Intelligences in Strategic Issues Management: Challenging the Mutually Beneficial Relationships Paradigm


Mutually beneficial relationships (MBRs), a concept used to conceptualize public relations processes and outcomes, has been featured relatively uncritically for many years. This normative concept became an elixir for collective problem solving and shared decision making. Careful consideration of highly contested issues reveals evidence that within-group MBRs can prevent overarching solutions, decisions between issue groups, and can constitute stalemating or hegemonic tribalism. Strategic issues management (SIM) provides decision-making intelligences by which conflict between businesses and other members of society can be understood and resolved. Issue advocates' adversarial strategies can frustrate any society's ability to solve problems and make meaningful decisions, even when parties share a common motivating value. Stalemated public policy interpretations create sores that cannot heal; complex problems cannot be solved. Thus, MBRs are not the promised panacea or even a normative approach. Within-group MBRs can prevent between-group MBRs. An ethically engaged and rhetorically astute SIM process offers a constructive alternative to understanding complex, contested issues and offering informed problem resolution. Relationships do not have to be mutually beneficial to be included within the realm of public relations. In fact, relationships can span a continuum while still warranting and requiring the attentions, expertise, and activities of public relations. As long as ethical standards are maintained, those relationships can exist in whatever form is most intelligent for the handling of issues. In that view, public relations truly joins strategic management.

DOI Code: 10.1285/i20356609v13i2p1002

Keywords: Mutually beneficial relationships; Strategic issues management; Conflict resolution; Ethics and legitimacy; Sound science; Activism; Intelligences as argumentation


Abbott, J., Armstrong, J. S., A. Bolt et al. (2015). Climate change: The facts. Woodsville, NH Stockade Books.

Aitken, M. (2019). Climate change and the public interest: Science, legitimacy and diversity. In J. Johnston & M. Pieczka (Eds.), Public interest communication: Critical debated and global contexts (pp. 72-91). Oxon: UK: Routledge.

Akerlof, K. L., Rowan, K. E., La Porte, T. Batten, B. K., Ernst, H. & Sklarew (2016). Risky business: Engaging the public on sea level rise and inundation. Environmental science & policy, 66(4), 314-323.

Alinsky, S. (1971). Rules for radicals--A practical primer for realistic radicals. New York: Random House.

Aristotle. (1954). Rhetoric (W. R. Roberts, Trans.). New York: Modern Library.

Bartoletti, R., & Faccioli, F. (2016). Public Engagement, Local Policies, and Citizens’ Participation: An Italian Case Study of Civic Collaboration. Social Media + Society, 2(3), 2056305116662187. doi:10.1177/2056305116662187

Bowen, S. A. (2002). Elite executives in issues management: The role of ethical paradigms in decision making. Journal of Public Affairs, 2(4), 270-283.

Bowen, S. A. (2004). Organizational factors encouraging ethical decision making: An exploration into the case of an exemplar. Journal of Business Ethics, 52(4), 311-324.

Bowen, S. A. (2010). The nature of good in public relations: What should be its normative ethic? In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 569-583). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Bowen, S. A., Rawlins, B. L., & Martin, T. M. (2019). An overview of the public relations function (2nd ed). New York: Business Expert Press.

Broom, G. M. (1977). Coorientational measurement of public issues. Public Relations Review, 3(4), 110-119.

Broom, G. M., Casey, S., & Ritchey, J. (1997). Concept and theory of organization-public relationships. Journal of Public Relations Research, 9(2): 83-98.

Broom, G. M., & Dozier, D. M. (1990). Using research in public relations: Applications to program management. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Broom, G., & Sha, B-L. (2013) Cutlip and Center’s Effective Public Relations (11th edition). New York: Pearson.

Burke, K. (1968). Language as symbolic action: Essays on life, literature, and method. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Burke, K. (1969). A rhetoric of motives. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Chase, W. H. (1977). Public issue management: The new science. Public Relations Journal, 32(10), 25-26.

Chase, W. H. (1982, December 1). Issue management conference--A special report. Corporate Public Issues and Their Management, 7, 1-2.

Chase, W. H. (1984). Issue management: Origins of the future. Stamford, CT: Issue Action Publications.

Cook, J. (2019). Understanding and countering misinformation about climate change. In Chiluwa, I. & Samoilenko, S. (Eds.), Handbook of Research on Deception, Fake News, and Misinformation Online (pp. 281-306). Hershey, PA: IGI-Global.

Cook, J., Lewandowsky, S., & Ecker, U. (2017). Neutralizing misinformation through inoculation: Exposing misleading argumentation techniques reduces their influence. PLOS ONE, 12(5): e0175799.

Davidson, S. (2018). Organizational rhetoric in deeply pluralistic societies: The agonistic alternative. In Ø. Ihlen & R. L. Heath (Eds.), Handbook of organizational rhetoric and communication (pp. 301-313). Chichester, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

de Witt, T. D., Funke, B., Haberreiter, M., & Matthes, K. (2018, September 4). Better data for modeling the sun’s influence on climate. EOC: Earth & Space Science News,

ing issues to top management. Academy of Management Review, 18, 397-428.

Dutton, J. E., & Duncan, R. B. (1987). The creation of momentum for change through the process of strategic issue diagnosis. Strategic Management Journal, 8, 279-295.

Edwards, H. H. (2006). A rhetorical typology for studying the audience role in public relations communication: The Avon 3-day disruption as exemplar. Journal of Communication Management, 56(4), 836–860.

Edwards, L. (2006). Rethinking power in public relations. Public Relations Review, 32(3), 229-231.

Ehling, W. P. (1992). Estimating the value of public relations and communication to an organization. In J. E. Grunig (Ed.), Excellence in public relations and communication management (pp. 617-638). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates Inc.

Flynn, T. (2006). A delicate equilibrium: Balancing theory, practice, and outcomes. Journal of Public Relations Research, 18(2), 191-201.

Gardner, H. (1983). Frames of mind: The theory of multiple intelligences. New York: Basic Books.

Golant, B. D., & Sillince, J. A. A. (2007). The constitution of organizational legitimacy: A narrative perspective, Organization Studies, 28(8), 1149-1167.

Gower, K. K. (2006). Public relations research at the crossroads. Journal of Public Relations Research, 18(2), 177-190.

Grunig, J. E. (Ed.) (1992). Excellence in public relations and communication management. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Grunig, J. E. (2001). Two-way symmetrical public relations: Past, present, and future. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Handbook of public relations (pp. 11-30). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Grunig, J. E. (2018). Strategic behavioral paradigm. In R. L. Heath & W. Johansen (Eds.), The international encyclopedia of strategic communication (pp. 1457-1463). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell.

Hallahan, K. (2001). The dynamics of issues activation and response: An issues process model. Journal of Public Relations Research, 13, 27-59.

Heath, R. L. (Ed.). (1988). Strategic issues management: How organizations influence and respond to public interests and policies. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Heath, R. L. (1990). Corporate issues management: Theoretical underpinnings and research foundations. In J. E. Grunig & L. A. Grunig (Eds.), Public Relations Research Annual (Vol. 2, pp. 29-65). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Heath, R. L. (1997). Strategic issues management: Organizations and public policy challenges. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Heath, R. L. (2009). The rhetorical tradition: Wrangle in the marketplace. In Robert L. Heath, Elizabeth L. Toth, & Damion Waymer (Eds.), Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II (pp. 17-47). New York: Routledge.

Heath, R. L. (2011). External organizational rhetoric: Bridging management and sociopolitical discourse. Management Communication Quarterly, 25(3), 415-435.

Heath, R. L. (2018). Issues management. In R. L. Heath & W. Johannsen (Eds.), International Encyclopedia of Strategic Communication (pp. 814-828). Boston: Wiley-Blackwell.

Heath, R. L., & Bowen, S. (2002). The public relations philosophy of John W. Hill: Bricks in the foundation of issues management. Journal of Public Affairs, 2(4) 2002, 230-246.

Heath, R. L., & Coombs, W. T. (2006). Today’s public relations. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Heath, R. L., & Cousino, K. R. (1990). Issues management: End of first decade progress report. Public Relations Review, 17(1), 6-18.

Heath, R. L., & McComas, K. (2015) Interest, interest, whose interest is at risk? Risk governance, issues management, and the fully functioning society, In U. F. Paleo (Ed.), Risk governance: The articulation of hazard, politics, and ecology (pp. 117-133), Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.

Heath, R. L., & Nelson, R. A. (1986). Issues management: Corporate public policymaking an an information age. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.

Heath, R. L., & Palenchar, M. J. (2009). Strategic issues management: Organizations and public policy challenges (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Heath, R. L., & Waymer, D. (2009). Activist public relations and the paradox of the positive. In R. L. Heath, E. L. Toth, & D. Waymer (Eds.), Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II (pp. 195-215). New York: Routledge.

Heath, R. L., & Waymer, D. (2019). Terministic dialectics of individual and community agency: Co-creating and co-enacting public interest. In J. Johnston & M. Pieczka (Eds.), Public interest communication: Critical debated and global contexts (pp. 32-51). Oxon: UK: Routledge

Ihlen, Ø., & Heath, R. L. (2019). Ethical grounds for public relations as organizational rhetoric. Public Relations Review, 45(4),

Jaques, T. (2010). Embedding issue management: From process to policy. In R. L. Heath (Ed.), Sage handbook of public relations (pp. 435-446). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Jaques, T. (2014). Issue and crisis management: Exploring issues, crises, risk and reputation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jergler, D. (2019, June 13). Climate change and the reinsurance implications. Insurance Journal.

Jones, B. L., & Chase, W. H. (1979). Managing public issues. Public Relations Review, 5(2), 3-23.

Kant, I. (1948). The groundwork of the metaphysic of morals. New York: Harper Torchbooks. Trans., H. J. Paton. (Original work published 1785).

Kim, J-N., Grunig, J., & Ni, L. (2010). Reconceptualizing the communicative action of publics: Acquisition, selection, and transmission of information in problematic situations. International Journal of Strategic Communication, 4(2), 126-154.

Lemon, L. L. (2019). Diving deeper into shared meaning-making: Exploring the zones of engagement with a single case study. Public Relations Review, 45,

Lemon, L. L., & Palenchar, M. J. (2018). Public relations and zones of engagement: Employees’ lived experiences and the fundamental nature of employee engagement. Public Relations Review, 44(1), 142–155.

Lewicki, R. J., Litterer, J. A., Sanders, D. M. & Minton, J. W. (1993). Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Boston, MA: Irwin.

Le Treut, H., R. Somerville, U. Cubasch, Y. Ding, C. Mauritzen, A.

Mokssit, T. Peterson and M. Prather (2007). Historical overview of climate change. In S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor & H.L. Miller (Eds.). Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. United Kingdom and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Marsh, C. (2012). Classical rhetoric and modern public relations: An Isocratean model. New York: Routledge.

Marx, T. G. (1986). Integrating public affairs and strategic planning. California Management Review, 29(1), 141-147.

McCright, A. M., & Dunlap, R. E. (2000). Challenging global warming as a social problem: An analysis of the conservative movement's counter-claims. Social Problems, 47(4), 499-522.

Nisbett, M. C., & Myers, T. (2007). Trends: Twenty years of public opinion about global warming. Public Opinion Quarterly, 71(3), 444-470.

Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2001), Cities for Citizens. Improving Metropolitan Governance. Paris: Author.

Painter, J., & Gavin, N. T. (2016). Climate skepticism in British Newspapers, 2007–2011. Environmental communication, 10(4), 432-452.

Palazzo, G., & Scherer, A. G. (2006). Corporate legitimacy as deliberation: A communicative framework. Journal of Business Ethics, 66, 71-81.

Palenchar, M. J., & Fitzpatrick, K. R. (2009). Secret persuaders: Ethical and rhetorical perspectives on the use of public relations front groups. In R. L. Heath, E. L. Toth, & D. Waymer (Eds.), Rhetorical and critical approaches to public relations II (pp. 272-289). New York: Routledge.

Post, J. E. (1979). Corporate response models and public affairs management. Public Relations Quarterly, 24(4), 27-32.

Public Affairs Council. (1978). The fundamentals of issue management. Washington, DC: Author.

Roser-Renouf, C., Atkinson, L., Maibach, E., & Leiserowitz, A. (2016). The consumer as climate activist. International Journal of Communication, 10, 4759-4783.

Roser-Renouf, C., Maibach, E., Leiserowitz, A., & Zhao, X. (2014). The genesis of climate change activism: from key beliefs to political action. Climatic Change, DOI 10.1007/s10584-014-1173-5.

Rowell, A 2014, (April 14). Exxon’s 25 year “drop dead” denial campaign. Oil Change International,

Suchman, M. C. (1995), Managing legitimacy: Strategic and institutional approaches, Academy of Management Review, 20(3), 571–610.

Thunberg, G. (2018). No one is too small to make a difference. Great Britain: Penguin Books.

van der Linden, S., Leiserowitz, A. A., Feinberg, G. D., & Maibach, E. W. (2015). The scientific consensus on climate change as a gateway belief: Experimental evidence. PLOS ONE, 10(2), e0118489.

van der Linden, S., Maibach, E. W., & Leiserowitz, A. A. (2015). Improving public engagement with climate change: Five “best practice” insights from psychological science. Perspectives on psychological science, 17(6), 758-763.

Willis, P. (2015). Public relations, passive aggression and critical social auditing: Reflections on organisational inaction in stakeholder engagement. Journal of Public Affairs, 15(2), 220-226.

Full Text: PDF


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribuzione - Non commerciale - Non opere derivate 3.0 Italia License.