Bankers' bonuses offer lessons in issues management
This week's events regarding Stephen Hester's bonus ensured that RBS was engulfed by a major issues management challenge.
The definition of an issue is when corporate behaviour is mis-aligned with stakeholder perceptions. That's why, for example, businesses which ride roughshod over environmental best practice are likely to suffer, both in reputational and business terms. Stakeholders will no longer accept practices which were once entirely normal.
The solution can come in one of two ways. Number one is to use communication to change stakeholder perceptions so that existing behaviour is no longer seen as unacceptable. That's what the banks have been attempting with their message about needing to attract and retain the best candidates for top jobs.
Number two is to change corporate behaviour so that it moves back into line with stakeholder expectations. That's what Stepen Hester has attempted by refusing his bonus.
The most dangerous strategy of all is to do nothing and simply carry on regardless. It's a sure fire way of turning issues management into a severe dose of crisis management, and is to be avoided at all costs.