Preemptive Action Success Story

By developing an issues management strategy early in the life cycle of an issue, this organization was able to manage the outcome and mitigate serious negative consequences. The success is a result of linking a comprehensive issues management strategy to an effective issues monitoring program.

The Challenge

A group of competitors were simultaneously reviewing scientific literature/research trends and recognized an emerging issue that could potentially damage the reputation of their industry / product. They could do nothing, accept the outcome and run the risk of operating in a crisis mode, or they could preemptively influence the outcome. The group chose to engage strategically, act preemptively and influence the future state.


Robert Nelson worked with the group to identify the best mix of people to place on the team to develop an issues management strategy. Experts were identified from four disciplines critical to a comprehensive situation analysis and the development of a winning issues management strategy: scientific affairs, government/regulatory affairs, communications / public relations, and food law. Invited participants also included prominent international leaders to provide knowledge and perspective from non-US jurisdictions.

First, Nelson designed an issues management strategy development session. The session objective was to engineer a comprehensive, integrated issues management strategy that would positively influence the outcome of the issue on a global scale. After engaging in a review of scientific literature and the regulatory environments in North America and the European Union, the diverse group engaged in a scenario building exercise. Participants built a current scenario and a set of desired future state scenarios. The group then applied a modified force field analysis model to the five desired future states, from which it developed a comprehensive, integrated issues management strategy and an action plan containing tactics, accountabilities and a timeline.


Despite increased attention and pressure over a six-year period (post issues management strategy development) from some stakeholders seeking a future state with potential negative ramifications for the industry group, the issues management strategy has delivered the intended results. A crisis has been diverted and desired future states have been realized relating to media coverage, industry communications, regulatory activity, congressional activity and research gaps.

The complete strategy and execution of the plan clearly illustrates a success story, demonstrating the value of identifying emerging issues early and developing comprehensive issues management strategies.