Issues Management

Years of frontline experience have taught Karen Eck the value of good, honest advice when clients are feeling the heat. Here she shares her thoughts.    

I love nothing better than brainstorming ideas, coming up with solutions and strategies for clients.

When I worked for an Australian media company as their corporate adviser, I welcomed the unexpected phone call. It was always confidential, sometimes surprising, but never dull. Often there was precious little time to prepare a strategy, so instinct took over – the ability to think on your feet, devise a course of action, develop key messages, draft a press release and brief the CEO on tricky media questions.

Always the main objective was to make the client feel comfortable, so you needed to be available 24/7, stay focused, ready to cut to the chase, and one step ahead wherever possible – essential skills for managing difficult issues that may arise today.

Take entertainment, for example, a core eckfactor business, where the media spotlight can be intimidating. Yesterday, no-one even knew your name; today, success means everyone wants a piece of you.

Say the paparazzi are suddenly stalking you. Or a hit show is turning you into a household name. Or your portrayal in the media is totally at odds with the real you. Can you handle the limelight, be it positive or negative? Some people just can’t, and that becomes a critical issue to be managed.

That’s why I place great emphasis on talking to my clients right from the beginning, encouraging them to open up to me about what is really important to them. That means digging deeper to find the truth, understanding their motivation, knowing what they regard as a successful outcome.

I pride myself on being the most discreet person my clients know. Just because I’m a publicist doesn’t mean I tell others anything about your private life. But if I have your trust I can advise you through a difficult time by offering good, honest, practical advice, backed up by 25 years of media and management experience.

Sometimes the best strategy in a crisis is to shut up, listen, and stay cool. The time to comment and act will be when you have something positive to contribute.

And always have a Plan B. Life’s just like that.