The Dark Art & Issues Management

June 8, 2020
Sharon Williams

It is a name that best describes a practice that has been around for decades but practitioners, government officials and company executives are reluctant to explain too much about it to the outside world for fear of revealing their secrets, almost like those who guard the formula for Coca Cola or the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken.

What is the Dark Art? The phrase was coined in the late ’60s in the political arena and emerging from behind this cloak of mystery it was retitled Issues Management, sometimes spilling over into Crisis Management. Others might have called it Damage Control.

The academics textbook description is: Issues Management is an anticipatory, strategic management process that helps organisations detect and respond appropriately to emerging trends or changes in the socio-economic environment. These trends may then crystallize into an ‘issue’ which is a situation that evokes the attention and concern of influential organisational publics and stakeholders.”

Influencing and swaying different audiences to think a certain way, captured under the heading of Issues Management, is a practice widely used by political parties. It is the “bread and butter” of ministerial minders. That said, handling several issues at the same time can be a juggle, not for the faint-hearted.  

But what is best practice? Without question, disclosure is the most effective strategy in crisis. We have to believe and expect, the truth will always emerge.  At the same time, being quick to respond provides the upper hand to explain what happened on your own terms.  

How do political parties find the best people for this role? Often it is the journalist who intimately understands the workings of the media to influence change.  You don’t need to be a scholar to appreciate why so many ex-journalists are employed by political parties to lead the way on issues management.

It is not just political parties, Public Relations companies have a large percentage of ex-journalists acting as consultants who in turn provide a service on issues management for companies who have a growing need to “see around corners” to anticipate how different audiences will react to proposed changes and events. In many ways, a PR crisis is a test of a company’s values. Consider seeing it as a chance to show everyone who and what you stand for.

The essential steps in issues management adopted by different bodies vary greatly. As will the use of advice by political parties, Governments and companies.  The consequences of this advice should not be underestimated. The government potentially can be thrown out of the office while companies can go to the wall if the advice is floored.

As mentioned right at the start of this message, practitioners of Issues Management are reluctant to articulate details of their businesses. You certainly won’t find the standard testimonials or reviews associated with your standard Public Relations project on their website. Clients also wouldn’t want their strategies broadcast to the world.

Taurus has earned its reputation as a leading Public Relations and Marketing company with outstanding Issues Management credentials and people who understand the media, corporate and public landscape.

More than 1,000 satisfied clients over the past 25 years, and a reputation for keeping abreast of changing trends, is your safeguard in putting your trust in Taurus.

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