There may come a time when your company will be faced with a PR crisis. In that situation, it’s important to remember that, while inevitable, it’s not unstoppable or unmanageable. Your crisis communications strategy is often what dictates how a crisis is going to play out.

Make no mistake, how you handle a crisis can and will affect your brand reputation and image. How people feel about your brand may change. Whether it is a change for good or bad depends on your crisis response.

To handle the situation well, it’s crucial to anticipate possible crisis scenarios. That means no scrambling for a response once the crisis hits, but already having one ready to go.

It means being proactive about your crisis communications strategy and performing a premortem analysis to anticipate weak points. It means developing a crisis communications strategy and plan. That way you won’t make rushed decisions once the crisis hits. Instead, you’ll be able to reduce the response time and make informed decisions about how to approach the situation.

Effective crisis monitoring and communication can minimize the damage to an individual, organization, or company when facing challenges. That’s why it’s important to develop a structured and informed strategy to reduce the damage. 

A way you can considerably improve your crisis communications strategy is through media monitoring.

More precisely, there are 4 ways media monitoring can help you anticipate and manage a PR crisis:

Detecting a crisis

Nowadays, social media platforms are the birthplace of most crises. The customers have the power and their “outrage” on social media can cause many problems for brands. Whether it’s a video of a rude employee, a broken product, or something else, the minute it’s posted online, it has the potential to escalate.

Take a look at United Airlines, for instance. Back in 2017, due to an overbooked flight and to make room for four crew members, a passenger was “chosen” to be removed from the flight. After he refused, officers then forcibly and violently removed him from the plane. The whole thing was captured by the other passengers and posted to social media from multiple sources. Cue – the crisis.

People were rightfully outraged by how the situation was handled and outright started boycotting the airline.

These are the kinds of situations where media monitoring can help you discover the problem, but also better manage and overview the developing situation.

If you don’t notice the problem right away, it can just end up getting bigger. The faster your reaction time, the higher are your chances of success. If your response is delayed, your customers will think that you don’t care. A late response can be met with skepticism and belief you’re only trying to save face.

Additionally, what matters is the kind of response you give. Make sure your response is thoughtful, empathetic, and that you address your customer’s issues head-on. 

This is how media monitoring can help you.

If you’re closely monitoring your brand and related topics, you’ll be able to see every time someone mentions your brand online. Regardless if they tagged you in the post or not. 

For instance, if a video of a rude employee is posted online, you’ll know right away. It’s sort of similar to detecting the patient zero. You want to pinpoint where the crisis originated, so you can mitigate it before it spreads like a wildfire.

3 key features especially useful in detecting a crisis

Alerts

By turning on the alerts feature in your media monitoring tool, you get notified every time someone mentions your brand. What’s more, Spike alerts will let you know if mentions of your brand (or any other query you’re tracking) start growing unexpectedly. That’s often an indicator of something going viral, and you definitely want to keep an eye on whatever that is.

Digests

This feature provides you with an overview of your mentions on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis (or you can customize them). It helps you regularly keep an eye on your online presence and reputation.

Automated Actions

Automated actions are a Mediatoolkit feature used to automate the process of assigning tags and sentiment to your mentions. Rather than browsing through your mentions and manually adding a tag and/or changing the sentiment, the media monitoring tool automatically does it for you. 

Here’s how they work:

  1. Enter keywordsauthors, or websites that will trigger an Automated action.
  2. Choose an action that will be triggered: adding a tagsetting a sentiment, or both.
  3. Apply to selected feed(s) or globally for your organization.

This can be exceptionally useful when detecting a crisis. Let’s use an airline as an example again. If you want to keep track of situations that may potentially present a problem for your brand reputation, you can easily do it using this feature.

Let’s say you’ve identified your key pain points and you have your brand mentions grouped into these three tags: flight delays and cancellations, overbooked flights, in-flight service. This means that all your brand mentions about flight delays go into the Flight delays & cancellations tag, or all mentions about how your crew treats the passengers into the In-flight service tag.

For instance, to make sure none of the mentions escape your In-flight service tag you can automate the process using Automated actions. Simply enter related keywords (e.g. rude, bad service, unprofessional…), set the sentiment to negative, and select the In-flight service tag. This will make it so that every mention that contains keywords rude or unprofessional automatically gets tagged as negative and grouped under the In-flight service tag.

This will help you better organize your brand mentions and easily detect any developing issues.

Monitoring brand reputation during a crisis

Monitoring your brand reputation is always important but during a crisis, it’s a vital part of your crisis communications strategy. Remember how Dove had a reputation crisis after their commercial was described as racist? Or when Victoria’s Secret top marketing chief Ed Razek said some controversial things in an interview?

With media monitoring, you can easily track your brand’s online reputation. Reports provide you with the necessary information that will help you make better and informed decisions to get out of a crisis. And stay out.

For example, our media monitoring tool Mediatoolkit has a Word cloud chart used to detect the most common words people associate with your brand when they mention you online. In Dove’s case, it was the word “racist”. With this information, you’ll know what you did wrong and on which aspects to focus on in the mitigation process.

Additionally, you can use that information for a more precise overview of your mentions over a period of time and on different channels. When we analyzed Dove’s crisis, we took note of how many times Dove was mentioned in connection to racism:

Number of mentions per channel, source: Mediatoolkit

In the reports section, you can also find a list of the top 10 influencers that are the right fit for your brand. You can collaborate with them and with their help try to solve the crisis. Keep in mind that no one will rush to collaborate with a brand in crisis, so make sure you present a constructive, well thought out plan to them.

Reports also provide you with an overview of channels people are using to talk about your current situation.

Mentions per channel for Dove during their 2017 crisis, source: Mediatoolkit

With this information, you’ll know on which channels to focus your response so your message actually reaches the target audience. Otherwise, your getting-out-of-a-crisis plan is useless.

Test out these features yourself! Try Mediatoolkit for real-time crisis monitoring and manage your crisis communications strategy successfully.

Monitoring crisis development

As important as it is to track your brand reputation during the crisis, it is equally important to follow how the crisis itself is developing. 

You need to know if there are some additional potential problems you should address or if your efforts to mitigate the crisis are making an impact. By making custom reports you will be able to isolate the problem, focus on solving it, and learn from this experience so it doesn’t happen again. 

For instance, sentiment analysis allows you to track whether the public reaction is still negative or if it’s moving towards a positive, or at least neutral sentiment.

crisis communication strategy: dove sentiment analysis
Sentiment analysis chart for Dove during a crisis in 2017

You can choose an automatic, effective, or manual sentiment. The automatic sentiment is not 100% correct because the computer can’t recognize sarcasm, for example. With manual sentiment, you can choose mentions and classify them as you perceive it. The effective sentiment is the combination of the manual and automatic sentiment.

If your sentiment continues to be negative, you should reevaluate your crisis communications strategy.

Tracking competitors’ crisis communications strategy

Just as a crisis can happen to you, it can happen to your competitors as well. Track how they handle the situation and learn from them. That way you won’t make the same mistakes they did. Or you may even pick up some good practices instead.

So make sure you do a competitive analysis. Monitor the way the crisis unfolds by tracking relevant keywords, i.e. the competitor’s brand name, related hashtags, important players… You can see how your competitor responds to the crisis and how the crisis affects their brand reputation. Was their response quick enough? How did the audience react to it? Take notes of what went well and what didn’t and use it to make informed decisions about your own crisis communications strategy.

To sum up

Dealing with an unexpected crisis can be extremely challenging. In moments of crisis, the pressure rises, and the chance of making a mistake increases. By preparing for a potential crisis and using the right tools to manage it, you can get out of the crisis unscathed. Let valuable data be your helping hand during the crisis and a guide for better future decisions after the crisis is over.

Updated June 17th, 2021.

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