Crisis Management: Look for Early Warning Signs
Modern media intelligence tools allow us to measure our performance based on exposure, reach, quality of coverage, and quality of influencers, among other key benchmarks. These metrics are still relatively new, and we love them because they enable us to quantify our effectiveness and justify the value of our programs.
The same types of searches that help us keep track of brand mentions can also help us spot trouble when it’s heading our way. Given how fast news travels on social media, the speed with which we respond is critical in influencing the message and minimizing damage to our brand.
Crisis Management Starts Before the Crisis Hits
A sophisticated alert system can help mitigate the impact of a crisis. A good place to start is with a list of messages that have triggered negative feedback in the past. At any point, this same resistance might come back, get amplified, and take on a life of its own. You’ll also want to talk with your sales reps, customer support, and legal counsel on issues that they’ve encountered. Once you’ve made a list of potential crisis triggers, create news and social searches for them.
To help you get started, here are some examples:
- Executives: Journalists, analysts, and sometimes customers pay attention to what high-ranking executives say and do. And so should you. Keep on top of their Twitter and Facebook feeds, what videos and blogs they post, and how everything they are putting out into the world is received and amplified.
- Competitors: Pay as much attention to competitor brand mentions as you do your own. Their crisis could easily become yours. And if a competitor decides to come after you, you’ll want to know about it first and respond before others have a chance to amplify their message.
- Industry news: Sometimes a crisis will hit you by association. By keeping track of how your industry is perceived and any events that might impact it (such as natural disasters or newly introduced legislation) you are prepared to address these issues as an industry leader.
- Geography: Keep tabs on news and trends regarding places you operate. When a global crisis takes place, global companies will sometimes stop all activity on their social channels as a show of respect and solidarity (even when this crisis has nothing to do with them, such as a devastating earthquake that draws global support and headlines). If you’re a smaller brand you may want to do the same for crises that affect where you live and operate.
- Events: Keep track of trending topics related to an event your are participating in to help prevent speakers and reps from getting caught with their guards down.
- Controversy: Keep current on any number of business and political keywords that are associated with your company’s operations. You’ll know when hot-button topics are trending and get ready to explain your position on them before you are equated with the fallout they’ve generated.
- Complaints: Make a list of customer complaints and keep an eye out for them in your search results. Once an influencer amplifies customer concerns, they can be cemented as “expert opinion,” and your credibility can suffer longstanding damage.
Be Strategic, Not Just Tactical
Now that we know what’s coming, we need to have crisis-specific contingency plans in place that define next steps and keep us organized when all hell breaks loose. Create a workflow. Establish an internal notification system. Draft key messages and get them approved. And identify the channels you’ll use to get them out.
Remember, just because we have a social media manager who can push messages out in 140 characters or less several times a day, doesn’t mean that we’re ready for a full blown crisis on social media. In fact, preparing for a crisis requires getting out of the mindset that keeps us busy all day executing and measuring our tactical goals. While old-fashioned contingency planning lacks the immediate sense of accomplishment we get when we see share numbers rising on our latest post, it will prevent those share numbers from rising for all the wrong reasons.
As for measuring our effectiveness and proving our value, it’s a good idea to add crisis management contingency planning to our list of measurable quarterly goals—and pace ourselves. Map out two or three crisis protocols per quarter—starting with early warning signs—and make sure that accomplishing this goal is part of your performance review.