Reputation – crisis vs issue – what’s the difference?

Business reputation is fragile. When it comes to reputational risk, ‘crisis’ and ‘issue’ can often be used interchangeably. However, there’s an important difference, and each requires a different approach to protect reputation successfully. So – crisis vs issue – what’s the difference and why does it matter?

Crisis vs issue – definitions


A PR crisis can be defined as an “unexpected event that negatively impacts a company’s reputation or operations.” A crisis can last a long or short period of time, and it will often leave a lasting impact on a company’s brand.


In contract, an issue is an ongoing or rising trend that can significantly affect an organisation’s operations. This could stem from changing attitudes or behaviours, or could arise as the result of a political, social or economic influence.

Crisis vs issue – the key differences

There are several factors that differentiate crises from issues, which include:

  1. Urgency of response

When it comes to crisis vs issue, one of the primary differences is the urgency of response required to tackle the risk effectively. When dealing with an issue, there is often time to breathe – sit, analyse and assess every option available to you before making considered decisions. When it comes to crisis management, there’s rapidly rising pressure to make immediate decisions – and often, that decision should have already been made when you come to make it.

  1. Length of time

Typically, issues can extend for much longer period of time, as a trend influencing an issue can build over many months or years. Crises, meanwhile, often have a clear start and end point. The effects of a crisis can often be realised in a very short time frame, needing an immediate response. However, interestingly, the effects of a crisis are also likely to be felt for much longer after the crisis has ended vs an issue.

  1. Lasting impact

As briefly mentioned above, the impact of a PR crisis has the potential to be significantly far-reaching and long-term. Crises can threaten an organisation’s continuity, whereas issue impacts aren’t usually as critical. If not handled properly, a crisis can seriously threaten a business’ capacity to continue to operate.

  1. Choice of action

With more time, there’s also the opportunity to weigh up benefits of different responses when dealing with an issue. You can analyse what the outcome of each response might be and make an informed decision. However, as a crisis develops quickly, making and committing to a decision quickly is critical. For example, if you’re called by the media for comment ‘on the hoof’, there’s little room to delay your response.

An issue becoming a crisis

Despite the distinct differences, a reputational issue can evolve into a crisis if it’s not properly handled. Issues management is an ongoing process – it’s about continually scanning the business landscape for evolving trends. If an organisation spends time predicting and planning for rising issues, it can manage them more effectively, preventing a crisis from rising its head.

Preparation is key

Whether you’re protecting your business against an issue or crisis, preparation is always key. Don’t wait for the risk to realise itself before you act.

You need a plan in place to effectively manage crises and issues to protect your brand, its reputation and long-term continuity.

For support in handling reputation crises and issues, get in touch with a member of the Kinetic team by filling out the form below:


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