How to ensure you capture meaningful data to inform your crisis response

Here are some tips and tools to help you measure your crisis comms efforts and use data to drive important decisions.


When a crisis hits, and you don’t have a measurement strategy in place, you’re going to have a hard time capturing accurate, actionable information.

The problem isn’t that the data is hard to come by, explains Nicole Moreo, senior vice president of analytics for Ketchum and chair of the North American chapter of AMEC. Data is everywhere—but knowing which data to pay attention to requires expertise and a bit of forethought.

And the chances are good that your organization hasn’t done its homework on preparing ahead of the next crisis. “Only 30% of marketers and PR pros conduct a threat assessment for their brands once a year,” Moreo says—and failing to regularly update your planning, benchmarks and more will give you an incomplete picture when you try to measure an acute event.

The framework

When thinking about measuring your crisis response, Moreo says it is essential to go beyond the easy numbers. She offers three ways people tend to think about measurement:

  1. Documented results. These are the easy numbers that can get thrown into reports—“vanity metrics”—that offer an incomplete or even misleading picture of your crisis response.
  2. Producing insights. Here’s where you turn your numbers into recommendations that are actionable. If your insights don’t produce a recommended action or next step, it has limited value to your organization.
  3. Building context. Moreo says that this step is essential for keeping your various stakeholders calm and focused. For example, a tweet might be having a bit of a viral moment—but how does that engagement relate to your overall brand performance and audience reach? Moreo warns that numbers can be scary in a crisis—so it is essential to offer context to put those numbers in their proper place.

Mistakes to avoid

When looking to measure your crisis communications, Moreo warns against several big errors:

  • Waiting until crisis hits. Once a crisis hits, you face a desperate, all-hands-on-deck situation and you will miss things, Moreo warns. If you have a system in place, it’s a lot less stressful.
  • Keeping crisis measurement in a silo. Put your crisis response in the context of your “always on” measurement, Moreo advises. Don’t have an “always on” measurement program? That’s why you can’t wait until a crisis hits.
  • Forgetting to benchmark. If a crisis hits and you want to prove it’s “not that bad,” or maybe “worse than you think”—you need to be able to compare it to something. If you don’t have current brand studies or “always on” measurement in place, you have nothing to benchmark your brand reputation and sentiment and you cannot offer that all-important context.
  • Forgetting “all” audiences. If you have a hyper-local audience, it might not be reflected in broader listening programs. Think about all your different audiences and nuances.
  • Not thinking about your end audience (i.e. top management). Who are you presenting your findings to? Make different reports for the board of directors, for legal teams and for brand client, etc. Make sure that you are gathering info that will be important for the people reading the report.

Tools to consider

There are several essential tools for monitoring your brand and messaging success in a crisis, according to Moreo. Some of them are very economical, like the free offerings from Google Analytics and web tools.

Here are the essentials that Moreo recommends for your crisis comms measurement toolkit:

  • Survey tool/partner. Think about how you can reach all audiences.
  • Media and social media listening tool
  • Search tool/platform
  • Web analytics

One free tool that Moreo recommends is Answer the Public—an application that lets you know what questions are being asked on Google about a given topic.

Getting started

To make sure you are set-up for success Moreo offers five big topics to consider whenever getting started on your crisis measurement plan.

  • Start with your goals. All good measurement is tied to specific goals. Moreo suggests: Make sure if you are preparing pre-crisis to ask: “What is the business goal that you are working towards?” Being able to show how a crisis does or does not tie back to business goals will be key.
  • Outline your audiences. Who are you, as a communicator, charged with reaching? “It is easy to focus on the audience that has the most accessible data or information. But if you are charged with reaching employees, policy makers, hyper-local audiences, and general consumers, you may miss out on critical insights to support your strategy and issues preparedness.”
  • To create your plan, you need to understand the landscape you are working in. What is your audience reacting to? What are the key themes, what are competitors doing, and most importantly for crisis work, what are the issues that may be red flags vs. issues that are safe to discuss?
  • Optimization/monitoring. “Make sure you can respond and adjust in real time with insights that you are gathering,” Moreo says. It is not just about a PowerPoint deck at the end.
  • When looking at what you might think is a compelling chart, Moreo says to ask yourself, “So what?” three times. Make sure you are satisfied that your data and accompanying visuals tell a compelling story.

You can learn more essential insights about crisis communications and measurement by joining Ragan’s Crisis Leadership Network. Learn more about this exclusive membership here.

Connect with Nicole Moreo on Twitter or LinkedIn.


One Response to “How to ensure you capture meaningful data to inform your crisis response”

    Ronald Levy says:

    You may look like a hero to your top management if when a crisis approaches you can give your CEO this urgently needed information:

    .1. What are our perils?

    Management may at first think only of our getting “a bad name” but three more specific dangers are worth considering although the third may at first be overlooked.

    .a. Loss of money from lost sales because of lost esteem among customers and

    .b. Loss of money because loss of esteem among investors causes us lower share value and higher borrowing costs.

    .c. Loss of money if politicians try to look like heroes by passing unduly
    restrictive regulations to “protect” the public but give our earnings a savage wound and actually cause well-intentioned but bad reduction in our ability to serve the public interest.

    .2. What are our opportunities?

    Most crises may hurt us by making people think (a) we are endangering public health or safety, or (b) we are costing the public money as by charging too much or not paying enough, or (c) we are unfair to the public as by discrimination or harassment.

    Our opportunities are to have files of information—facts, pictures and perhaps charts, all of it pre-cleared by legal—showing journalists, “until we have an opportunity to get you more facts on this which we’re eager to do,” that the truth is we PROTECT public safety in ways you can see from the fact file, we SAVE the public money as the facts and pictures show, and we PROMOTE fairness in four ways as the fact file makes clear.

    Reality is that human errors sometimes happen but we try day after day to serve the public interest and we succeed in helping the public importantly in many ways.

    .3. Who can we call in to help?

    Ketchum and the other great PR firms are used by some of the world’s most savvy accounts, here is WHO at Ketchum (and elsewhere) seems superbly qualified to guide accounts like ours, plus here’s capabilities information on Ketchum and five other top PR firms that I keep on file just in case.

    A great PR firm has so many different skills that it can be like the emergency room of a great hospital with all kinds of specialist experts on call. If you can rattle off some of the skills and document some of the credentials, you are like a great doctor who steps in with answers when a patient and family are justly fearful of the worst but hoping with your help for the best.

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