Five ingredients for real-time crisis comms

February 23, 2023

Written by Kevin Twomey

It can be difficult for brands to know what to do with real-time media monitoring data even when they have it. Internal processes can often be far from real-time themselves, and it’s crucial to have the structure in place to match the speed of the data you have in order to feel its full benefit. 

One of the areas where real-time data truly comes into its own is when preparing for and managing a comms crisis.

Based on our experience with some of the world’s biggest and most recognizable brands we’ve outlined five steps teams of all sizes can take to mitigate a crisis using real-time data, and the good news is that most of the work is already done before the crisis even hits.  

1. Define what matters to your business.

Preparation is key when it comes to a crisis — knowing what’s important to your brand and business and having the necessary dashboards built in advance beforehand is critical to getting ahead of any future issue. 

With that in mind, don’t spread yourself too thin by trying to monitor everything and anything – have a very clear set of critical areas that not only your comms team cares about but are important to your business. 

This might be a media list, or a minimum level of public interest, and will be different for every business. A large tech company might only want to see headline mentions in Tier 1 publications, while a brand with niche products might care what a particular community is saying about it on Reddit. Neither of these is wrong, of course, but it’s important to know what they are.

Agree these in advance not just with your team but with internal stakeholders too. That way, even smaller teams can prioritize their efforts and focus on a defined set of KPIs.

You can read more examples of this from McDonald’s Sean deGroot, on how he and his teams focus on what’s important to their business and how they structure the teams.

2. Prepare, map, and benchmark. 

 While each crisis is unique, there are similarities and patterns that can be identified by analyzing historical data from NewsWhip Analytics. Based on your set of work in step one, use Analytics to pull data and reports to see how long similar past crises have lasted, who covered it, and how many articles there were about it. This way, you have a natural benchmark for comparative purposes.

It’s worth putting the prep work in advance and creating a library of previous crises so that if you find yourself in the middle of an issue you can quickly compare

3. Set yourself up for early detection

Based on step 1 and 2 you’re now able to set up your real-time and predictive alerts. Your dashboards do the heavy lifting but let our alerts do the work of keeping you and your stakeholders informed at all times. 

The alerts can be triggered in real time once there is any mention or article of interest, or you can set up predictive alerts. These will only be triggered if a search term is predicted to hit a certain level of engagement. That level should be based on the historical analysis that you’ve done. 

Read how Volkswagen used alerts to stay on top of everything from supply chain issues to campaign launches.

4. Stop and observe

It happens — a story breaks, and you find yourself in the eye of a potential crisis. You’ve received a predictive alert that a story is likely to hit a defined threshold. What do you do? 

You stop. 

Yes, stop.

Then run through the following questions:

  • What are the levels of public and media interest?
  • Given the level of media and public interest, is this a storm in a media teacup or is the public engaging with the story too? Using our Highlights featurewill give you an immediate snapshot of whether there has been an increase in either, and if so, what has driven them.
  • What is the predicted growth? Use NewsWhip’s one-of-a-kind prediction technology to see how the story will grow (or not) over the next 24 hours. Knowing a story will be over within 24 hours can be incredibly calming and reassuring in the actions you take.
  • How does this compare to similar crises? Remember the benchmark reports you prepared using NewsWhip Analytics – dust those off and see how your current crisis is behaving; this will help inform you on the next steps to take or perhaps avoid.
  • Who is talking about it? If you do need to respond you’ll need to identify who is talking about the story and driving engagement, this will help with your media approach.

 5. Take Action. Report. Monitor. Repeat. 

Armed with your real-time data and analysis, now it’s time to act (or not) and merge art with science. The data can only do so much, the hard part of making a strategic decision still falls to you but hopefully NewsWhip’s data has given you increased confidence in your decision making and helped you reach your conclusion faster.  

Just because you’ve acted doesn’t mean your job is done – it’s just starting, you need to continue to monitor the story in real time, seeing how your response is performing, is it going to plan, or do you need to take further action?

You can then increase the frequency of your alerts, add more stakeholders to them and share reports when necessary. 

Of course, real-time data is more than just crisis management, but this framework should demonstrate the power of being able to act in real time as insights and information come in.

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Kevin Twomey

SVP, Marketing, infrequent writer

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