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.

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 prepared.

It means being proactive about your crisis communications strategy and having a crisis communications plan at the ready. 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:

1. Detecting a crisis
2. Monitoring brand reputation during a crisis
3. Monitoring crisis development
4. Tracking competitors’ crisis communications strategy

1. 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, you’re probably going to be in trouble. Especially if you don’t notice the problem right away – it just ends up getting bigger. Hence the need for crisis monitoring. And speedy reaction.

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, understanding, and that you put your customer’s needs first. 

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.

There are a couple of key features that are 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 (really, however you customize it). It helps you regularly keep an eye on your online presence and reputation.

With those features, you can be sure that you’ll be able to detect a (potential) online crisis if one appears.

2. 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 communication successfully.

3. Monitoring crisis development

As important 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.

4. 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 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 February 22nd, 2021.

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