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We are all responsible: Identifying and managing issues in complex government environments

25 Mar 2016

Jessica Strudwick shares the top five things she took away from Kate Bradstreet’s presentation at the IABC luncheon on 10 March 2016:

IMG_36161. We are all responsible for protecting the reputation of our organisations

The reputation of an agency does not sit squarely on the shoulders of the communication team. Something that I’m sure all communication professionals wholeheartedly agree to, but a sentiment that is so not always widely shared across an agency.

2. We operate in complex government environments

This pretty much sums up our workplace. It’s increasingly hard to get ahead of the story—the landscape has changed:

  • the environment we operate in is complex and fast-paced
  • the time we have to respond has decreased
  • our stakeholder expectations are heightened and our engagement must be genuine
  • we face enhanced public scrutiny and there is increasingly blurred lines between politics and policy.

3. Risk aversion is the status quo, yet how much do we plan for public issues?

What is a public issue? Public issues receive little consideration in the planning processes. A public issue has the ability to impact your organisation’s reputation, credibility, relationships and day-to-day operations.

What makes a public issue and can people in your agency recognise one? Do business areas pick up the phone to your media team to alert them to issues?

Remember your spokespeople—how often do you prep them? Will they be ready when an issue hits?

4. ‘An issue ignored is a crisis invited.’ Henry Kissinger

Very few issues occur without warning. But before we get ahead of the story, we need to know what the story could be.

Changing our mindset:

  • forecasting widens the range of options
  • issues are identified more completely and reliably
  • hot issues briefings and training for all staff on public issues
  • we get agency engagement on the issue
  • enables stakeholders to be identified early—get to know the players, and know them well.

Understand risk versus opportunity. Turning the bad to the good—is there actually an opportunity for your agency that stems from an issue?

You can’t control what makes a good story. But when the news is bad, know what the players are saying and know where to focus your efforts. Stakeholder engagement mapping and a public issues planning matrix are useful tools.

5. And finally, the need for speed.

Have a standard response timeframe and stick to it.  Be ready, be responsive and be rapid in your delivery.

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