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media monitoring for PR crisis management, social media monitoring for crisis managementTwo types of plans are essential in preparing for a PR crisis: a crisis management plan and an ongoing communications measurement plan.

Social media has drastically increased the speed that public relations crisis can develop and spread. News and accusations can quickly “go viral” through multiple social media channels. Slow or inappropriate responses during a fast-moving crisis can cause severe reputational damage on a brand. Diminished reputation almost inevitably leads to financial loses.

A monitoring system can identify media outlets with negative mentions, enable you to respond to unfavorable publicity, and measure your effectiveness in decreasing and countering negative publicity. A good measurement system provides critical data to help you in your crisis management decision-making.

7 Ways Media Monitoring Aids PR Crisis Management

PR measurement expert Katie Paine, CEO of Paine Publishing, explains why measurement is your best friend for handling a PR crises.

  1. You will know if your brand is being compromised—maybe even before the local media contacts you. A monitoring system that searches both social and traditional media for mentions of your brand will alert you about any unusual mentions.
  2. You can learn if negative mentions are worrisome. Are several negative tweets a normal blip or a sign of an imminent disaster? A measurement system can compare volumes, reach and sentiment of mentions to provide real insight.
  3. Long-term measurement can reveal the most effective tactics in the past. Insights from that data can help guide decisions during the heat of the crisis, helping you remain calm during the crisis and avoid spontaneous, ill-advised decisions based on little or no information.
  4. You will know how your message is resonating in the media. With an ongoing measurement system in place you can quickly see if your actions are portrayed as you intended and if the resulting coverage reflects the positioning you desire. “With measurement you can be the best-informed person in the room,” Paine says. “You’ll confidently enter the war room, armed with facts and figures about what worked in the past, what is working now, and what should be changed going forward.”
  5. The organization will be able to maintain its perspective. An analysis can reveal if the tone of media coverage is within normal ranges or compare coverage to industry averages. Perhaps media coverage is not as negative as it seems.
  6. You’ll know if your strategy is succeeding and if you can relax. Typically, crisis coverage and negative mentions peak on the first day then gradually decrease. If mentions continue to increase after the first day, PR has a problem.
  7. You’ll be better able to argue for a budget increase. Monitoring and measurement will quantify PR’s impact and costs.

Determining an Appropriate Response

Triaging, sorting issues revealed through social media listening, can help prioritize issues and determine an appropriate PR crisis response. Some companies may feel compelled to react to problems with a public statement or social media post. Ironically, that can draw more attention to the initial issue and inadvertently increase reputational damage.

A poor review or disparaging social media post does not qualify as a crisis, at least not usually or initially. It’s essential to recognize what’s a crisis and what’s merely an issue needing a resolution.

A highly undesirable outcome means that the issue affects or is of interest to a very large portion of your customers or prospective customers and has potential to do lasting brand damage, explain Jay Baer and Amber Naslund at Convince & Convert. Thus, if you’re a regional or national company, local shortcomings don’t usually signify a crisis, unless the underlying issue is not geographically specific.

Some companies establish an average volume threshold of negative mentions for the brand. Media monitoring can trigger a warning when mentions surpass that mark. Many companies measure volume or the number of media mentions, even in a PR crisis. But it’s often more important to determine exactly who is saying what. How are clients and influencers reacting to the crisis? Their reactions will have the most impact and may require targeted responses.

Pick the Right Monitoring Tool

For most organizations, outsourcing media monitoring offers the best solution. A subscription media monitoring service provides access to specialized expertise, superior technology and objective analysis. Outsourcing the services is also more cost-effective because it spreads development costs across many different clients. Some media monitoring services tailor their social media listening and dashboard to each client’s needs so that clients pay only for what they need and receive any customized metrics they require.

Because of the proliferation of social media, it’s essential to select a monitoring tool that combines social media listening with news monitoring into an integrated, all-in-one online dashboard for comprehensive measurement.

“Measuring only media coverage is to see the situation in one dimension,” says Simon Erskine Locke, founder & CEO of CommunicationsMatch. “The measure of whether a story has legs and will have lasting damage will be reflected in how it resonates across audiences and the communications channels they use.”

Bottom Line: All-in-one media monitoring and measurement provides one of the most important tools for alerting organizations of an emerging PR crisis and determining how best to respond during a crisis. Monitoring and measurement also quantify PR’s impact, proving its value to upper management. The most effective media monitoring is an ongoing service that integrates social media monitoring and news media monitoring into a single, robust communications dashboard.

This article was first published on April 27, 2016, and updated on March 26, 2019.