The Difference Between Crisis and Issues Management

Most businesses recognize a crisis when it's happening and many, if they're smart, have a plan in place to manage whatever misfortune befalls them. Product recalls, accidents, protests, social media snafus - the list of possible crises goes on and on. But when it comes to issues management, many organizations fail to identify potential issues and manage them properly, which can lead to situations that quickly become a crisis.

PR pros actively monitor and assess trends within a client's industry.

So, how do you identify a potential issue? According to the Institute for PR, issues management is an anticipatory, strategic management process that helps organizations detect and respond appropriately to emerging trends or changes. These trends or changes could crystallize into an issue, which could raise the attention and concern of important publics and stakeholders. In lieu of having an "issues" crystal ball, PR professionals actively monitor and assess trends and developments within their client's respective industry to evaluate if a plan of action needs to be developed.

With issues management defined, how can you tell the difference between a crisis and an issue? Tony Jacques, a well-known crisis and issues management expert and author, has identified eight key differentiators between crisis and issues management:

1. Choice

  • Crisis: Fewer options and the choices continue to decrease as the crisis continues
  • Issue: More time to explore all possible choices, weigh pros and cons and make an informed decision

2. Certainty

  • Crisis: Need to make decisions without knowing all the facts
  • Issue: Time to thoroughly research, gather and analyze information

3. Urgency

  • Crisis: Under pressure to make a decision on the spot
  • Issue: Time to fully assess and make the best decision

4. Cost

  • Crisis: Cost is no object when trying to save your business
  • Issue: Can evaluate options and choose the most cost-effective plan of action

5. Continuity

  • Crisis: Daily activity is consumed by the crisis, which could disrupt business
  • Issue: Managed during regular office hours and it is business as usual

6. Time

  • Crisis: All crises eventually come to an end, but financial and reputational impacts could linger
  • Issue: Issues can extend for months, year or decades

7. Impact

  • Crisis: Possible threats to health, property, environment, etc.
  • Issue: Possible threats to market share, financials and reputation

8. Outcome

  • Crisis: Minimize damage to the business and help it survive
  • Issue: Work toward positive outcome by identifying and addressing issues early