Negative reviews spread rapidly through the Internet and social media networks. Sometimes, they’re picked up and reported by mainstream news sources. In an age where nearly 30 percent of company crises spread internationally within an hour, no business can afford to ignore these reviews and conversations.
Organizations can’t stop crisis-causing articles and conversations from occurring, but they can mitigate their potential damage by using media monitoring.
Media monitoring provides insight for decision makers to act on potential crises, evaluate risks, assess solutions and formulate responses. For the most effective crisis management plan, PR and reputation managers must use media monitoring as both a proactive and reactive strategy.
Proactive Media Monitoring Strategy
Proactive media monitoring techniques help companies anticipate a crisis before it occurs. Warning signs often precede a crisis, and PR managers can detect these warning signs with a powerful media monitoring service.
To catch the early warning signs of a crisis, companies must monitor both online news and social media. Mid-sized and large businesses may consider adding TV and/or radio monitoring to their crisis management plan to gauge a full-channel impact of any issue or crisis that may occur.
PR managers should examine past news and social media coverage their organization has received to determine the extent of media monitoring necessary to control a crisis. Questions to ask might be:
- What kind of coverage does your organization most frequently receive — local, national, or international?
- In which social media channels are your stakeholders and customers most active?
- How often does your organization appear on TV and radio broadcasts?
- In which media channels and social networks are your competitors most active?
Larger companies that have much at stake usually opt for an integrated media monitoring service, as they can track print, online news, TV and radio news, and a full range of social media including major platforms like Facebook and Twitter, blogs, forums, message boards and video-sharing sites such as YouTube.
Additionally, integrated media monitoring services deliver a quick turnaround of monitoring results, offering reports from all media on an hourly or near real-time base. Fast turnaround enables staff to respond to an issue in a more timely way to inhibit the spread of negative information across channels. These services often prove more cost-efficient than paying in-house staff to perform time-consuming searches during a crisis. During a crisis, PR staff should focus their time on interpreting data and responding to the media rather than spend time searching for the content they need.
Media monitoring services deliver key data and insights that enable PR staff to understand the extent of the issue, identify important sources and assess the progress of their mitigation efforts. There are several crisis warning signs companies can look out for, such as:
Sudden spike in mentions. An unexpected increase in mentions pops up a warning flag that something may be wrong. PR staff should monitor their mentions frequently and use sentiment analysis tools to evaluate the ratio of positive, negative and neutral mentions.
Failed campaigns. Some social media monitoring campaigns (or PR or advertising programs) may offend segments of the audience. Organizations frequently make mistakes on social media, whether it’s an inappropriate comment or a hashtag campaign. If this happens, the issue will not stay on social media. Journalists, bloggers and competitor brand advocates exploit these mistakes. They usually take headlines like “Biggest Social Media Fails” and “How Not to Run Your Social Media Campaign.” When an issue breaks out in one channel or region, don’t expect it to stay isolated in that channel for long.
Competitor crisis. Industry issues sometimes have a domino effect. When a salmonella outbreak forced the recall of peanut butter and nut products last year, it affected brands throughout the food and restaurant industries. The earlier a company addresses industry issues, the better prepared it is for any repercussions.
Out-of-date or poorly communicated company policy. Organizations must ensure their staff —especially authorized spokespersons — are well-trained on recent product issues, social media strategies and crisis response plans. Social media is now the No. 1 activity on the web, so it’s likely your staff members are active on Facebook, Twitter and/or Google+. Without a communicated policy in place, employees might share information that misrepresents the company or damages its reputation.
Reactive Media Monitoring Strategy
No brand is safe from a crisis. When a crisis strikes, companies should have a media monitoring plan in place that addresses all contingencies of the crisis. Consequences escalate when brands fail to respond quickly to an issue.
During a crisis, companies must receive and respond to the latest updates in near real-time. To do this:
- Arrange for frequent email alerts — say, every 15 minutes or so.
- Filter all news and blog articles that mention the issue, and respond to their editors accordingly.
- Continuously measure negative and positive sentiment of your brand’s media mentions to evaluate the effectiveness of PR efforts.
The better a company handles a crisis, the more praise it will receive from customers and the media for taking swift, effective action. It’s therefore necessary to properly respond to a crisis using the following steps:
How to Respond to Customers and Stakeholders During a Crisis
The key tool to prevent and control a social media crisis is an automated, integrated media monitoring service that covers online news, print news, broadcast news, and the full range of social media. PR staff should dedicate their time to interpreting data, addressing hot-spot issues and building (or rebuilding) relationships with customers — not searching for and aggregating all mentions of the brand.