Negotiating Public Disputes

By — on / Teaching Negotiation


How Negotiation Can Impact Public Perceptions

Companies and governments alike can experience strong public resistance to new initiatives, or fierce public backlash to mistakes. How should they deal with an angry public? Incorporating a public relations perspective into a problem-solving or public dispute resolution processes can make the difference between success or failure. Adopting a mutual gains approach to dealing with an angry public can help overcome hostile or negative public perceptions.

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) has teaching materials to help students learn to negotiate in these contexts. The First City Bank and the Press role play simulation and the book Dealing with an Angry Public can introduce students how to the importance of a public relations orientation to public dispute resolution efforts.

First City Bank and the Press: Developing a Public Relations Strategy

This three hour, six-party, non-scoreable negotiation simulation involves lending institutions, community leaders, a contractors’ association, and the mayor’s office in a collaborative effort to formulate a response to foreclosure crisis caused by a widespread mortgage scam. The local newspaper, ‘the Gazette’ has recently published an article about a possible mortgage scam involving the First City Bank (‘the Bank’). The Bank has allegedly offered high interest rate loans in low-income and minority neighborhoods that has forced a high number of foreclosures in these areas. Private mortgage companies have been accused of colluding with contractors, and the city government has been blamed for its lack of regulation of the private lending industry. A meeting has been arranged between representatives of First City Bank, the mayor’s office, political leaders of low-income neighborhoods, private mortgage companies, the city-wide trade association of contractors and the State Banking Commission to discuss the situation. Major lessons that can be drawn from the game include:

  • The formulation of a media/public relations strategy appropriate to a multi-party public dispute resolution effort.
  • Understanding how coalitions can form.
  • The advantages and disadvantages of revealing all of one’s concerns at the outset of a public dispute resolution effort.
  • The advantages of caucusing.

Download a free First City Bank and the Press Teacher’s Package today.

Dealing with an Angry Public: The Mutual Gains Approach to Resolving Public Disputes

In this enormously practical book, Lawrence Susskind and Patrick Field analyze scores of both private and public-sector cases, as well as crisis scenarios such as the Alaskan oil spill, the silicone breast implant controversy, and the nuclear plant malfunction at Three Mile Island. They show how resistance to both public and private initiatives can be overcome by a mutual gains approach involving face-to-face negotiation.

Susskind and Field outline the six key elements of this approach in order to help business and government leaders negotiate, rather than fight, with their critics. In the process, they show how to identify who the public is, whose concerns to address first, which people and organizations must be convinced of the legitimacy of actions taken, and how to assess and respond to different types of anger effectively. Acknowledging the crucial role played by the media in shaping public perceptions and understanding, Susskind and Field suggest a way to shape media interaction which is consistent with the six mutual gains principles, and also discuss the type of leadership that corporate and government managers must provide in order to combine these ideas successfully. Susskind and Field have produced a strong, clear framework which will help reduce the costs facing hundreds of executives, managers, elected and appointed officials, entrepreneurs, and the public relations, legal, and other professionals who advise them when the public is angry. Order your copy of Dealing with an Angry Public today.

Take your training to the next level with the TNRC

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including

TNRC negotiation exercises and teaching materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

Negotiation exercises and role-play simulations introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing students to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation.

Check out all that the TNRC has in store >>

The Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School
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