What happens when your issue strategy leaks

Your issue strategy sounds great when it is discussed around the board table. But how does it look when it appears on the front page of the newspaper?

That was the question for Clubs Queensland when a strategy document didn’t so much leak but was accidentally posted on their own website and got picked up by an eagle-eyed reporter.

It came amidst a raging public debate about government efforts to limit gambling on poker machines, strongly opposed by the clubs industry which relies heavily on poker machine revenue. While the clubs were publicly arguing that the proposed reforms could cost clubs up to 40% of poker machine revenue, the “secret clubs strategy plan” estimated the worst case scenario impact would be 10-20%, and a modified policy would see a revenue reduction of only 5-8%.

And at the same time as the clubs industry was calling for a “fair trial” of the proposals, the leaked “Future Directions” document showed clubs how to use trailer-mounted mobile ATM’s outside the venue as a cynical way around the proposal to limit cash withdrawals from ATM’s inside gambling venues. The whole debacle was a gift to “other side” of the debate and a blow to the credibility of the national clubs campaign.

So how did Clubs Queensland deal with this embarrassment? The organization immediately went into classic response mode, demonstrating once again that denial is not just a river in Africa.

First they denied the nature of the document.  It wasn’t policy they said, but was a conference presentation by their consulting arm, Dickson-Wohlsen Strategies.  But they admitted all presenters had been commissioned for their expertise, and the consultants’ own website (www.clubtraining.com.au) shows they trade as “Clubs Training Australia” and regularly provide major reports for the lobby group.

Then they tried to deny it was an own-goal.  CEO Doug Flockhart said: “Clubs Queensland is a fully transparent organization and is comfortable with these document being open to the public, including the media.”  A fine sentiment, but of course the incriminating presentation was immediately taken down.

Fortunately Managing Outcomes got hold to a copy which “fell off the back of a truck” for use at future workshops and issue management master classes.  So in the big picture it was a minor embarrassment.  But it was also a vivid reminder of one of the most basic rules of issue management – Don’t write down anything you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of the newspaper (especially when it is really dumb stuff).

To learn about the latest developments in issue management, or to book your own executive master class, contact Tony Jaques for details.


About managingoutcomes

Issue and crisis management expert
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