At some time, all organisations, whether a small business or a large bureaucracy, will have to manage an issue that has the potential to negatively impact upon the organisation, its staff, customers and possibly, the wider community.
An issue handled poorly or ignored will likely cause reputational damage whereas an issue handled well will likely enhance reputation.
The keys are to be prepared and on the front foot, and to carefully consider when, what and how to communicate.
Just as an effective salesperson knows to address a prospective buyer’s potential concerns or objections before closing a sale, effective issues management requires a proactive approach rather than waiting for the proverbial to hit the fan.
Proactive issues management requires having a system in place to monitor, identify, prioritise and mitigate against potential and current risks and issues. This includes a strategic communication process to keep stakeholders informed about why a particular decision was made or course of action was taken.
Oftentimes I see businesses and organisations choosing not to communicate with staff, customers and other stakeholders about ‘potentially sensitive’ issues for fear of public outcry and reputational damage.
This can backfire when a third party brings up the inevitable question or issue in a public forum, sometimes weeks, months or years down the track. Not communicating can also cause stakeholders to make up their own stories to fill a void, leading to further confusion and angst.
While people may not always like what an organisation has to say about an issue or potential issue, they are more likely to appreciate the transparency, clarity and willingness to engage with them, which, ultimately, will strengthen relationships and enhance reputation in the longer term.
©Ros Weadman 2021
Ros Weadman is the founder of Marcomms Australia and author of “Brandcode®” and “The Reputation Equation”. Connect with Ros on LinkedIn or via www.rosweadman.com.