Wei-ji is the Chinese ideogram of the word crisis, it is composed by the words danger and opportunity. In no other language it is so well condensed the meaning of the term.
An issue can be defined as the gap existing between the company's activities and conduct and its public's or stakeholders' and needs.
When this gap occurs, the business performance of a company may be deeply affected, in terms of loss of market share causing higher costs and so a loss of competitiveness, throwing bad light on the management and its ethical and managerial attitudes. This is likely to lead to a loss of income and to the following estrangement of the financial community, thus effectively reducing the company's independence and absorbing much of management's precious time which can no longer be directed towards normal day-to-day management tasks.
Conversely, when properly handled and when the gap is bridged, external issues can actually help improve the company's market share and its profitability. New cost-effective measures can be introduced to the advantage of the company's corporate image and of its management. The relationship with its public can be consolidated, thus gaining a new wave of consensus for the company's objectives and strategies.
The concept of issue management was introduced for the first time in 1976 by Howard Chase, an American expert in communication strategies. He realized that more and more often the CEOs of big companies were turning to him for management consulting in situations of outside pressure, but unfortunately the request for help came too late to win back the lost consensus. Chase therefore tried to develop a model for an early systematic and strategic approach to issue management.
An organization can comply with the external world's expectations by creating a new product or revising its operative processes. In such cases, the issue is dealt with by the divisional executives or product managers of the specific line involved.
The gap existing between the organization's activities and external expectations can be bridged by developing specific guidelines and procedures aimed at regulating processes and individual behavior. In such a case the change would involve first of all the chief executives who would take part in defining it, and then the senior management who will have the task of implementing it.
The gap can also be eliminated by modifying external expectations, for example by means of public awareness programmes or creating a dialogue with selected publics.
In this case, the issue is managed and external expectations realigned through communication programmes.
Luigi Norsa & Associati can assists organizations in developing Issue Management programs, stakeholders management programs concerning issue of consumers or environmental safety, in managing public affairs programs to orient the issue of regulatory solution, in communication on a real or perceived risk.