Crisis strikes in the blink of an eye and can erupt into a full media catastrophe overnight. Even when a crisis is done, if it is not dealt with successfully, the aftermath can translate into long term financial loss, not to mention a destruction of public trust.
To top it off, brand turmoil can be a make or break moment for your career. Because every shred of time is important during a crisis, you need to use data to make agile, strategic decisions.
The following questions will help you get off on the right foot:
1) How bad is the situation?
How do you even know when you’re in a crisis? This is when you refer to your historical data. Not every negative article is a death sentence for your brand, although your executives might not agree. First off, determine if this is a real coverage spike. Comparing coverage trends overtime can help you measure the magnitude of the story pickup. If there is a legitimate uptick in coverage, it is time to hyper-dissect the issue.
An effective reputation management strategy starts with identifying your key brand drivers. Analyzing these drivers over time allows your company to develop a baseline which will make obvious any deviations from that baseline. These deviations are indications that the issue is starting to hurt your brand.
You cannot put together a response strategy without fully evaluating the scope of the situation. Your team needs to answer things like who is talking about the issue? Are these my key publics? What influencers are picking up the story? Is it getting heavily shared on social? What audiences are sharing the article and across what channels? Without this information, it will be impossible to quickly target the right people with your key messages in your response strategy.
2) Are you connected with the right audiences to fix it?
Once you’ve assessed the damage and determined the messages you need to push, you need to find the right influencers to engage. If you don’t spend time building relationships when things are going well, you’re left out to dry when things go bad. Use data to first prioritize your outreach to the authors and outlets who have demonstrated interest in the topic you want to push, have a wide audience reach, and are most likely to receive high social sharing.
3) How Effective Are Your Spokespeople?
Not only are spokespersons needed for media communications, but in a crisis, they are essential. You need to know which of them will most effectively resonate with your target audiences and which work best when “under fire.” Data from past crises or from previous campaigns must be harnessed to select and coach your top spokespeople.
4) Are your messages pulling through?
Communicators should determine what outcomes they are trying to accomplish with their messaging and measure campaigns accordingly. For instance, are you trying to improve customer perceptions against a faulty product, strengthen investor relations in light of a crisis, or demonstrate a united company front? Collecting accurate data from both traditional and social media is an important first step in determining if coverage is improving in your favor and if it contains the key messages you are pushing in your crisis plan. To understand your effectiveness, ask questions like, are influencers or our spokespeople conveying the right message? Is it resonating? Or, do we need to adjust our strategy and reallocate resources if it is not working? Even with limited resources and time during a crisis, using data to adjust allocation helps your communications team stay agile and effective.
5) Can I prove that my strategy is working?
Once your strategy starts to take hold and the conflict is dying down, it is time to loop in your C-suite. Company crises can be deal-makers (or breakers) in the career of a PR or Communications professional. C-suite execs want proof that a crisis strategy is working, both during and after the event.
Help the C-suite truly understand that negative coverage around the event has stopped by comparing coverage to the past. Your data should show that the positive coverage has increased dramatically or that it is back to neutral levels.
The cornerstone of every crisis response strategy is accurate data. Good media intelligence not only brings potential PR crises to your attention early but provides a road map on how to assess, manage and defuse the situation. It is important to always track your customers, brand drivers, your industry, and your competitors – you need to make sure that nothing is spreading once it is contained.