To extinguish a crisis communications fire, start by using the right tools.

You wake up to a call at 5:30 a.m. telling you that the software company you work for may have exposed the credit card numbers of several thousand clients. You get up, rally the PR troops and are in a crisis communications strategy meeting by 6:30 a.m. It’s critical that you and your team form a strategy that deals with the crisis head on, and you have little time to execute. In crisis communications the most important tool at your disposal is reliable data that comes from good PR measurement. Reading and analyzing data surrounding the crisis will allow you to guide your messaging for each stakeholder group in each channel and react quickly.

According to SHIFT Communications, using public relations to mitigate a crisis within your company is very much like putting out a real fire. In their blog post What is crisis communications? they state:

“There’s the something you did or something you’re responsible for – the fuel. There’s the tide of public opinion – the heat, the energy. There’s your speed of reaction to it – the catalyst. As with real fires, if you deny the fire any one of these sources, you break the chain reaction that causes fire and it burns itself out.”

In crisis communications you only have one chance to get it right; this is where PR measurement data comes into play. Before you can respond, you have to understand exactly what’s fueling the fire and what kind of energy or heat it has. In other words:

 

  1. What happened?
  2. What does the public think happened?
  3. How has the public reacted?
  4. What channels need immediate attention?

 

Answering these questions will guide the messaging for the public stance you take and help pinpoint the channels that require action, and in what order. By quickly finding accurate answers to these questions through measurement tools you’ll speed up your response time in a crisis significantly.

 

Crisis Communications | Metrics by Stakeholder

 

An efficient way to structure your crisis communications campaign is based on the different stakeholders that require communication. Each stakeholder is interested in your company for a different reason and so the messaging you develop will be different for each. You’ll also be reaching out via different channels to each of them. For most companies there are five primary stakeholders to consider in a crisis: customers, investors, employees, the media, and influencers. If you stick to this structure throughout your crisis communications campaign, you can establish a baseline for each stakeholder, determine consistent messaging and measure impact as the fire dies down.

The Meltwater News public relations suite includes all the metrics you’ll need to inform your crisis communications campaign, such as article volume, impressions, articles by geography and sentiment. The platform also uses Boolean operators to ensure that each graph that you pull represents data from the correct stakeholder (check out my previous post to learn more about online media monitoring using Boolean operators). To help you get started, I’ve put together a list of what metrics to look at for each stakeholder.

 

Customers. Whether your business is B2B or B2C, customers are likely your most important stakeholders and are usually the most directly affected by a crisis. You need to understand how negatively the crisis impacted them and how many customers are unhappy.

Key Metrics: pull articles by geography, impressions, social media conversation volume, social media sentiment

 

Investors. A crisis can have a negative impact on your company’s stock price based on how investors react to the news, so it’s imperative to keep investors at ease. Run a search for press that tells you how the financial community is reacting to the crisis to inform how you communicate with investors.

Key Metrics: article volume (financials only), article sentiment, impressions, social media conversation volume, social media sentiment

 

Employees. Employees act as representatives, or brand ambassadors, for your company on social media and in daily business communications. It’s important to provide them with corporately approved messaging and to monitor their public-facing communication regarding the crisis.

Key Metrics: social media conversation volume (for posts made by employees only), social media sentiment (for posts made by employees only)

 

The Media. Because the media controls public knowledge of the crisis, you have to know exactly what they think happened and who’s saying what, where. With this information you’ll know exactly who to reach out to with a prepared statement or press release.

Key Metrics: article sentiment, impressions, articles by geography

 

Influencers. Influencers are trusted industry experts such as analysts or social media influencers who can act as positive brand ambassadors during a crisis. Because they are established advocates for your company, leveraging influencers across channels is an easy way to have a significant impact with little effort. Keep in mind that often one influencer can have a bigger impact on your crisis communications campaign than any other single stakeholder.

Key Metrics: media sentiment, article volume, social media sentiment

 

Within a couple of hours, you can confidently click send on a statement/press release and update your online channels knowing that your message is based on reliable data. Good monitoring and PR measurement metrics are an essential tool for crisis communications. They tell you who to communicate with, what needs to be communicated and how best to reach stakeholders on each channel. When the fire has finally gone out the metrics that you built will help you measure how your campaign changed public sentiment and how to do so even faster next time. Here’s hoping that a crisis doesn’t come your way…but if one does don’t forget that these simple metrics will see you through!