The best issues-management strategy is one that recognizes risks before they become issues. This requires the foresight and courage to identify risks and take proactive action.
The advantage of tackling risks is avoiding protracted public debates when those risks fester into issues that cause heartburn in a neighborhood, community or state. Drawn-out controversies cost money, often lead to expensive settlements and deeply bruised reputations.
A month ago, Freedom Industries informed West Virginia officials of a leak from one of its chemical storage tanks into the Elk River, the source of drinking water for 300,000 people and hundreds of businesses.
Embarrassment abounded. Freedom Industries couldn't say for sure when the leak began or how much of the chemical spilled into the river. Government officials admitted they knew little about the chemical that potentially contaminated Charleston's water supply. The issue has gone from bad to worse with admissions of an additional chemical involved in a spill and reports of lax oversight of the company's accident prevention plan.
Freedom Industries has filed for bankruptcy, amid questions of who really owns the company. State and local officials are scrambling for answers. Meanwhile, community residents are unsettled and unsure whether their water is safe to drink — or even use in toilets.