The best approach to crises is prevent them from happening at all.
That is easier said than done, of course, since predicting the future is not part of most people’s skill set. However, there are still ways for companies to recognize early warning signs of trouble, which can help them reduce their time spent in “crisis mode.”
According to Herr, there are two important components to crisis prevention on the corporate communication level:
First, crisis prevention requires the implementation of a strong media monitoring strategy;
and second, for each different audience, a company has to develop a suitable strategy.
Monitor investors’ desires
The three groups Herr advises companies to media monitor are investors, customers and employees. Regarding a company’s investors, Herr explains that an early warning strategy should focus on:
The publications your company’s investors read;
and the direct communications with your company’s investors.
Since, the warning signals of a crisis will not likely come from what investors verbally say, a company needs to utilize alternative methods to discover what is really on its investor’s minds. One effective way to do so is by monitoring the media in your market.
Furthermore, monitoring direct communications with your company’s investors is also a crucial component of crisis prevention, because it might be that some information has not been presented clearly to them or that they are not certain what to do with the information. As Herr states, “listen carefully to the sound of silence.”
Monitor customer feedback
A company’s customers are also important to media monitor when it comes to crisis prevention. According to Herr, the early warning strategy should focus on:
The publications concerning your broader business ecosystem;
and social media.
The purpose of using these two channels is to find out what your customers think about your new campaign, product or public relations strategy. For this end, publications regarding your business ecosystem can be useful. However, the primary focus should be on social media.
Herr advises companies to dedicate a special team to monitor customers’ social media. What is crucial here is to not only monitor your day-to-day followers, but also the broader audience, since the people that will voice their opinion during a crisis are not necessarily always your everyday social followers.
Monitor internal communications
Employees are another group to media monitor when seeking to prevent crises. Herr states that a monitoring strategy for internal communications should focus on:
The company’s culture;
and changes in internal staffing.
Regarding a company’s culture, low employee morale has high costsand can easily pave the way for future crises. Herr advises companies to bring in external teams to help them tackle issues early on and to help them make the necessary adjustments.
Changes in internal staffing – such as productivity declines and increases in employee turnovers and “whisperings around the water cooler” – may also constitute warning signals for future crises. Therefore, Herr states such data should be closely monitored.
The bottom line
Preventing crises may be a challenging task, but can still be achieved by knowing what to look for and where. The most important rule is to not wait until you are in deep waters to start developing a crisis plan, but to develop a media monitoring plan early on and to be consistent in the execution of that plan.
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