Reputation and public relations:
An organisation‟s reputation is critical to its success.
Reputation is the easiest thing to lose and the hardest thing to replace.
Reputation value is a direct function of the perceptions of the public
involved with a company or its brands. It is only contingently related
to the quality of the product, services or corporate performance.
PR isn‟t just about the relationship between publics and organisation‟s,
it‟s all about building a reputation based on the perceptions of key
publics and stakeholders.
Attract investors and secure capital at a lower cost.
Attract customers and create customer loyalty.
Command a price premium for goods and services.
Recruit and retain high-quality employees.
Create a barrier to entry for potential competitors.
Provide an edge in competitive markets.
Underpin long-term supplier partnerships.
Foster a positive relationship with regulators and the media.
Provide a buffer from risks, issues and crises.
Built on perception.
Perception is vulnerable to real and imaginary threats.
Often shaped by incomplete, slanted or false information.
A good reputation makes it easier to handle risks, issues and crises.
Product recalls, product tampering, health concerns over food,
discoveries of toxic waste, etc.
The possibility of a harmful situation.
An interactive process of exchange of information amongst
interested parties about the nature, magnitude, significance, or
control of a risk.
Generally associated with health, safety or environmental risks.
The estimated extent of a problem, telling publics how bad the
problem is and helping to minimise the dissemination of incorrect
Issues: Childhood obesity, cigarette smoking, global warming, healthcare
costs, generically modified food, child labour, etc.
Why issues matter to organisations:
Issues are key emerging trends in public opinion.
Can have the power to change how an organisation operates or
CEOs expect PR practitioners to pre-empt issues.
PR people need to take an outside-in approach to understanding
What the outside world is saying.
Exists to help organisations achieve a competitive advantage.
Effectively responding to emerging issues can help organisations
avoid a crises.
Responds to the social context of organisation/stakeholder
PR people need to turn potential negatives into positives.
o Issue identification and analysis.
o Strategic decision-making and action.
Workplace shootings, natural disasters, terrorism, management fraud,
environmental disasters, etc.
Crises and organisations:
Crisis – a major occurrence with a potentially negative outcome.
Three related threats – public safety, financial loss and
No organisation is immune from crises.
PR and crisis communications:
PR people have a unique skill set that makes them vital in crisis
PR people can‟t solve crises but can help salvage reputation.
Crisis management: The process of strategic planning for a crisis or negative turning
point, a process that removes some of the risk and uncertainty
from the negative occurrence and allows the organisation to be
in greater control of its own destiny.
PR and team effort.
Good PR practice can limit the damage done to an organisation‟s
The dialogue between the organisation and its public prior to,
during and after the negative occurrence.
Details strategies and tactics that are designed to minimise
damage to the image of the organisation.
A specialist and growing area of professional practice. Theories, principles and contexts of issues
An issue or a crisis?
Issues – key emerging trends in public opinion that impact on an
organisation (often long standing, slow moving or predictable).
o E.g. impact of new technologies.
Crisis – a major, largely unforeseen occurrence or emergency with a
potentially negative outcome.
o E.g. environment concerns.
The difference between issues management and crisis management is
largely timing and choice of action.
o Many issues have become crises because managers have not
acted or they had simply hoped an issue would solve itself or
become someone else‟s problem.
Factors that shape issues and crisis communication:
o Organisations are expected to be responsible and accountable for
o Growing interest in CSR.
o People and groups whom an organisation is responsible because
they have/think they have a „stake‟/claim in some aspects of the
company‟s products, operations, markets, industry or outcomes.
Customers, investors, suppliers, employees, shareholders,
o Different to publics, they are attentive audiences.
o Increased scrutiny of organisation‟s operations.
o Action against the organisation if unsatisfied.
o Presents easy access and opportunity to disgruntled publics.
o Damaging claim or assertion can be made known to audiences
o Organisations have little time to respond to such online
o We live in a shrinking world.
o Crises will not be simply confined to one geographic area.
o E.g. Swine Flu originated in Mexico but negatively impacted the
Victorian Health Department. Revisiting reputation:
A collection of perceptions (past and present) which reside in the
consciousness of an organisation‟s stakeholders.
Perception is based on experience and expectations (which are often
not rational or may be based on incomplete information).
How is reputation measured?
Harris-Fombrun Reputation Quotient (RQ):
o Designed to describe the perceptions of an organisation.
o Based on surveys of stakeholder perceptions.
o Compares organisations within sectors.
o Compares like with like e.g. no point measuring retail with
o Some attributes more important to some sectors than others.
1. Emotional Appeal:
o Good feeling about the company.
o Admire and respect the company.
o Trust the company.
2. Products and services:
o Stands behind products/services.
o Offers high quality products/services.
o Develops innovative products/services.
o Offers products/services that are good value.
3. Vision and leadership:
o Has excellent leadership.
o Has a clear vision for the future.
o Recognises/takes advantage of market opportunities.
4. Workplace environment:
o Is well managed.
o Looks like a good company to work for.
o Looks like it has good employees.
5. Financial performance:
o Record of profitability.
o Looks like a low risk investment.
o Strong prospects for future growth.
o Tends to outperform its competitors.
6. Social responsibility: o Supports good causes.
o Environmentally responsible.
o Treats people well.
Controversy/dispute – an issue of contestable difference in opinion.
o E.g. resignation of former David Jones CEO amid sexual
Expectation gap – an issue as a gap between organisational actions
and stakeholder expectations.
o Metro trains reliability issue.
Impact – an issue as an event, trend or condition that creates or has
the potential to create significant impact affecting the organisation.
o E.g. McDonalds‟ response to the child obesity issue.
A matter of perspective:
While organisations, stakeholders and other constituencies may be
concerned about the same issue, their perspectives are rarely the
Where do issues start?
Six common stakeholder groups that bring issues to attention:
o Associates e.g. suppliers, partners.
o Employee associations e.g. unions.
o Special interest ground e.g. Mothers Against Drink Driving.
A matter of context:
o What is the political, social, economic and cultural context for the
o Who or what is the dominant power broker behind this issue?
o Practitioners achieve this through a process of boundary-
spanning (aka environmental scanning).
Issues management: Seeks to identify potential, emerging or actual trends, concerns and
issues likely to affect an organisation and its key stakeholders.
o Issues must be managed at every stage of the issue life cycle.
o Can be proactive (planning well into the future) and reactive
(eek, loo what‟s happened).
o Ultimate aim – to prevent the issue from turning into a crisis.
Catalytic model of issues management:
An issue starts off as a concern in one of the stakeholder groups.
It then proceeds through various stages of a life cycle.
Issues can either cease or mature at any stage of the life cycle.
The model was developed by Crable and Vibbert (1985).
Still relevant and used by more recent issue scholars.
Role of PR – to cause the issue to cease through management and
Stage 1: potential stakeholders get
A stakeholder involved, the
group has decided media gets
a problem is involved, more
significant, this is pressure is
based on research applied to the
regulation is Stage 3: current
applied to The issue is bubbling
solve the along, the government
issue; the org has to pay attention to
is either growing media and
advantaged or Stage 4: stakeholder interest
It becomes a
Stage One – Potential Status:
Stakeholder group deems a situation or problem to be significant. Awareness of situation or problem stems from academic or specialist
Findings from research motivate demand for answers from the
Organisation‟s response may not be convincing enough.
Prompts further action and resolve to “do something”.
Stage Two – Imminent Status:
Other stakeholders begin to accept the issue.
Mass media is involved and issue is amplified.
Pressure is placed on the organisation to face up to the issue.
Organisation still has time to prevent polarisation and conflict.
Stage Three – Current Status:
Wide number of stakeholders are aware and concerned about the
Conflict between organisation and stakeholders arise.
Attracts notice of regulators and it is possible that the issue might
enter the public arena.
Resolution, if possible, may be sought.
Stage Four – Critical Status:
Issue is highly polarised (you are either for or against us).
Pressure for a decision to be made to resolve the issue.
Regulator may have to intervene if conflict cannot be resolved,
Pressure for industry to be regulated.
Stage Five – Dormant Status:
Once the issue enters the policy process either through changes to the
legislation or regulation.
This could be to the advantage or disadvantage of the stakeholders or
The issue may be resolved but not solved. Stakeholder identification and research
Risk communication – the process of identifying, controlling and
minimising the impact of uncertain events on an organisation.
Risk and issues overlap when there is conflict over the risks associated
with an organisation such as a product, service, policy, by-product or
some other aspect of its operations.
Risk that is identified and managed properly will not turn into an issue
Stakeholders are increasingly concerned about risk due to:
o Continuous social change and uncertainty.
o Fast-paced of industrial and technological innovation.
o Time and cost pressure mean adequate scientific evaluation
often does not take place.
o The trend towards greater individuality and assertive public
PR is important because of its role to reduce uncertainty over risk.
If a risk is managed effectively in the first instance an issue or crisis
may be lessened or avoided.
Risk and issues
The risks and communication of risks often receive the widespread
attention of the consumers, media, advocacy groups and regulators.
The underlying issue is often the perception that the company values
profits over people.
Seeks to identify potential, emerging or actual trends, concerns and
issues likely to affect an organisation and its key stakeholders.
Issues must be managed at every stage of the issue life cycle.
Aims to minimise reputational damage.
It can be both proactive (the anticipation) and reactive (minimising
Issues don‟t just present problems, they also offer opportunities.
Issues management can stop an issue turning into a crisis.
Five functions of issues management
Anticipate and analyse issues.
Develop organisational positions on issues. Identify key publics whose support is vital to the public policy issue.
Identify desired behaviours of key publics.
PR in the issues management process
PR plays a central role, as communication is always required.
The manager of the area most affected is ultimately accountable.
The success is linked to organisational competency and ethics.
PR practitioners craft the communication between an organisation and
stakeholders and therefore must be part of the senior management
team when an issue is being managed.
Stages of issues management
1. Monitoring (environmental/boundary scanning):
Media and internet monitoring.
Business intelligence gathering.
Networking and industry associations.
Practitioners need to be expert environmental scanners to
identify issues in their very early stages.
Which issues are impacting on the organisation and gaining
What type of issue/s are emerging? (controversy, expectation
gap, part of a longer term trend?)
What are the social factors that make this a problem now?
Where is each issue in its lifecycle?
As the issue moves through the first four stages, it attracts
more attention and becomes less manageable from the
organisation‟s point of view.
How far-reaching will each issue‟s impact be (product sector,
What is the probability of occurrence?
How immediate is the issue?
Issues index matrix: 4. Analysis:
Analyse the most important issues (cause and effect) in some
Establish issue support teams if appropriate.
Stakeholders – categories of people who are impacted by
decisions of an organisation.
Publics – when stakeholders are aware and active with regard
to organisational decisions.
Identify and rank publics (who is driving this process?).
When stakeholders become publics (possible stakeholders):
employees, customers/clients, competitors, shareholders,
management, media, NGOs.
Grunig‟s situation theory of publics:
o Anticipates whether and to what extent individuals or
groups have the motivation and power to defend their
o Concerned with people‟s information-seeking behaviour. o Uses different types of publics to categorise
stakeholders into particular categories.
Latent •A problem is there but
publics is not yet recognised
Types of publics Aware •Groups that recognise
publics there is a problem
•Organise, discuss and
Active respond to a problem;
Turning theory into practice:
o What is the public‟s level of involvement?
o What is the public‟s motivation.
o Who are the most important publics (powerbrokers)?
5. Strategic direction (strategy decision):
Create a strategic response.
Information communicated in a strategy document.
How do we want publics/stakeholders to behave?
Develop organisational positions on the issues.
What action do we take?
Educating and mobilising publics/stakeholders is crux of
o Position statements/key messages.
Implement the policies and program approved by
Communicate the response effectively with each target group
in a credible form. Advocate the organisation‟s position to prevent negative
Evaluate the success of policies and programs to determine
future strategies. Issues management planning process
What is a strategy?
A unifying theme that gives coherence and direction to the actions and
decisions of an individual or an organisation.
Unique events cannot, by definition, be „planned‟. But they can be
foreseen. This requires strategies for tomorrow, strategies that
anticipate where the greatest changes are likely to occur and what
they are likely to be, strategies that enable a business to take
advantage of new realities and to convert turbulence into opportunity.
What does a strategic plan look like?
No two plans are the same.
There is such thing as a „best practice‟ approach.
One strategic planning model – ROPE:
o Research – where are we now?
o Objectives – where do we want to be?
o Programming – how do we get there?
o Evaluation – how do we know we‟ve arrived?
Where Background - Description of the issue.
are we - Why the issue has occurred
now? i.e. the social context.
- Organisational goals (what
your client wants to achieve,
derived from the brief).
- Why an issues management
plan is required.
Situation analysis - Key research and analysis
findings (life cycle stage,
- SWOT/PEEST- look for
Stakeholders - A prioritised list.
- Brief description of each.
- Identify their relationship to
- Describe why there is a need to communicate with them in
- Many different theories on
how to segment/describe e.g.
Looks at micro-environmental factors-how the organisation responds
to its environment.
Examines macro-environment (the broader context in which a
company operates)-ideally used in conjunction with SWOT.
o Political- what is the current political environment – with what
impact on us e.g. legislative changes, change of government.
o Economic- what is the economic environment in which we
operate e.g. interest rates, employment rates, energy costs.
o Environmental- what are the environmental concerns that we will
need to face/deal with e.g. new research on emissions.
o Social- where do we sit in our community e.g. lifestyle changes,
social attributes, demographic changes.
o Technological- how is technology changing/challenging us e.g.
new technologies, access to technology, research and
Problem- what is the problem we are trying to solve with the
Opportunity- why is now the right time to do it – what opportunity
exists that will assist us to solve the problem? Strategic planning
ROPE – Objectives (where do we want to be):
Objectives are what the PR practitioner sets to achieve their client‟s
Should be clear about the end point.
Should be SMART.
Take a long term view.
Are often stakeholder specific.
Objectives and tactics:
Objectives e.g. increased awareness, change of attitude or behavioural
change, are end points.
Tactics e.g. media relations, engagement through social media or
community meetings, are the vehicles used to reach an end point.
Categories of communication objectives:
Tailor objectives to stakeholders based on their position and
relationship to an issue.
o Informational: Stakeholder group goes from uninformed to
o Attitudinal: Stakeholder group‟s attitude toward issue/entity
o Behavioural: Action/behaviour of a stakeholder group changes.
Ensure that your objectives are SMART – a check list for „getting it
o Specific: Includes a specific, segmented public.
o Measureable: Includes metric that indicates achievement.
o Achievable: Is not too difficult to achieve with given resources.
o Realistic: Is founded in relevant research and analysis.
o Time-bound: Has a set time limit.
Avoiding the pitfalls:
Communication objectives are different to business or marketing
May complement business or marketing objectives, but should focus
on communication outcomes. Ask yourself: How can communication be used to solve a problem or
build an opportunity?
Don‟t overstretch, as the planner you will be held accountable.
When writing plan, order objectives from the most to least important.
ROPE: Programming and implementation (how do we get there):
What do we need to say to target publics to persuade them to
think/act in a way that will solve our identified issue?
What is the most informative or persuasive thing to say?
Key messages are basic building blocks that are expanded upon in
some communication tactics e.g. media release or website update.
Tailored to specific audiences.
Design messages to achieve objectives.
Can include sub-messages.
Key messages-best practice:
o Frame the issue to appeal self-interest (WIIFM).
o Where possible offer fact-driven key messages (i.e. research or
o Understand your publics.
o Be honest. Issues management tactics and media relations
ROPE: Programming and implementation:
Need to be linked to strategy, to follow a coherent theme e.g.
Describes the vehicles used to achieve our objectives, e.g. social