Last week I wrote about what a turbulent year 2020 had been. I discussed how all this tumult shone a light on why being prepared for effective monitoring and measurement during in a crisis is an essential component of the PR’s tool kit.
I started by outlining the steps communicators can take in order to get ahead of the ‘crisis curve’. The idea being that the more planning and preparation that’s applied to crisis management prior to a crisis actually occurring, the more focus can be given to proactively managing the situation.
To recap, this included:
1. Understanding the main types of reputational crisis, considering how these may affect your organization, so you’re better prepared to deal with them.
2. Working through the different phases of crisis and how they may apply to your organization.
3. Creating a plan based on steps one and two. Including an assessment of your current media intelligence and your confidence in them to provide accurate and immediate visibility throughout the crisis?
4. Consideration of any additional support required during a crisis, so you’ll be better positioned to act swiftly should you have to.
5. Making early decisions about what’s going to be critical to understand about the crisis so you’re not overwhelmed by tons of useless data.
In these last five areas I’ll focus on how monitoring and measurement should work for you during in a crisis.
6. Go boil that ocean
We often hear the phrase, “don’t try to boil the ocean”, but at a time of crisis that mantra goes out of the window.
Online and social media can make any crisis potentially global. It can be important to review and understand the big picture and technology can help to achieve this at scale.
Having the capability to cast a wide net around the whole topic allows us to understand context, scale, momentum and evolution of the issue.
It also provides an exhaustive sandbox which is a great place for testing and learning; for uncovering those ‘unknown unknowns’ which in turn enables you to uncover new elements of the debate as early as possible.
By monitoring broadly, we achieve a 60,000 ft view, that provides a basis for making a decision on who and what is important.
7. Be specific
When dealing with potentially large amounts of information, it’s important to be able to focus and refine down to monitor and measure what really matters
This helps to avoid information overload, by reducing volume, making the content and associated information more manageable and digestible. It can also serve as an influential, indicative sample.
There are many ways to reduce the overall amount of content, while delivering more substantive and more relevant content, here are just a few.
- Searching using highly specific terminology
- Specifying the proximity of different terms
- Specifying the sequence of terms
- Tiering media or influencer lists (metrics based or qualitative)
In practice monitoring broadly and narrowly is often done in parallel. This provides breadth and focus. A sandbox for learning and a meaningful, impactful sample for measurement. Covering both also provides more possibilities for comparison and contrast.
Use the technology to structure your data. A good monitoring service/tool should be able to categorize and tag information automatically.
Segmenting your data makes it more useful. It provides more entry points into the data-set, and more ways to filter and drill down into it. It allows for comparisons to be made between elements of your data set. Put simply, breaking the information down into smaller meaningful chunks also makes it easier to interrogate, easier to spot changes, anomalies and nuances.
Referring back to your initial monitoring framework provides a great basis for slicing and dicing your dataset.
9. Disseminate information
Capturing information is only the first step. The next is to get it to your audience in an appropriate, timely and useful way.
Consider a large multinational. It may be facing industry issues, cultural, ethical and political challenges. This information may need to be captured, and sent in different formats, to different teams in differing markets. Some may need a ‘data dump’, others may need an additional layer of information or insight.
Here it’s best to leverage technology and automation for scale. Typically this is achieved using automated real-time dashboards, scenario-based alerts, cadence-based newsletters, and metrics reporting. These formats are ideal for comms teams that are moving fast and are close to the news.
Use curation for an executive audience. This involves distilling the information through human decision making (and AI as it improves). Delivering editorially selected need-to-know content, perhaps with concise summaries, risk assessments or supporting information. I recommend that they are written for one person in the organization such as the CEO or Director of Comms, even if the distribution is far broader, to ensure they hit the mark.
10. From monitoring to intelligence
If you can capture, structure and disseminate information, you have the basics well covered. However, it’s evaluation, analysis, and insights that turn this social and media outputs into business intelligence and positive outcomes.
There’s a common myth perpetuated in the marketplace that ‘platforms provide insight’. Platforms and tools are just that, tools. They deliver structured, content, data, and information.
Insights is a human activity. It takes a level of analytical expertise; a working knowledge of social and traditional media and an understanding of the business situation, to drive insights and recommendations, to provide the ‘so what’, ‘what now’ and ‘what next’.
Rather than marking their own homework, I encourage organizations to work with an objective third party for measurement and analysis. Third-party objectivity is equally useful for insight work, but for strategic and practical recommendations, this should be combined with an insider’s knowledge of the business to deliver viable information to bridge the Insights to action gap.
Moving beyond monitoring, to intelligence services, should be part of the communication teams forward-facing arsenal to inform strategy and tactics, to measure, review and course-correct, to educate and guide internal stakeholders.
When the crisis dies down, it can also be used as part of the learning process. To adapt approaches, processes and best practice, for the next “unknown known”.
Monitoring and measurement is not a cure all.
In most cases it’s a very small part of comms team’s day. But by adopting the practices in preparedness for crisis will give you a head start. In all likelihood, even the best prepared comms team in the world will miss something, but where solid groundwork is already in place, those missteps can be absorbed. As the saying goes “knowledge is power” and this process has proved its value time and time again with organizations that understand and leverage it correctly.
If you missed the first 5 of my 10 Tips for Monitoring in a Crisis, you can catch up on our previous post.
Why not join me on-demand for my webinar ’10 Tips for Monitoring in a Crisis’? I’m joined by AMEC Chair and CARMA Co-Managing Partner, Richard Bagnall, here.
This Article was written by Gareth Owens. His experience is gleaned from over 20 years helping clients make sense of the evolving media and communications landscape. During this time, Gareth has led on social and mainstream media monitoring and evaluation programs, social listening and horizon scanning initiatives for literally hundreds of organisations across the USA. His speciality is helping organisations ensure that their monitoring, evaluation and social listening programmes remain fit for purpose.