On social media, outrage spreads fast. An offensive product or misguided image can spark a firestorm, and communication managers are often scrambling to respond to negative comments about their brands online.
For PR professionals, the situation can be overwhelming: It's hard to manage crises that grow so quickly. That's why a comprehensive technology stack is vital. The right tools can help a company stay ahead of a crisis, shield the brand, and, ultimately, protect the bottom line.
There are a host of PR tools to choose from: How can you know if you have the best ones possible to do your job effectively? Answer these four questions to audit your arsenal.
1. Does a breaking event catch you off guard?
Sometimes, brands only learn about a PR crisis after it's gone viral. This forces them to react to the news rather than proactively and confidently manage the dialogue.
This is what happened to Prada in December 2018. A Twitter user remarked that a window display in a New York City store featured minstrel-like figures. Consumers called for a boycott. Prada removed the figures the next day, too late to stop multiple news reports and commentary denouncing the brand as tone-deaf and insensitive, at the very least, and even racist.
If your brand has ever been put on the defensive, you probably don't have access to real-time information. You can't stay on top of developing stories because your tech tools are focused on published stories, trends or online mentions. In other words, they only alert you after a
2. Is your response time in step with how fast the world moves?
There are 66 million Twitter users in the United States alone. Most of them aren't celebrities, politicians, or influencers, but regular people with a handful of followers. If they have an awful experience at your store or get sick from food at your restaurant, they might post about it.
Such chatter can spread quickly, but many tools aren't on the alert for posts from everyday consumers. Yet this is the moment when brands should enter the conversation. They need to put out a statement before it's breaking news.
Gucci did just that in February 2019, when the fashion label came under fire for a new balaclava that seemed to depict blackface. Gucci released a statement the same day, 20 hours before major news outlets picked up the story. The first articles included Gucci's apology.
3. What kind of alerts do you get and from where?
Some software alerts you whenever your brand is mentioned online. Others send a daily or weekly digest about conversations. Such tools track certain hashtags or keywords, analyze social sentiment data, and identify trends.
The technology can be thorough and insightful, but it's not always intelligent. With 500 million Tweets sent each day, there's plenty of meaningless information out there, and it can take a lot of time to sift through.
You want tech that's smart and fast. It should be able to classify posts, determine their importance, and filter out real news from extraneous information — preferably, in real time.
4. Does your software use artificial intelligence and machine learning?
Technology is always changing, and your PR tools should keep up. Artificial intelligence (AI) is a particularly valuable development, offering the potential to quickly distill important information, identify patterns, and optimize the value of large volumes of disparately sourced data.
You want a solution that employs algorithms with machine learning capability, which can adjust as they receive new data. Machine learning can analyze language to track rumors and reveal consumer sentiments, such as whether someone is slyly bashing your brand.
Software like Dataminr distills pertinent data in given categories or areas of interest and helps a brand zoom into significant information quickly. It alerts you to events — often, way before vigilantes or journalists could pick up on it — giving you time to pull an item off shelves or publish an apology.
When evaluating your crisis communications tech stack, make sure you have intelligent, real-time alerts. They'll help you stay ahead of the news coverage and manage a damaging story before it explodes.