GWU Issues Management

A blog established for the George Washington University School of Political Management's Issues Management course.

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Location: Washington, D.C., United States

A middle aged white guy, who likes to think, talk and, too infrequently, write about politics, religion and gadgets.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

From Issues Management to Crisis Management

The Dubai Ports World deal is a classic example of how lack of issues management can turn an issue into a crisis. It's hard to get the genie back into the bottle at this stage, but I have to admire those who are trying. Sen. McCain made a good case on This Week on ABC this morning. There is a case to be made that this company already has our national security in their hands based on the number of ports they are already running around the world. And they've been extremely cooperative with the U.S. government. So, what's the big deal?

Let's say the facts are there to justify this deal and this was all a big misunderstanding. You're Dubai Ports World. First thing you do is "voluntarily" call for the 45 day review required by law, which they have already done.

What else do you do? What are your messages? Who are your messengers? Or do you just "go to ground" and hope this blows over?

I've been very impressed with the thoughtfulness of the comments, as my previous post attests. Keep it up. I believe it is useful to apply the elements we are learning in class to the big issues as they arise. And, whether it deserves to be or not, this has tuned into a big issue. Cheney's probably glad it came along. Makes his assassination attempt seem pale by comparison.

You should only need to read the attached story to get a full recap of how we got where we are on this issue.

Bush's Response To the Ports Deal Faulted as Tardy: "To anyone listening, it was clear that President Bush had a problem on his hands. But Bush was not listening. And his political team had its attention elsewhere. By the time they noticed, Bush's problem had grown a lot bigger."

Great Comments on Google

Thanks to all who posted comments last week. Very thoughtful and interesting. Most seemed to think that the tide of history is against the Chinese government and they won't be able to hold it back over the long run through censorship. Of course, it brings to mind the famous quote by John Maynard Keynes "In the long run, we'll all be dead."

Still, I think this issue is one that will persist for a while. As you know, I will be going to China the week of March 20 and I'm trying to get this topic on the agenda for our meeting. I met a Forbes reporter last night who has communicated with an activist in China, fighting the government on this issue, who thinks that Google is one of the "good guys" and should be encouraged.

I will give you a first person report when I return from Asia.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

China, the Internet and Business

There were a few fascinating stories in both the Washington Post and New York Times today that address the challenges that the Internet is imposing both on the Chinese government and the American companies that want to do business in that country. Read this story (below) and also a column from the NYT that I will have to send you by email because it's behind the firewall.

The Click That Broke a Government's Grip: "With newspapers, magazines and television stations coming under tighter control, journalists and their audiences have sought refuge online. The party's censors have followed, but cyberspace in China remains contested terrain, where the rules are uncertain and an eloquent argument can wield surprising power."

Here's a clip from the Times column by Nicholas Kristoff:

"So think of the Internet as a Trojan horse that will change China. Yahoo has acted disgracefully, but the bigger picture is that the Internet is taking pluralism to China — and profound change may come sooner rather than later, for unrest is stirring across the country."

And here's the link, in case you have access.

You'll learn that four technology companies testified before Congress last week. They have dealt in different ways with the challenge of doing business in China and none of them comes away completely clean. I'm reminded of Google's corporate mission statement, "Don't be evil." Even though Kristoff declares Google the best of a bad bunch, they don't seem to live up to their own high standards.

So, let me hear your thoughts about how these companies are managing this issue. See if you can determine whether their strategies are the same or different. I think we'll all probably agree that their behavior is bad, but what I would really like you to focus on is what they are doing to protect their corporate reputations. Describe their respective strategies, messages, which audiences they care about. What are their goals and objectives. You don't have to answer all these questions, just pick out pieces. Look at what one company is doing. Or just focus on one element, i.e. messaging, and talk about how each is handling that.

This is clearly an issue that's going to be around for a while. In fact, I'm thinking maybe this might be the issue on which we will do our final plans and presentations.

Monday, February 13, 2006


OK, I looked a little more closely at that web site I asked you to review in the previous post. Thank you walmart walter iii for a thoughtful post and I agree with you. This is some citizen with, frankly, few communications skills and no theme to the site. It doesn't rise to a level deserving of our note. walmart walter iii, you are excused from further commentary this week.

So, everyone else, let's comment on something more important, Dick Cheney's hunting accident. I thought Andrew Sullivan struck the right note below. I feel badly for Mr. Wittington. Like Sullivan and everyone else, I look forward to Jon Stewart's take tonight. And much as I would like to interpret this incident as revealing some larger truth about the Bush/Cheney Administration, it was, in the end, a hunting accident in which, fortunately, no one died. Actually, I kind of pity Cheney.

What do you think?

Andrew Sullivan The Daily Dish: The Cheney Kerfuffle: "Monday, February 13, 2006
The Cheney Kerfuffle
13 Feb 2006 04:46 pm
It's immensely enjoyable, isn't it, although I've yet to read or hear the best jokes. I guess I'll wait for Jon Stewart tonight. All I have to add is that the way in which the veep's office handled the incident reminded me exactly of similar mishaps among Britain's royal family. The job of telling the media is handed to some unfortunate lackey or courtier; the official line is always that the prince/king/queen/Cheney did nothing wrong; there's always a short media blackout so as not to put the monarch on the spot; then there's a backlash. The British royals have gotten better than they used to be. Our own elected monarchy could take a few lessons from them in media management. "

Stadium Politics

Click here to view the Washington Nationals' "new stadium site." In preparation for our discussion of the new stadium campaign for the Dallas Cowboys, I thought it might be useful to observe how a similar campaign is being conducted here in Washington.

For this week's blog assignment, critique the site. I'd a appreciate a few comments on the site itself, its design, how compelling it is, whether it accomplishes anything to advance the cause of getting the stadium built.

Other questions might be:

What is the campaign strategy?

Who is the intended audience?

What are the major messages?

Does the site give you any clues....or not.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

What's an "Issue?"

Below are links to two remarkably similar articles that appeared this past Friday and Saturday. One is from the Washington Post and the other from the New York Times. The columns describe two columnists' interactions with a couple of the most well know brands in the U.S., if not the world.

These columns touch upon some of the matters we have been discussing in class. While they don't involve "issues" in the sense of legislative or regulatory policy - at least not directly, I am sure that whoever is responsible for "issues management" in the companies described, has something new to deal with when they come to work on Monday.

So, please read the articles and discuss and of the following:

In what way to these columns raise "issues" as defined in this course?

What threats do these columns raise for the companies?

What might you do if you were responsible for issues management in any of the companies named?

Have you had experiences similar to those described by the columnists? What were they? What relevance does your reaction to such experiences have for the company or companies in your stories?

Here are the two columns

Pearlstein in the Washington Post

Nocera in the New York Times

I'd love to discuss these in person, so I'm probably going to break my rule already and discuss them in class on Thursday.