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Why an issues management plan is one of the best investments your team can make

Most of the time, when we’re brought on to help support an issue, it is after the fact. An organization is navigating a reputational issue or crisis, and we’re brought into an all-hands-on-deck scenario. We will likely continue helping in this capacity - but strategic organizations understand that issues management is best done before you need it.

With that in mind, we recommend that all organizations invest resources into developing a plan. Although it can be hard to find time for your team to do so, this investment ensures that your team can move into a crisis response easily. To help your team to do so, we recommend three starting steps:

1. Create an issues and stakeholder map

You know your organization’s weak spots. In planning, it’s essential to leverage this insight. Create two visual maps. The first is your stakeholder map. Look at both your internal and external teams. Here you want to explore whether they would need to be either involved in the crisis response, or informed of it, and also note how readily available they will be should they be needed to help.

The second should outline potential issues that you could face in the future. Consider and rank according to two factors: likelihood and severity. From there, make sure that you at least have a plan – including potential mitigation tactics – in place for issues that are both likely and severe.

For the issues you plan for, take note of the role that will be asked of your stakeholders above. Flag how you will get in touch with them, and what you would need.

2. Build a dedicated team

Assign and build an issues management team. Each member of this team needs to have a clear role and responsibility in the event of a crisis. Ideally, the team should have five to eight people, who are available and empowered to make decisions quickly. One of the worst scenarios you can experience in executing a crisis plan is working with people who aren’t empowered to make decisions and distribute required material quickly.?

In this step, you must also consider who your stakeholders are. Who holds a relationship with them already? How do they like to be contacted? Ensure your team is designed with these needs in mind.

3. Identify and train your spokespeople

You need team members who are ready to activate when you need them, and this includes your spokespeople. Depending on the needs – and types of issues that may surface, for your organization, you may want to have more than one spokesperson trained. You want to select team members with in-depth knowledge and authority on specific issues or company functions.?

Once selected, we recommend your spokespeople receive media training. Make sure that they are comfortable with your organization’s key messages. But moreover, that they are comfortable navigating tricky interview questions with ease. When a crisis hits, a good support team will bring spokespeople through this training again, but it’s helpful if this isn’t the first time spokespeople are learning it. Make this process as easy and supportive for those you’ll need in the future, by equipping them with tools, tips and tricks well in advance.

Why it matters

A strong crisis team can support you at any stage of a crisis. That said, working with your crisis partner to build a plan in advance helps in two critical ways.

  • It decreases the number of hours your crisis team is spending on your file. Crisis management is executed by most agencies’ most senior team members, and as such is charged at a premium. This upfront work can decrease your overall costs.
  • You catch the mistakes in advance. The process of planning ultimately highlights both when things are working, and when they’re not. A crisis planning project will highlight what communication channels can be used and when, and how easy it will be to activate. It’s better to know in advance where you might run into trouble, and fix that potential problem in advance.?

 

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