Matt co-founded TrendKite in 2012 and oversees all aspects of the organization’s product strategy and development.
Leo Tolstoy begins Anna Karenina this way, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Of course, it’s hard to test the part about happy families as one doesn’t happen across any in the novel, but each unhappy family is uniquely unhappy indeed. Each public relations crisis is also unhappy in its own way. Some, like the fiasco that was Healthcare.gov, make an organization’s leadership appear to be incompetent. Others like Target’s credit card data breech, significantly impact customer’s lives. And still others, like American Apparel CEO, Dov Charney's charges of sexual harassment are deeply embarrassing. We don’t envy the PR professionals tasked with managing any of these situations.
After talking about the issue of dealing with PR disasters, we discovered that a lot has been written about crisis management. You can find many great articles and books that explain the ins and outs of handling one type of mess or another. What we didn’t find, however was a lot of information about crisis measurement. In other words, how do you know if your response is working during the crisis and how do you judge your performance once it has passed? We thought it would be useful to share three key performance indicators for crisis measurement.
Job number one in a crisis is to craft your response and deliver it effectively. To evaluate this, you’ll need to carefully monitor all relevant media to determine if your message is being shared and by whom. We normally prefer to rely on other factors for measuring PR effectiveness, because we are looking closely at ROI. But during those rare, critical times when your brand depends on defense, volume and balance are more important than ROI, so output measurement is justified.
If you’ve done a good job of crafting and communicating your message, the next step in crisis measurement is to determine whether your messages are being believed and are changing opinions. Now you need to look not just at what your brand has added to the conversation, but how it is being received and by whom. You may be able to identify some sympathetic influencers and target your efforts toward their audiences. If you are satisfied with the outputs, but not the impact, you may need to consider adjusting your message.
As with “peace time” PR, the bottom line in crisis measurement is outcomes. You can measure outcomes at the beginning, during and after the crisis. (Yes, there will be an after.) How has the event impacted performance indicators such as website traffic (it is possible that an increase in this metric might not be a good thing), online conversations, revenue and reputation. Keeping a close watch on these indicators will help you determine if your response has been adequate or if additional action is needed.
It is our sincere wish that you never have to engage in crisis measurement, but alas, the chances are that, at some point, there will be negative news about your brand. It will likely be unexpected and painful. You can take some of the bite out of it by being prepared with the right tools to qualify and quantify each of these areas in advance so that your performance under fire will be exemplary.