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Managing Public Issues and Stakeholder Relationships

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Learning Unit

Week 2: Managing Public Issues and Stakeholder Relationships

Businesses today operate in an ever-changing external environment, where effective management requires anticipating emerging public issues and engaging positively with a wide range of stakeholders.  Whether the issue is growing concerns about climate change, water scarcity, child labor, animal cruelty, or consumer safety, managers must respond to the opportunities and risks it presents.  To do so effectively often requires building relationships across organizational boundaries, learning from external stakeholders, and altering practices in response.  Effective management of public issues and stakeholder relationships builds value for the firm.



  • To complete this Learning Unit you will need to read Chapter 2 of Lawrence and Weber (2014)
  • To prepare for the in class group discussion you will need to read the Case Study: Coca-Cola’s Water Neutrality Initiative, Lawrence and Weber (2014), pp43-44.


  1. What are public issues and why and how do they impact modern firms?

A public issue is any issue that is of mutual concern to an organization and one or more of its stakeholders. Emerging public issues present a risk, but they also present an opportunity, because companies that correctly anticipate and respond to them can often obtain a competitive advantage. Because they are typically broad issues. Public issues are often contentious—different groups may have different opinions about what should be done about them. They often, but not always, have public policy or legislative implications.

  1. Identify the eight strategic radar screens that enable public affairs managers to scan their business environment. Briefly describe some of the issues involved with each environment.
  1. Customer environment includes the demographic factors, such as gender, age, marital status, and other factors, of the organization’s customers as well as their social values or preferences.
  1. Competitor environment includes information on the number and strength of the organization’s competitors.
  1. Economic environment includes information about costs, prices, international trade, and any other features of the economic environment.
  1. Technological environment includes the development of new technologies and their applications affecting the organization, its customers, and other stakeholder groups.
  1. Social environment includes cultural patterns, values, beliefs, trends, and conflicts among the people in the societies where the organization conducts business or might conduct business.
  1. Political environment includes the structure, processes, and actions of all levels of government—local, state, national, and international.
  1. Legal environment includes patents, copyrights, trademarks, and considerations of intellectual property, as well as antitrust considerations and trade protectionism and organizational liability issues.
  1. Geophysical environment relates to awareness of the physical surroundings of the organization’s facilities and operations.
  1. What is competitive intelligence? Why is it important to the public affairs function?

Competitive intelligence is the systematic and continuous process of gathering, analyzing, and managing external information on the organization’s competitors. Competitive intelligence enables managers in companies of all sizes to make informed decisions ranging from marketing, research and development, and investing tactics to long-term business strategies.

  1. Identify and outline the five steps to the Issues Management Process.

Identify Issue: Issue identification involves anticipating emerging concerns.

Analyze Issue: Once an issue has been identified, its implications must be analyzed.



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