As the name suggests, issues management is research which helps organisations manage challenging issues. It often relates to new developments, such as:
- New buildings / facilities / infrastructure
- New policy initatives
It can also refer to helping organisations manage ongoing issues which threaten to damage their reputation, such as the belief that particular organisations cause social harm. It can have both a defensive and attacking role - i.e. we have worked for organisations that some see as causing social harm, and for those fighting against those organisations.
UMR is New Zealand's leading issues management research company, having been involved in many of the most important and prominents decisions over the last 20+ years. These include the establishment of Sky City, the Fonterra merger, several share floats and many new electricity generation and transmission proposals.
The methodology for such projects can vary widely, depending how much detail clients want and how complex the issue is. The following would be a typical starting point for an issue which is relevant to most New Zealanders:
- An initial module of questions in either the telephone or online omnibus survey. Often this is as simple as testing awareness of the proposed development and then the level of support for / opposition to it.
- Six focus groups with members of the general public, perhaps targeted according to the demographic information identified through the initial omnibus module.
- A follow-up omnibus module, with the main focus being on testing arguments and message developed out of the focus groups to see how well they work with the wider public.
The combination of qualitative and quantative research is highly beneficial, as it allows clients to both quantify where public opinion is on the issue in question, and also dig behind initial responses in order to identify the key motivations and underlying beliefs which can be used in future communications.