Don’t make a drama out of a crisis

 

A question we’re often asked is how we can help large organisations improve their crisis management. Can we use data to determine when an organisation should respond to unfavourable press interest and when should they leave well alone?

The problem for PR is that responding often has unintended consequences, adding fuel to the fire. What was a contained story on a single social media channel, or in a regional publication, can be transformed by an ill-judged press release into national headlines. A great example was the Chipotle portion-size issue, recently covered in PR Week. An interview with CEO Brian Niccol in Fortune escalated media attention and consumer dissatisfaction, when the original response on TikTok could easily have prevented cross-channel ‘contamination’.

Making the right judgement when the CEO is jumping up and down wanting to ‘set the record straight’ in the face of perceived brand damage can be a tough call. Often it comes down to ‘gut feeling’, which leaves PR teams feeling exposed, uncomfortably short on concrete evidence and advice.

Rather than jumping in with both feet, it’s worth assessing the data to evaluate when a reputational glitch is a) a crisis that needs a formal statement in response b) more likely to fizzle out if left to run its course or c) an issue that merits only a platform-specific response. Metricomm can help brands to quickly assess:

  • The size of audience engaging with unfavourable coverage and whether this is reaching critical mass

  • Which online media are fuelling the fire and how important they are within the grand scheme of things

  • Whether the media coverage is causing consumers to search for more information or visit the company website

  • What language and topics within the media narrative are influencing consumer judgment

  • When adverse coverage is having an immediate impact on other brand metrics, such as consideration

  • Whether the impact of adverse media coverage has eroded over time, or is still influencing perceptions and intentions

 

Once it’s easier to see how a situation might play out, there are a few important rules for formulating a response to keep things in check:

  1. Usually, it’s better to respond on the channel where the unfavourable content occurs, containing the story instead of propagating it to other channels by issuing a blanket statement.

  2. Use language that consumers can relate to and which is appropriate to the channel. Don’t frame your comment in legalese or spokesperson language, which gives the impression you have something to hide. Use the insights from the data to understand what exactly is getting people worked up and address the issue using language the customers can relate to.

  3. Consult internally to gauge whether employees who are close to your customers – for example contact centre staff – are finding that customers bring up the issue and how frequently this is happening. If customers are talking to you about it, it’s probable they are telling other customers.

If you need help quantifying the reputational impact of coverage, then contact us without delay via hello@metricomm.com or by using the form below, and we’ll get straight back to you!