Origins of Issue Management

The phrase “issue management” was coined by Howard Chase in April of 1976. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s in his role as a corporate PR officer, Chase was fascinated with the increasing influence that outside forces exerted on corporations. To respond to these external pressures, CEOs frequently turned for counsel to Chase and other public relations pioneers. But, the request for advice too often came after the damaging lead article, after the punitive legislation was introduced, after the consumer boycott was already organized and the protesters were at the front gate. Chase was convinced that there exists within the company a group of professionals with the network of relationships in place that could alert the organization early on that an issue was brewing. The resulting lead time could enable the company to better respond when trouble hit. Not only that, but often, they could end-run confrontation, even create new markets, by changing products or policies. But, these changes required at least the ear of senior management, and preferably a seat at the management table.

The First Issue Management Process Model

We have always emphasized that this Model is not conclusive. It will vary according to the specific needs of any user. The primary purpose in our exercise is to demonstrate that a systems approach could apply to the strategic management of issues.

The original model, created in 1977, consisted of five primary steps:

1. Issue identification
2. Issue analysis
3. Issue change strategy options
4. Issue action program, and Evaluation of results
5. Evaluation

At the heart of each step of the model is the interaction among citizens, business, and government, the push and pull relationship that governs the core of our society, and serves as the birth place, we felt, of all issues.

Issue Identification consists of three primary steps:

Consideration of trends in the social, political, and economic realms. Now, we would add other trend areas, such as technological

Comparison of those trends to your basic organizational goals, in other words, your business plan Identification of primary issues is step 3

The major focus of the Issue Analysis step is to draw on past experience with the issue, as reflected in quantitative and qualitative research on how people feel about the issue, what actions have been taken, how the company is geared for dealing with it, and in general, how the issue can impact the organization.

Now, as for the circle with the odd name Issue Change Strategy Options. What does that mean? Basically, each issue requires a carefully determined “stance.” It may be desirable to let others take the lead, remaining in a reactive mode. Perhaps it is best to “go with the flow” and adapt where necessary. Or, a dynamic posture may be taken. This whole step is designed to incorporate an element of strategy into plans and actions.

Issue Action is the fourth step. Chase said too many of his peers were preoccupied with jumping to action without properly addressing the “front end” of an issue. The components of action include setting a goal, objectives, strategies and tactics. Then, one has to organize all resources at hand to achieve targets that are set. We wanted to emphasize that all parts of the organization should be tapped and synchronized. This was a radical approach in 1977.

Finally, there is an emphasis on the Evaluation of Results. At times, we said, the issue management cycle begins again, with new players, new results, new attitudes and so on. The dynamic nature of this process is what makes issue management a fascinating field, by the way. The results, in terms of change effected and synergy realized, are very powerful.

The above remarks are excerpted from a speech by Teresa Yancey Crane, founder of the Issue Management Council and part of the team that worked with Howard Chase to develop the first Issue Management Process Model in 1977.

Learn more about Issue Management Defined, Professional Standards, Issue Management  Value, and Best Practice Indicators.

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