Both the Ford and Trudeau governments missed opportunities over the last week to choose less-bad responses to crises.
The most effective means to manage issues is to have intelligence and integrity and stop lying. It’s not that complicated.
Thank you for this interesting column. Managing issues and developing communications strategies seems to be a never ending process. In the case of the HoC, we have been told this "was the Speaker's guest" and his staff failed to undertake due diligence. In a normal day at the HoC, I imagine that is correct. But this was not a normal day. A head of state from a country in a state of war was speaking to the members. I find it hard to accept that security and the vetting of guests was the sole responsibility of the individual members or the Speaker who invited guests that day. It seems that at least one aspect of issues management from the PMO has been effective - i.e. ensure responsibility lies in some place other than the government. Perhaps issues management is also about using multiple strategies at once and deflecting attention elsewhere.
On the question of “What the fuck did you think was going to happen?”, the government's attempt to get all mention of the introduction of the Nazi expunged from the official Hansard record is a classic.
The dark arts of issue management have always been important and have always been part of the scene in business and politics for decades - interesting insight from a practitioner.
As a related comment, I have yet to read, regarding the Waffen-SS veteran fiasco, as to why the fellow agreed to the 'honour' as proposed by his local MP, aka the Speaker. He was likely aware that his veteran status in the Wehrmacht was not going to go over well in the public square in his country of adoption, which fought the aforementioned Wehrmacht for six years, and so why put himself out there? Lying low would be the way to go as he had successfully done from 1945-2023. Now he is the subject of an investigation in Poland, which presently owns the territory of Galicia. Baffling all round.
There is a sense amongst those who don't do this that one can just 'spin' their way out of these situations with the right message. The reality is that usually some action is required and getting to a coordinated action/message response is what can slow what must be a very fast process.
For example, in the case of the Greenbelt, there may be legal issues the government was stepping carefully around. In both cases, the resignation of a loyal member of the government (and/or party) often tugs at personal relationships; leaders might know these people and don't want to totally throw them under the bus or want to give them time to take some steps before announcing their resignation.
There will also always be voices at the table looking to wait and see if the issue lasts more than a news cycle -- why take drastic action if it's all going to blow over?
All of which to say -- communications people typically come to the table with the kind of advice Andrew outlines here. But there aren't the only voices and other considerations can stall a response in a way that seems borderline incompetent to outsiders.
Do politicians really wonder why trust in government is eroding, really?
The problem with this advice is the emphasis on various governments communications strategies and not enough criticism on poor public policy and public administration.
In the case of ford, the biggest issue is not a lack of issues management but poor public policy and public administration. There is a strong stench of corruption in the way they selected what portions of the greenbelt would be removed. Most of the developers seem to have been his donors.
Regarding trudeau, issue’s management is the least of his concerns. His govt is exceptionally inept when it comes to public policy and public administration. House prices have almost doubled, so has rent, the debt has exploded in the country, real gdp per capita is falling (or stagnant? i cant recall), and they are stuffing more indentured servants in the country.
This was a really interesting read, thank you. While I’m not an issues manager, your column makes me realize that I have been in that role at times and now I understand a little better that this is a more unique skill set and that others genuinely may not think ahead to what might happen. It’s fascinating to know there are people whose day to day job handles this type of thing all the time - sounds like an incredibly important but thankless job, especially if you have people like Ford and Trudeau who may not take the advice until they’ve squandered their own capital.