers? How do they keep an eye on whether there is child labour in their production chain or not? What do they do to ensure that children of cocoa farmers go to school? Today, you can read about this on Toms’s website. But before, it was an open door for critical journalism, Toms was run over by the press which got many outraged by the brand.
However, Toms was deeply engaged with their supply chain and production conditions of their cocoa farms. They actively participated in the establishment of schools, fair trade, agriculture, and quality assurance methods. But Toms didn’t inform anyone about it. It wasn’t clear what they were doing, what they were working for, and what they wanted to achieve. At least not for the journalists and the consumers, and Toms seemed dismissive to the press.
Some of the criticism was deserved, but most of it wasn’t. The fact that Toms appeared unprepared and reluctant to engage in a dialogue affected their image deeply. And at the same time – the KitKat, Greenpeace campaign was running. Toms could have ’looked around corners’ and prepared a good communication response but didn’t.
Issues Management is ’Due Diligence’
Issues management is about being prepared for all scenarios that may affect your brand or your stakeholder’s perception of your brand.
Nowadays it could be about consumer safety in the Covid-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and the risk of infection make us all annoyed and insecure and consumer rights and security are also affected by Covid-19. SPORTMASTER is a good example. SPORTMASTER has extended the exchange deadline and earned good publicity on their initiative regarding special opening hours for vulnerable customers.
It is initiatives such as these that maintain or enhance a brand’s reputation. And sometimes “due diligence” requires the ability to look around corners. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible.
Map out who can affect your issues
Issues management is about thinking strategically, looking around the next corner, and discovering possible topics which can affect or help your brand.
Map out the topics and issues that may have a positive or negative impact on the public perception of your brand or business. You can use a target group analysis, consumer surveys, look at economic developments, legislations, trawl political programs, check planned initiatives with interest groups, and investigate various trend reports.
Once that’s done you can make a strategy that can solve a problem, highlight an opinion, or initiate a necessary debate.
When you have mapped thoroughly, prioritized, and have your strategy ready, then you can ‘look around corners’!
It can be a really good investment to get help to map out which issues your brand has, to find out which ones are the most important, and which efforts are needed or directly can benefit your brand.
Call +45 40 55 53 06 or send an e-mail to email@example.com, if you would like more information about our Issues Management Services.