Just about every company or organization at one time or another faces an issue that could impact its operations and/or its bottom line. It is (and always has been) an inevitable part of doing business. Savvy organizations that recognize and manage issues before they escalate into full-blown crises are the ones that are likely to enjoy success.
An issue can arise across a broad spectrum of possibilities; some quite obvious, some a bit more subtle. And while most any company could benefit from public relations counsel, not all issues necessarily demand that level of expertise. I like to consider the range of issues much in the way an individual or company might handle legal matters. Traffic offenses or small claims court cases are, most times, handled by the individual involved and usually not with outside counsel. On the other hand, lawsuits or criminal proceedings require the advice and counsel of lawyers.
Public relations issues are much the same. The following examples may help explain the difference:
- A small matter such as a minor dispute between employees can probably be handled internally
- A dispute between employees that involves charges such as harassment, physical threats, theft, etc., changes things. Then, you have an entirely different sort of issue that could become a crisis if you don’t deal with it effectively using a team of advisors that likely includes both legal and PR counsel.
The key is to recognize an issue before it escalates and put a lid on it before its potential for damage can be realized. Unfortunately, management and staff at many companies are so busy performing their everyday job functions that they often don’t see an issue that is boiling and just about to overflow.
For any company, it is a good idea to sit down and consider all of the possible scenarios that could cause issues. Seek suggestions from everyone in the company as to what they see as current and potential problems that could escalate into issues. In addition to the employee disputes noted above, some very general categories of instances where issues could arise include, but are not – by any means – limited to:
- Legal matters
- Union activism
- Environmental concerns
- Worker and public safety
- Charges of discrimination
- Regulatory action
- Financial performance
The list is literally endless as far as what could become an issue. Organizations that are vigilant and constantly on the lookout for potential issues, and have a plan in place to address such problems before they can get out of hand, are ahead of the game and stand the greatest chance of limiting the damage or avoiding it altogether.