Tips for issue management


One of the best ways to become an indispensable, trusted advisor and turbo charge your career trajectory is to cultivate your issue management skill. The quickest way to boost your career, relevance and value is to sharpen your instincts and develop mastery in issue management.

Unfortunately the reverse is also true – as a communications professional, you want to be on your toes, not be caught on your heels when an issue strikes your organization. 

The problem is that learning the art and science of issue management usually takes decades, and the opportunity to watch masters in action. I notice this is becoming more challenging in the hybrid environment, where on-the-job learning by osmosis is difficult.

Our new (free) Issue Management Guide can help – it provides pragmatic advice, a proven methodology and a simple but powerful Issue Management Worksheet – it’s one of the most used Results Map® tools.

Here are a few tips to set you up for success in your issue management practice:

  • Cultivate the ability to see around corners: Become a student of your issue environment (whether it’s internal, stakeholder, or externally focused). To be in a state of readiness, make issue scanning a matter of basic hygiene that is built into your day. You can use social monitoring or google alerts as easy tools. Focus on identifying patterns and linkages between issues that swirl around your organization – that’s often where the magic and the risks lie.
  • Raise your level of altitude: When facing a stubborn issue or risk, make a deliberate practice of looking “up”. Get your focus out of the weeds and consider the higher-order strategic context. How does the issue relate to your organization’s mission? Your Board’s priorities? Challenges in your sector?
  • Focus on the compass before the map: The first step to effective issue management is to be very clear on which way’s North. What is your organization trying to achieve? Almost certainly, your internal stakeholders have differing views on the goal. You can add immediate, unique value by being the convener and integrator – ensuring that your organization is aligned and can execute efficiently.
  • Remember the Hippocratic Oath: Issue management work usually happens in a climate of high pressure and deadlines. This twitchiness has been amped up considerably given the COVID hangover where everything seems to be a red alert crisis. When an issue strikes there’s often a feeling that an organization has to beat the clock in getting out ahead of an issue or responding to an urgent media request. While this is natural, it’s also helpful to take the time for a sober second thought and consider whether doing nothing may in fact be the best strategy. Be guided by the wisdom of the Hippocratic Oath: “First, do no harm”.

Finally, keep in mind that issue management is fascinating, exciting … and yes, it can be a ton of fun. The key is to make sure that you’re set up to succeed and that you feel supported in bringing your best game into the arena.


Check out the Results Map® content hub

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