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The Ultimate Crisis Monitoring Guide: Definition, Importance, and Methods

TJ Kiely

Jun 21, 2024

What do United Airlines, Wells Fargo, and KFC have in common? They’re all world-renowned brands that have found themselves entangled in PR crises.

In case you missed it, United Airlines injured a passenger they were trying to remove from an overbooked flight; Wells Fargo admitted to creating fake accounts to bump up sales quotas; and KFC once ran out of chicken (yes, really!). Luckily, they’re all still around to tell the tales of when their brands fell out of favor, which shows promise to other brands who might one day become embroiled in their own PR nightmares.

Recovering from a PR crisis isn’t easy, nor is there always a clear path to do so. Getting ahead of the curve is key in mitigating damage, or at the very least, gifting yourself more time to come up with a plan. 

That’s the beauty of using social listening for crisis monitoring — you can get real-time alerts when conversations start to boil over and start taking action before things spiral out of control.

Here’s a closer look at crisis monitoring and how to use it to save your brand’s image.


What Is Crisis Monitoring?

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Crisis monitoring is the proactive approach to watching for potential events, conversations, or content that could negatively impact your brand image on a large scale.

We’re not talking about a bad review or an unhappy customer who vents on social media. A crisis is a game-changing event for companies that can erode shareholder value, cause sales to plummet, and destroy your reputation. 

Crisis monitoring gives you a system to keep an eye on potential problems and alert you when there might be a problem. These problems might be a viral video of a customer’s experience or opinions, an organized boycott of your products, or even a product recall. When you stay vigilant, you can respond to emergencies in a timely manner and reduce the impact on your organization.

The Importance of Crisis Monitoring

dominos representing crisis monitoring

Crises can have a direct impact on your brand’s reputation. Monitoring tools act like smoke detectors that tell you when a fire is starting so you can quell the blaze before it spreads — or worse, destroys your company. 

A brand crisis carries greater consequences than just making you look bad. In some cases, like the one experienced by Bud Light, it can send sales and stock shares tumbling. In other cases, it might send employees packing so they can distance themselves from a company’s actions. 

Recovering from a crisis and doing damage control isn’t easy. It takes more than an apology to win back customers, particularly as more consumers are demanding authenticity from the brands they do business with. Your best option is to mitigate crises before they get out of hand. It’s better to lose a few apples than upset the entire apple cart.

Effective Crisis Monitoring Strategies

Getting ahead of a crisis means having the right monitoring strategies in place. Social media is a great place to spot potential crises. For example, you can track mentions and hashtags to see what your audience is talking about. 

Complementary tools like Meltwater can automate and enhance this process. Meltwater tracks billions of data points and conversations online and offline in real time to help you get a complete picture of your brand health. The platform also analyzes consumer sentiment to learn how people are talking about your company. 

Another option is to send feedback surveys to customers, employees, and stakeholders. You can learn more about how they feel about a situation or event. Look for patterns in feedback to detect whether something bigger might be brewing.

No matter which combination of strategies you use, the right KPIs will help you gauge the effectiveness of your crisis management techniques. These KPIs include but are not limited to:

  • Detection time
  • Number of incidents detected
  • Response time
  • Change in consumer sentiment
  • Media coverage volume
  • Engagement rate
  • Website traffic
  • NPS or CSAT scores

Using monitoring tools allows you to take a data-driven approach to crisis management. This gives you concrete information so you can investigate in the right places and respond accordingly.

Crisis Monitoring Tools and Techniques

Monitoring tools keep tabs on things like reviews, customer sentiment, share of voice, and discussions that involve your company or industry. They give you plenty of context to know why people feel the way they do to help you decide how to enter the conversation. 

For example, Meltwater lets you monitor unlimited keywords across social media, newspapers, podcasts, blogs, and other sources. You’ll get real-time alerts when a keyword sees a surge in interest. You can also build real-time dashboards to collect the metrics that matter to you and see how those metrics change over time.

You can also set up Google Alerts for your brand and related keywords. Each time those keywords are mentioned in the media, you’ll receive an email alert with links to the related content. You can see who’s talking about you, where they’re talking about you, and how much traction those publications are getting.

One overlooked area of opportunity in crisis communications is to connect with other departments within the company. For example, your customer service team might be fielding numerous complaints about a specific product, which could eventually bubble into a crisis. You can collaborate with other teams to learn more about product defects, recalls, or issues and have a response plan prepared.

Creating a Crisis Monitoring Plan

chance to create a crisis monitoring plan

Your crisis response plan largely depends on the situation you’re trying to mitigate. Regardless of the response, crisis response plans typically follow the following steps.

Get a general idea of potential crises

From natural disasters to product failures to cyberattacks, a good response plan begins with knowing your potential threats. Make a list of worst-case scenarios so you can start planning how to handle them.

Set up monitoring tools

Choose tools that will help you monitor multiple channels, including social media, blogs, podcasts, and other media. You should also have tools to monitor customer feedback, surveys, and help tickets for crisis situations.

Define key performance indicators (KPIs)

Decide the KPIs that will help you measure the effectiveness of your crisis monitoring. KPIs will guide your efforts and demonstrate your success in handling the crisis.

Assemble a crisis response team

Identify the key people in your organization who can handle the fallout of a crisis. A crisis response team usually includes members from HR, marketing and PR, legal, and the C level. Make sure everyone on your team knows their role and responsibilities.

Conduct training drills

Keep training your crisis response team so they feel confident when a real crisis arises. They’ll know who to contact, what they should or shouldn’t say, the stakeholders to communicate with, and other actions to take. Feel free to simulate specific crises so your team can learn to think on their feet. 

Document your response plan

Keep your crisis response plan in a safe and accessible place. It might not contain all the answers, but it at least lays out the steps you need to take. You won’t have to waste time reinventing the wheel and can instead move straight into action.

Tip: For a comprehensive rundown of how to handle a crisis, check out our free Complete Guide to Crisis Communications!

Best Practices for Crisis Monitoring

Time is of the essence when detecting and responding to potential issues. These best practices can help you improve your response, save time, and reach an ideal outcome.

Stay proactive

Don’t wait for a crisis to happen. Always be on the lookout for issues that might impact your brand, including social media, online reviews, industry news, and direct brand mentions.

Regularly update your monitored keywords

Make sure you’re monitoring the right keywords related to your brand, products, and industry. Set reminders to review and update these keywords every month or quarter, or whatever timeline makes sense to your business.

Train your team

Ensure your crisis management team knows what to look for and how to respond. Regular training and drills can keep everyone prepared, plus they’ll avoid feeling caught off-guard when a real crisis arises.

Keep leadership informed

Make sure company leaders are aware of potential issues and the steps being taken to address them. They can offer support and help manage public and internal perceptions.

Learn from past Crises

Let each new experience be a lesson for the next one. You can also look to other brands in your industry to see how they’re responding to negative publicity or crises.

Crisis Monitoring and Brand Reputation

Becoming entangled in a crisis isn’t necessarily a bad thing; in fact, there’s a lot of opportunity in a crisis for your brand reputation to emerge stronger. It isn’t necessarily about what the crisis is, but rather how you respond that determines how others perceive you. 

Take this opportunity to align the entire organization to effectively manage the crisis. Use monitoring tools to measure sentiment and public perception during the process and see how your strategies are influencing others’ opinions. This allows you to see whether your messaging is reaching the right people and having an impact on their perceptions.

How Meltwater Can Help You Start With Your Crisis Monitoring Today

Meltwater helps you monitor your brand across the web 24/7, allowing you to respond to crises before they erupt. Our data includes online and offline channels, including print media, audio, video, social media, and more to give you the most comprehensive insights about your brand. From keyword monitoring to sentiment analysis and share of voice, you can get real-time insights and red-flag alerts to help protect your reputation.

Learn more when you request a demo by filling out the form below.