According to the Saper Vedere agency, in 2019, when it comes to crisis management planning, most of them came from flaws in communication in promotion campaigns, products, or work practices. Add in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and the crises of today look a lot different from those of the past. So, under this context, how can you design a successful crisis management plan?

Let’s also highlight that the most heavily affected industry is Fashion, which comprised 23% of all 2019 crises. 64% of communication about dissatisfaction occurs on Twitter, making it the top platform for discussion. The top two issues usually causing disasters are sexism and corporate social responsibility. 

At Synthesio, we believe that Social Intelligence is key to communicating efficiently and making informed decisions. Let’s go through four essential steps for crisis management planning, shall we?


Never let a PR crisis surprise you.

According to a Deloitte survey on crisis management planning, 24% of board members who went through a crisis claim they’d do more to identify potential crisis scenarios, and 32% said they’d improve detection and early warning systems.

And indeed, these two situations need to be acknowledged when it comes to crisis management planning: 


Track issues you can predict through an alerting process on specific keywords

By categorizing online conversation on social and forums, plus news mentions, across different topics relating to your brand, instant alerts can be set up so that relevant stakeholders know what the story is and what’s driving it.

To make sure you never miss a spike in mentions, an alerting would probably be your best ally. This way, trigger an email notification whenever a particular situation occurs. An example of an alert for a potential PR crisis could be like the following:



This alert allows one of our clients to monitor weekly mentions around its critical stakes: CSR, its products, and production sites. This peculiar alert highlighted a peak of mentions around work ethics and triggered communications from the PR team to avoid a potential crisis.


Anticipate issues you can’t predict using a trend detection module.

By setting up social listening for online conversation and overall mentions around your brand, competitors, and industry, automatic signals can alert you to changes in conversation, like a sudden increase in volume or negative sentiment.

This is where a module like Signals can help by detecting for you statistically relevant events: shifts in interest, correlated online interests, peaks of engagement, surface viral media, and contextual keywords. Therefore, as soon as a crisis happens, make sure to know why, where, and how it took place.

For example, one of our clients, an automotive manufacturer, uses Signals to monitor in real-time engagement towards the most critical themes that could trigger a crisis: Safety, Quality, Value for Money, and CSR.



Get a deep understanding of the crisis.

As mentioned earlier, often, a crisis trigger is communication-related and linked to a campaign or a product. Therefore, you could think that the tension could be easily identifiable. But, it is essential to understand the context around the tension to build the relevant response.

To ensure that you’re not missing the message that your consumers try to express, text analytics is to consider. Indeed, looking at top hashtags and keywords often helps to get the context around the crisis. And of course, never forget sentiment analysis to identify the critical stakes of the crisis.

During the recent coronavirus pandemic, for example, we looked at the PR crisis in cultural events and entertainment. Thanks to Sentiment Analysis, we managed to detect that the negative sentiment associated with the shutdown of cultural activities was significantly higher than that related to the cancellation of sporting events. While taking a more in-depth look, we observed that most of the negative sentiment associated with cultural events came from SXSW.




Finally, text analytics helped us understand that the Negative Sentiment was Clustered Around Actions That Endanger Public Safety. The suspension of the NBA season led to a sharp spike in negative sentiment. On March 11th, Utah Jazz player Rudy Gobert, who had previously joked about the situation, tested positive for coronavirus. Subsequently, the NBA suspended the season. The following month has been marked by #rudygobert being the 7th most popular hashtag related to coronavirus event cancellations.


Design an informed and data-backed communications strategy

According to legendary crisis responses, social media can make a situation worse. Indeed information, correct or not, spreads very fast through social media and is sometimes difficult to handle.

But, as they’re an essential channel to communicate with its consumers, one should not ignore to use it well and prepare a relevant communication. A crisis just hit your brand? You could start with rescheduling your posts and review your most recent ones. But above all, make sure you know how to reply to the claims.

Before preparing a response messaging, you can also listen to online conversations. This way, you’ll determine who is posting and where the conversation takes place. As for efficient marketing, crisis management planning is all about sending the relevant message to the right target at the right time. Preliminary research will prevent you from posting official messaging on an unsuitable channel, in an unpopular format or including non-relevant subjects.

An excellent example to look at is Johnson & Johnson’s recent crisis. The company decided to recall 33,000 bottles of its baby powder. This move rightly demonstrated Johnson & Johnson’s devotion to the safety of its consumers.

 After the recall, the company tested the product through multiple third-party labs, which turned up clean. Johnson & Johnson then issued a public statement on its website. This news was covered by outlets such as the New York Times and Business Insider. The company moved quickly to clear their names and restore consumer confidence. This is an excellent example of a crisis management plan that reacts to an ongoing crisis and quickly amends the situation.




Analyze Results and Improve Your Strategy

This last can seem obvious but is often ignored by many brands, relieved after the crisis. Though, once the crisis has been handled, identifying successes and mistakes is mandatory to document the future. But this step will also allow making better decisions (and not replicate a disaster!)

Let’s not forget that a smart data-backed communication strategy can help brands earn a better reputation and regain positive sentiment. Among those who managed the crisis with success, let’s highlight Toyota’s approach. In summer 2009, a tragic accident destroyed a family in California. The floor carpet and the braking system of the Lexus model were faulty. Reacting to this tragedy, the Japanese brand decided to recall 16 million vehicles worldwide over a year. During the first year, communication has been about silence and rejection of responsibilities.

Though in 2010, Toyota launched a specific slogan promoting transparency: “a good company repairs its mistakes, a large company learns from it”. This strategy change saved the brand’s reputation.


Are you currently working on strategies to overcome potential PR crises and would like to know more? Download our Crisis Management Use Case Story and discover how a global hospitality corporation was able to mitigate a PR crisis by initiating brand health measures.