How to avoid Issues, Protests, Complaints

22 October 2022

When you see individuals or groups organising petitions, protests or lodging complaints, are you wondering what you can do to make sure it never happens to your organisation?

The answer is pretty simple but overlooked by many businesses. If you are listening to your community and understand their interests and values, chances are high that there will be fewer surprises or bushfires for you to put out.

Can you imagine the time, cost and other consequences of your business facing such community action? Or a technology breach, outrage about an environmental concern, a product recall or some sort of legal dispute?

One of the things I love about public relations is that so much of it, when done proactively, builds relationships and saves our clients stress and time.

How does your organisation identify issues and decide whether they are worthy of attention and resources?

What is an issue?

An issue is the gap between the expectations of people and the actions of your organisation. These people mostly have an interest in, or are affected by, something your organisation does.

In addition to protests and petitions, issues can also reveal themselves in customers withdrawing support for your product or service. There might be resistance to a development you are proposing. A recent local example involved community action regarding plans for a bottle shop in the centre of town in Junction Place, Wodonga. 2700 people signed a petition and more than 120 people made written submissions to Wodonga Council. Plans for the liquor outlet were eventually withdrawn.

If you want to avoid such impacts, understanding your stakeholders and scanning and planning for potential issues should be part of your strategic planning and risk management approach.

Issues management involves knowing your stakeholders and being aware of possible changes that might affect your industry, your area or your community.

Understanding your stakeholders

It is important to listen to your stakeholders; your staff, clients, suppliers, community, the media and others that are interested in your organisation. If you know them well, you can cater for them. This builds relationships and engages them to reduce the possibility of gaps between expectations and delivery. This is one reason why there is now so much focus on community engagement. In my experience, getting input from your stakeholders always delivers insights.

We offer the Insight audit, a relationship auditing service where we ask your stakeholders about their values, what they know and think about your business and what concerns them.

Scanning for changes

In addition to asking, being on the front foot means you assess the environment in which your business or organisation operates.

The assessment might identify forthcoming changes in regulations, changes in standards, politics or shifting norms in society, such as the move away from companies that invest in fossil fuel industries. As demonstrated in the Wodonga bottle shop example, understanding community expectations is also important.

Risk identification and management

Understanding your stakeholders and being aware of current and future rules and norms in your sector identifies risks for your organisation. Most leadership teams are considering risks and undertaking risk management on a regular basis. Do you have a system for including issues in your risk discussions?

Doing so helps increase your organisation’s understanding of its operating environment and the connection to its stakeholders.

This knowledge allows you to prepare for the issue(s), develop a plan and take action to get ahead of the potential problem. This proactive approach is where you save time and stress, build relationships and trust.

Contact Fishbowl PR if you have identified some issues for your organisation or to discuss issues management planning further.