The importance of media monitoring in crisis communication

• 16 minute read
Media Monitoring
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If you’re looking to limit or prevent any damage to the reputation of your brand or organisation then media monitoring would be a great tool for you! By using (real-time) media monitoring, you’ll gain data-driven insights if you’re experiencing a (reputation) crisis. Monitoring gives you insight into volume as well as sentiment, and insight into who are the most important influencers and stakeholders regarding the crisis or discussion. An analysis of the crisis helps you to make the right decision and can limit or even prevent reputation damage. In this white paper you will learn:

  • How a digital (reputation) crisis can develop on social media and how you can prevent or reduce potential damage regarding your brand or organisation.
  • How to recognise a crisis and what the role of social media is during a crisis.
  • How to keep an eye on what happens in the media on a structural basis, and how to see a crisis coming ahead of time.
  • Which crisis management tips you can use on different social media platforms during certain phases of a crisis.

Once you’ve read this white paper you’ll be able to take charge during a crisis and thus prevent or limit any reputation damage!

Much has been written about crises and crisis communication. There are several different definitions of the word crisis. To be completely clear: this white paper is not about a ‘crisis’ in the sense of having a social impact, such as an attack, a major fire or a flood. If you would like to learn more about crisis communication in the public domain and how to make an environmental analysis then you can read all about it in this white paper.

What is crisis communication?

Crisis communication is a specialism within PR that focuses on protecting and defending an individual, a company or an organisation that is dealing with an increasingly negative public opinion. In our current reality, every business requires strategies in crises. A single wrong tweet can lead to a crisis having a big impact on your reputation. Because social media gives everyone a voice, everyone is ‘heard’ nowadays. This gives social media a facilitating role in reputation crises. On the one hand, social media platforms give frustrated individuals the opportunity to ignite negativity, and on the other, the same platforms give organisations the opportunity to manage a crisis.

Crisis Communication Guidelines in the Digital Age
The use of social media platforms can help to make crisis communication run better and faster, and in a cost-efficient manner, because your own message is immediately distributed without the intervention of a journalist. Nevertheless, the basic principles of crisis communication have remained the same. Even in the new social media era these remain valid. However, it’s important to consider the different dynamics in the digital world. The following guidelines apply:

  • ‘One-way traffic’ is a thing of the past. Provide a fast, accurate and personal answer.
  • Transparency and accessibility are crucial.
  • Public perception is our reality; it’s not about whether an opinion is correct or not. It’s important that you observe that there may be different opinions or beliefs, so you can then apply an appropriate communication strategy.
  • Admit mistakes, but also use critical thinking and don’t accept all criticism.
  • Evaluate often and make sure your story is quickly adaptable.

Since the advent of smartphones and social media, there’s an even greater appetite for news. Social media can therefore be a huge distributor of (fake) news. People don’t just consume news through established news media anymore. The lines between social and mainstream media are blurring.

What has not changed however is that the role of the media is based on conflict, it rules the emotions of the viewers, and the masses in general are risk-averse. Moreover, there is often very little confidence in the representatives of an organisation that’s under attack. We identify different types of crises:

  • Real-world crises: A real-world incident precedes the crisis. The mainstream media report on it and the crisis is magnified on social media.
  • Bushfires: With these slow-burners, ongoing discussions about customer service, product quality, or employee dissatisfaction are picked up by mainstream media or by some influentials.
  • Memes: a social media meme leads to a crisis in which the virality leads to an acquisition by mainstream media.

The above are some examples, but this list is certainly not the only classification of crises. It can be quite useful to determine a classification for your own industry or organisation. Because, for example, the aviation industry may use a different type of classification than, for example, the e-commerce industry or a municipality.

How do you recognise a crisis?

To ensure that all sorts of alarm bells aren’t going off and on, it’s useful to know when there is a crisis. From an online reputation management and crisis management perspective this means: how do we recognise the initial stage of a crisis that arises on social media? The points below will help you identify a crisis.

  • Change in volume: There is a noticeable change in volume regarding your organisation. This often means an increase of at least 200% to 300% in a short time. A social media monitoring tool can be set up so that you receive alerts for this and that you’re informed quickly.
  • Change in sentiment: A sudden surge in negative messages may indicate that a crisis may arise.
  • Issues and stakeholders: A group of stakeholders speaks on social media about your organisation or a relevant and important topic. It is therefore important to also monitor issues and stakeholders from the industry.
  • An information leak: Internally sensitive information that comes out unexpectedly. It may be that there is an information leak within the organisation or perhaps a rather ‘talkative’ employee.
  • Negative reporting or external publication: A source picks up an item, for example, an article in which your organisation is associated with defamation or a bad employee policy.

The role of social media during crises
Social media channels offer various options for managing a reputation crisis. The role of social media has been split into two applications: the role of social media as a source of information and the role of social media as a communication channel.

Social media as a source of information:gathering insights
Social media becomes an important source of information during a crisis. Both the organisation’s own social media accounts and all information posted on social media provide insight into the entire playing field of the crisis. Claims from stakeholders, reactions from the public and what aspects are being taken over by journalists. Social media is the most up-to-date source of information and contains a huge variety of opinions because all the stakeholders are on it. Even though there’s a lot of unverified information, all stakeholders turn to social media as a source of information. Social media is therefore a unique place for opinions and facts from the masses, individuals, institutions, and for official statements as well. A social media analysis helps to inform the decision makers internally, and helps you to be able to respond specifically to what’s going on.

Using social media as a communication channel
In addition to gaining insights, your own social media channels can be used to manage a crisis. Deploying the use of social media during a crisis can help to make crisis communication run better and faster, and in a cost-efficient manner. Your own message is immediately distributed without the intervention of a journalist. We’ve listed the advantages of this for you:

  • Publish your content when and where you want it.
  • Provide real-time updates or schedule your messages.
  • Social media channels give you the opportunity to enter a conversation both on an individual level and publicly.
  • Social media provide access to a large audience, especially if your own social media channels have a wide reach.
  • You have direct, unfiltered access to your audience. This conveys your message, your side of the story, without the intervention of journalists or other stakeholders. This can contribute to a better understanding of your position or standpoint with regard to the matter.

Tips for crisis management

You now know how to recognise a crisis. But
what’s next? Once you have visualised the
crisis, step two is to try to avert it. With the
following 11 tips, you’ll be able to manage,
and control, the crisis!

Tip 1: Make sure there’s a clear division of tasks within the crisis team
Planning is key. You don’t have time to discuss the matter of responsibility during a crisis. Who‘s responsible for monitoring and explaining the information? Who’s responsible for external communication to stakeholders and/or internal knowledgesharing? Who is what reported to? Make those agreements in advance so that during a crisis you can have the fullest focus on preventing reputation damage. Set up a crisis team today. Ensure that communication between team members is set up and that everyone is aware of each other’s responsibilities and tasks. Hopefully, you won’t be in crisis mode regularly, so you may have to remind your employees about crisis procedures at least once a year.

Tip 2: Use real-time dashboards andnarrowcasting
Determine which persons within your organisation would benefit from a real-time overview of the reporting related to the crisis, and which persons would need clarification as well as possible advice once every (half) hour. Consider, for example, the spokesperson, the CEO, but also any investors, and your own staff. For that first group, you can activate real-time monitoring using dashboards and narrowcasting.

Tip 3: Get insight into the crisis
What are you going to do? Are you going to respond, or not? And if you choose to respond, do you do this publicly through a statement or in private environments? Social media analyses help you to inform internal stakeholders. Such analyses are also necessary to prepare appropriate responses. During a crisis, it is therefore crucial to see what is being said about your organisation in the media and on social media. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Where does the discussion take place?
  • Is it threatening to get out of hand?
  • Which persons are crucial in the discussion surrounding the crisis?
  • What are the media reports about the crisis?
  • Where is the change in sentiment or number of expressions to be found?
  • What are the trending topics around your brand during the crisis?
  • Which persons within the organisation are named during the crisis?

By keeping an eye on these issues, you can
respond accurately to a crisis and, if possible,
enter into a conversation to solve the crisis
and to anticipate the discussion.

Tip 4: Determine what you need to know
With sufficient monitoring during the crisis, you can respond accurately (and perhaps with the use of wit) to a crisis and, if possible, enter into a conversation. You’ll find a solution faster, because a complete overview of facts allows you to anticipate discussions. Identifying the time of reporting, the speed of its dissemination and key stakeholders and journalists allows you to anticipate things more quickly.

Tip 5: Set up social media monitoring
A common mistake is the limited design and scope of search queries. Don’t do searches using only the name of your organisation, but also monitor important persons within the organisation such as the CEO, members of the Executive Board, spokespersons, and management. Synonyms of the brand name and possible product names can also be part of your search query. By making the search term as extensive as possible, you’ll get a more complete picture of the reporting in which your organisation is mentioned.

Tip 6: Measure internal sentiment
Social media isn’t only about external communication. It’s just as important to continue to monitor internal social channels during a crisis. By integrating internal channels such as Yammer, Slack and Sharepoint within media monitoring, you also have a ‘thermometer’ in your dashboard to keep an eye on internal sentiment. Are colleagues concerned about the crisis? Or do they agree with the statements about the organisation? This information can be essential in managing a crisis internally.

Tip 7: Prepare an internal crisis FAQ
Setting up a crisis FAQ is important. The crisis FAQ is more than a standard overview of questions and answers. It also contains a description of the events, the cause, and all the information known up to this point. It is therefore important in a crisis to get the facts on the table as soon as possible, so that the entire organisation is provided with the tools needed in order to respond adequately, and with the same message, to all your different stakeholders. A crisis FAQ includes the following elements:

  • The confirmation and acknowledgment of the issue
  • Details on the issue
  • Photos and infographics
  • Presentations
  • Video (statement from CEO) on YouTube
  • Explanation of how the issue was discovered
  • Who was aware within the company and how the process works
  • What action has been taken
  • Summary of what happened
  • How to prevent it in the future

Tip 8: Create an impression of fans and critics
Make sure you map influencers, so that you know where to find your fans and critics and how to reach them. Think about campaigns or actions that you can use to influence influencers so that you’ve already built that relationship for when a crisis breaks out. During a crisis you may want to involve those influencers if necessary. Be personal in doing this; Make sure you monitor important sources of criticism extra carefully so that you’re immediately informed if something goes wrong. Also monitor the sources of information that are consulted by other stakeholders, such as mainstream media and bloggers. It’s not only important to do this in times of crisis, but also during campaigns and in proposition management. You can then quickly communicate or change your strategy when you need to.

Tip 9: Interact with your followers
Always work on your presence and use social media. Create and actively use your own social media channels. Make sure to interact with followers and set your goals based on your reach. Is there a crisis? Then make sure that your website, pressroom, and social channels are continuously up-to-date with the latest news. Also consider if you want to use video material. This can help show your ‘human side’ as an organisation. Use your social channels to answer questions and reinforce your message. This works best of course if you’ve already developed these channels well before the crisis.

Tip 10: Be proactive: build (social media) presence!
Make sure your search engines use search terms that are related to the crisis and refer to your crisis site. Create and optimise multimedia content that allows you to tell your story in different ways and make that content easy to share. You can also advertise online about the crisis and the latest status.

It is essential to build a social media presence on the most important channels. You can also set up a blog or an extra Facebook page for specific events or issues. By initiating this yourself, you keep things in your own hands, and you have more control. Be proactive in setting up additional channels because that way you keep your official social channel clean and you have more control over the conversations.

Tip 11: Check your planned content
When a crisis occurs, it’s important to check planned content, such as social media posts, and to edit where necessary. This also applies to issues or relevant events within your industry or in society. For example, is there an attack, death of a public figure or a serious plane crash? Check the content and see which messages you should adjust, delete, or save for a later moment.

Get started with crisis monitoring!

Now that you have all the hands-on tips available, it’s time to get to work. You can get started with media and crisis monitoring! A media monitoring tool helps with this. A media monitoring tool retrieves new data in real-time from various sources. By keeping an eye on what’s happening in the media or on what stakeholders say on a structural basis, you, being an organisation or brand, can (often) see a crisis approaching early. You do this by monitoring certain keywords that relate to your brand, your industry, or your organisation. This is how you’ll be able to recognise the overall trends within the topics that play a role among these specific target groups.

Set up alerts
A media monitoring tool also makes it possible to set alerts, so that you’re always aware of ‘hot’ topics that are circulating in real time. Is there suddenly a significant increase in volume regarding a brand or organisation? Then this could indicate an emerging discussion that could potentially explode into an issue or crisis. When setting up alerts, you can also link negatively-charged words to your brand, words that have the potential to lead to reputation damage. Thanks to crisis monitoring you can limit the damage, since you’ll be able to act quickly.

Prevent reputation damage thanks to crisis monitoring
By structurally monitoring what is being said about your brand or organisation, you’ll be able to see, once the crisis has passed, whether reputation damage has occurred and in which area. By going back to the basics, pre-crisis monitoring, you can identify whether the trend of conversation about brand X or topic Y has changed after the crisis. By analysing exactly where this potential damage has occured, you can search for a solution and start working on new positioning where necessary. After the crisis has been resolved, there is room to rebuild, to work on positive sentiment and to create a stronger brand at a strategic level. Monitoring can provide new insights into the objectives!

How you can get the most out of crisis monitoring for your brand or organisation!
Would you like to know more about crisis monitoring or are you curious about Spotler Engage’s solutions for your organisation? Request a free demo or contact us at or +31 (0)85 210 50 60.

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