When an organisation encounters anything outside of their every-day business operations it can create panic and thoughts of a possible crisis. However, more often than not, it is a small issue that, with the right management strategies, could be resolved within a specified time period but without the correct plan could escalate into a full-blown crisis.
An ‘issue’ and a ‘crisis’ are terms that CANNOT be used interchangeably due to the difference in their management response strategies. Issue management is the strategic process that detects and responds to an issue before it develops into a crisis.
“Issue management is steering the ship out of troubled waters. Crisis management is trying to save the ship after it has struck an iceberg.”
What is an Issue?
An issue is a problem that has the possibility of threatening an organisation’s market share, financials, reputation or stakeholders and is often seen as a pre-warning to a crisis if not resolved efficiently.
An issue allows an organisation more time to explore possible plans and make an informed decision in the most time and cost efficient ways possible. However, an issue isn’t always seen as a negative, sometimes an issue can help an organisation re-evaluate their business strategies or crisis management plans.
– Jasques, 2014
What is a Crisis?
A crisis is a major occurrence that can hinder or cease an organisation’s operation and requires an immediate response to ensure the minimisation of brand damage.
A crisis leaves the organisation with fewer options compared to an issue and this means that a full investigation is unlikely to be launched due to the demand for answers from stakeholders and the media. The cost of crisis management is a minor problem, compared to the timescale, as an organisation’s number one priority is saving its brand equity and consumer-brand relationships.
There are three causes of a crisis according to Coombs, 2007:
A victim cluster crisis means that the organisation itself is also a victim and there is a mild reputational threat against them due to their limited responsibility. Causes of this crisis include natural disasters and false rumours.
An accidental cluster creates a moderate reputational threat due to the organisations minimal, yet accidental, responsibilities. Causes of this crisis include tech errors and product errors.
A preventative cluster creates a severe reputational threat due to their high involvement in the crisis through knowingly putting people at risk, inappropriate actions and violating laws and regulations. Causes of this crisis include human error and organisational misdeed.
Words and infographics by Liam Prosser