In the mid-1990s, an Australian consulting firm called QEST Consulting Engineers asked me why my approach to outrage management in risk controversies (and other controversies) wasn’t available in the form of expert systems software. Out of that question emerged a collaboration to produce such software – “Sandman in a box,” essentially, a way for clients to think through a project or a situation, figure out how much stakeholder outrage it was likely to provoke, and decide how best to manage the outrage … all without needing to hire me.
In 1998, “OUTRAGE Prediction & Management” was released into the market. If you want to see some reviews, look at:
- The Dangers of Ignoring Public Ire, by Tim Watts
- Risky Business: Spin doctors may be obsolete, by Tim Radford
- We can work it out with Outrage, by Duncan Graham-Rowe
- Running risk of public outrage, by Joanna Pitman
Here’s my review. On the one hand, the software worked better than I ever imagined it could. We managed to create a set of questions the answers to which provided a surprisingly reliable measure of how much outrage was implicit in a particular situation, so users could change the answers – and change their actual behavior to match – until they got the outrage down to an acceptable level. On the other hand, it took many hours of hard work to get that far, and most organizations decided they’d rather hire me (or somebody else) to recommend what to do without all that diagnostic effort. So the software didn’t sell well. After a few years QEST, which was in charge of selling it, stopped trying.
But for users willing to put in the time, I think Outrage was terrific – and still is. And it has another value, even for people who don’t want to “use” it: It includes hundreds and hundreds of examples and explanations drawn from my (pre-1998) consulting experience. Almost every question is annotated with one or more of these short essays, which add up to a tutorial in outrage management. The examples and explanations were meant to help users answer the questions and understand the implications of their answers. But as it turned out, organizations that were caught up in the outrage assessment process tended to skip all that text, while others read the examples and explanations for their own sake without necessarily answering the questions. Not many users did both.
In 2005, QEST was purchased by GHD, a much bigger operation. A year or two later, GHD decided to market a new software program. The new software, called Engage, includes a less demanding version of Outrage; it also includes new material on related issues – so it’s simultaneously broader and easier. I have no connection to Engage, other than having offered some reactions and suggestions when it was being beta-tested. If you want to know more about it, contact Emily_Lazzaro@ghd.com.au.
As part of the agreement that led to Engage, GHD has agreed to make Outrage available as freeware.
So if you want to play with it, read it, or even use it, you can download it at the bottom of this page. You have to agree to a bunch of things – you can’t sell it or sell consulting based on it; we’re not responsible if it doesn’t work right; etc. But exactly what companies (though not many) paid tens of thousands of dollars for in the late 1990s is yours for the taking.
Promotional Literature (from 1998)
Threats to reputation are more costly than they used to be, but they are also more avoidable. A central principle when it comes to protecting or rescuing a company’s reputation is to focus not only on the substantive issues critics are raising, but also on the public’s “outrage.” Consultants who know how to predict, prevent, and reduce outrage – myself among them – are in high demand and short supply.
This program aims at replacing the pricey consultant. (This isn’t as foolish or charitable as it may sound. If your problem looks serious, you’ll probably hire the pricey consultant too – and you probably should.) When your company is in reputational trouble, locked in controversy, the program will help you figure out how to reduce stakeholders’ outrage. And when your company isn’t in reputational trouble yet, but you’re afraid you might be headed that way, the program will help you predict how much stakeholder outrage you are likely to face, and then plan a strategy to prevent it.
— Peter Sandman
OUTRAGE Prediction & Management:
- Breaks reputation management down to bite-size manageable pieces.
- An “outrage meter” provides “how are we doing” indication throughout.
- Additional background and explanation in Sandman’s words on demand.
The program takes your company step by step through the selection and characterization of stakeholders, then helps you decide how much outrage is likely down the road. The results section displays the predicted outrage by stakeholder and by outrage component. Don’t like the answers? The management section lets you try out alternative strategies to get your outrage down.
If you have the courage to interact with this software openly, it will point the way for you to make dramatic improvements in your relations with communities, activists, governments and other stakeholders … and equally dramatic improvements in your chances of avoiding the communication setbacks that have cost industry billions of dollars in the last decade alone. Hundreds of examples and anecdotes from Sandman’s consulting on environmental, health and safety controversies, all at the touch of a button.
Sandman’s hallmark is counterintuitive advice that sounds perfectly obvious after he’s done explaining it to you. Now he has put his unique approach to reputation management into a computer software package. He has even found a way to provide a rough quantification. You tell the program what you plan, and the program tells you how much outrage you’re likely to face if you do it.
Two Downloadable Demos
Before you dive into the OUTRAGE Prediction & Management software itself, you may find it worthwhile to go through two demo programs.
The first one is a Microsoft Windows Help file and requires Microsoft Windows 95 or later. It is a zipped (compressed) file.
- Download the OUTRAGE Prediction & Management demo (447kB)
The second one is a Microsoft PowerPoint file, which requires a PowerPoint-capable viewer. (If you have a PowerPoint-capable viewer, you need download only the presentation.)
What You Should Know
(The following information is taken from the OUTRAGE Prediction & Management licensing agreement.)
About the IT platform:
The OUTRAGE Prediction & Management software was developed using Microsoft Visual Basic in 1998 for a standard IBM-compatible PC running Microsoft Windows 3.1 or Microsoft Windows 95. OUTRAGE Prediction & Management version 1.01 appears to run successfully on all versions of Microsoft Windows up to and including Microsoft Windows Vista. However, it has not been tested thoroughly on any version of Microsoft Windows subsequent to Microsoft Windows 95. If you have any concerns, you should consult your System Administrator prior to installing this software.
Note added by Peter Sandman, February 4, 2013: I am no kind of IT expert – but I have been running the software fine on Windows XP, but I can’t even load it on Windows 7 (and I assume Windows 8 as well). An IT colleague has offered to try to produce an upgrade that will work on the newest versions of Windows if I can get him the original source code. If he succeeds I’ll put the upgrade here – with no guarantees – for people to download if they dare.
Conditions governing the use of the Outrage software as freeware:
The conditions of use are explained in the ‘Freeware Licence Agreement’ (the Agreement). Users of the software should read the Agreement carefully before installing the software, and must agree to be bound by the Agreement. If you do not wish to be bound by the Agreement, do not install the software.
In particular, key restrictions that apply to the usage of the software include:
- Users are prohibited from using the software or outputs from the software in providing professional consultation services. It is being made available as freeware only for individual and internal organisational use.
- Users are prohibited from selling the software. Users can pass the software on to another potential user provided that the initial user does not seek to profit from the exchange.
- The software may not be modified, copied or reengineered in any way.
- The copyright in the contents of the software is retained by the copyright owners.
Users should also note that the software is made available free of charge, and as a result no maintenance or ongoing support will be provided.
Download the Software
To download the setup file for the OUTRAGE program, right-click on the link below and save the setup file. It is a 7.8-MB executable file named “OutrageSetup.exe.”