Conflict Resolution Strategies Part Two: Planning for Conflict

If you read my last post then, hopefully, the helpful tips Julie Brown presented on resolving conflict have sunk in and you are in a better position to manage conflict effectively.

While knowing your audience and finding the right expert were the key ideas in that post, this one will focus on the aspect of planning for hostility.

Communicating to your audience, through either an expert or yourself, is a strategy that is out in the open. However, Julie made it a point to emphasize the importance of the work that goes into conflict resolution that the public does not see.

Here are some of her tips on behind-the-scenes work you can do to resolve conflict:

Never underestimate the effectiveness of a face-to-face meeting.

Whether it’s the a media contact trying to view files that your organization deems confidential or an individual worried about the environmental effects of a new building, hosting a face-to-face meeting is by far the most effective way to deal with conflict head on.

Answer specific concerns or issues during the meeting.

During this meeting it is important to answer specific concerns or issues as it gives the invaluable opportunity for direct communication.

Hosting this kind of meeting shows that your organization truly cares about the worries that an individual or group may have.

This also presents communicators with the chance to find out what positions and concerns exist that may not have been taken into consideration. One can then take this information and feed it back into the conflict resolution plan to adjust for a new audience to reach.

Finally, meeting with influential people on the topic can create a positive interaction for your organization.

Plan for conflict in key areas of a long-term issue.

Planning for any project should include consideration of conflicts that may arise over the project’s life.

Specifically in long-term ventures, there are “hotbeds” that are important to notice.

Not where you want to be in times of conflict.

These are the spots in the program or project that noticeably may cause conflicts of interest in the community or audience. They are the areas that professional communicators should pay extra interest to.

Once discovered, one can prepare for the conflicts with the strategies outlined in my last blog post: Research the individuals who may have problems with the particular issue and find an expert in that field to answer the questions they may pose.

Planning for conflict at the outset of a project helps your audience get their questions answered early.

This also allows the communicator to find who to contact with the right information, thus avoiding miscommunications.

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Conflict Resolution Strategies Part One: Navigating Conflict

What happens when your organization faces hostility within the area it operates? What about conflict within the organization itself? These are the questions I had about real world conflict resolution issues. For answers, I looked to a public relations professional who has dealt with both of these real-life scenarios:

PR pro Julie Brown.

Julie is the director of media relations at the University of Oregon, and she faces conflict management issues like these daily. Whether it’s students who feel angst about the new tutoring center on campus or members of the Eugene community who have environmental issues with the new research building, Julie is the communicator who addresses their concerns.

During our half-hour interview I gleaned some amazing tips on how to manage conflict that I would like to share.

Enter the conversation after you know your audience.

As Kelli Matthews detailed in a recent post, one of the most important values in social media is in its listening capability. The direct connection it provides offers communicators an opportunity to learn from as well as to inform and converse with their specific audience.

Listen to your audience.

Effectively listening to key issues your audience is concerned with and monitoring conversations about your organization or brand gives a perfect way to resolve conflict before it occurs.

Social media tools also allow for the fastest possible way to do so.

In directly communicating with a group or individual, the communicator can find information that is being miscommunicated, rumors that need to be corrected or influential groups that may not have yet been anticipated but are now active.

After listening to key issues and topics around your brand, it is important to remember the golden rule for online communication — transparency.

Have the right experts ready to answer the right questions.

It is the communicator’s job to find the individuals who have the right background knowledge and context to fill in the blanks your audience is concerned with. These experts can then be connected to media inquiries on the issue to provide a thorough explanation on key issues.

Find the expert with the right background, knowledge and context.

Letting an expert chime in on the key issue your audience is talking about not only positions you to resolve conflict but also shows that your organization is truly vested in its audience.

Adding credibility to the organization for which you work is undoubtedly one of the PR practitioners goals, and using tactics built upon transparency is the only route to get there.

If finding an expert is out of your time line, it may be required that you must chime in yourself.

In this case it is vital to remain as upfront and factual as possible in a conflict. This retains transparency in resolving conflicts and leaves the audience without question as to your intent in the situation.