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Public Affairs Insights from the Centre

10 Nov 2011

Issues management crucial for corporate reputations

George Onisiforou

John Mahon, a leading authority on issues management and Professor of Management at the University of Maine’s Business School, addressed participants at the Centre’s Heads of Function and Senior Practitioner dinner in Sydney last week.

Professor Mahon proclaimed that the public affairs function is a crucial component of successful, long-term corporate strategy and organisational survival, and outlined the importance of public affairs leadership.

He highlighted that public affairs functions should play a key role in defining and communicating their companies’ and CEO’s social, political and moral positions to build long-term corporate and individual commitments. These commitments and subsequent actions can insulate a company from reputational damage.

In issue and reputation situations, it is up to public affairs function leadership to provide clear direction to their senior management to ensure that actions and results link closely to organisational strategy.

Public affairs leaders should also be willing to identify and address those issues or problems that no one wants to address but all know about — what Professor Mahon calls the ‘dead moose’. However, to avoid a dead moose crisis it is important that a company’s CEO believes in absolute integrity and is willing to hear about the moose before it dies, and authorise action on it.

Finally, Professor Mahon emphasised that issues impact on, and are impacted by a company’s reputation. Public affairs practitioners need to understand and manage this dynamic relationship between issues and reputation to guard their company’s long-term survival.

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