Today we have a quick and easy access to numerous digital platforms. On one hand, this makes the job of PR and marketing specialists a lot easier when it comes to spreading corporate and brand messages. On the other hand, however, the multitude of digital platforms is fertile ground for fast-growing crises.

During recent years, many global companies have faced serious PR crises where a quick amateur video or a tweet threatened to destroy a brand and required extensive and expensive countermeasures.

Today’s digital age changes not only the way we communicate but also the speed with which information travels and spreads across different channels and media. It is now close to impossible to identify dangers and threats or to access and analyze information about unfavorable events that have already occurred, without the help of a machine.

Steven Fink, a crisis management pioneer, has identified 4 stages of a crisis: Prodromal Stage, Acute Stage, Chronic Stage, Resolution Stage.

crisis management tools:  Crisis stages by Steven Fink

We will now examine the characteristics of each stage and how a crisis can be prevented, tracked, assessed and analyzed with the help of media monitoring tools.

Prodromal Stage

This is the “early warning” period. Sometimes referred to as the “pre-crisis” stage. First warning signs appear, such as negative client feedback, a crisis suffered by a competitor, etc. The continuous daily monitoring of your brand and competitor mentions helps not only when evaluating your brand awareness and the effectiveness of your campaigns, but also with early spotting of warning signs. This provides invaluable lead time to deal with a crisis, should one occur. If the warning signs/symptoms are identified pre-emptively, unfavorable events can be prevented altogether, and the damage minimized. Corporations still underestimate the importance of prevention. Unfortunately, It must be noted that certain problems are impossible to predict.

Acute Stage

This is the crisis per se. This stage begins once the situation has begun. How long it continues is a matter of how much additional damage occurs.

When an unfavorable event has already taken place, a fast reaction and measures are of utmost importance when dealing with the issue in hand. In the best-case scenario, a company must issue a statement within one hour in order to avert the danger of media speculation.

Before issuing a statement, PR specialists must collect as much information as possible in as little time as possible and assess all possible scenarios.

Good media monitoring tools can identify and define the origin of the crisis within minutes: where it started, in which channels it is currently active (online, social, broadcast media), what is its geographical and linguistic reach, who are the opinion leaders, what sub-topics are forming, etc.

The Acute Stage is characterized by the volatility of events and information; its tracking is close to impossible without the help of a specialized tool.

Chronic Stage

This is the peak of the crisis, yet the media and public attention and interest drop drastically. The subject loses its attraction to reporters. Some experts call this the “post-mortem” phase. This is also the period of exploration, doubt, and self-analysis. Monitoring tools allow precise filtering, classification, and visualization of data per period and time frames. Error analysis is important as it helps with the development of best practices and prevention.

Resolution Stage

The balance within the organization and the public is being restored. French philosopher and sociologist Edgar Morin outlines three possible outcomes for organizations that have gone through a crisis:

  • Total degradation: In this instance, the affected agent must deploy all resources at its disposal, both human and material, in order to regain its previous status;
  • Return to normal:  The company has an opportunity to gain insights and draw conclusions and, after appropriate analysis, take measures in the problem areas that have led to the crisis;
  • A possibility for change: The organization has an opportunity to develop new capabilities and even branch out to different areas.

With the development of new technologies, information has turned to gold for corporations. When it comes to crisis management and communication, correct analysis of data and information along with swift action, based on said analysis, can prove decisive when dealing with a crisis.

Media monitoring tools cannot replace the human component altogether but can help immensely when an important decision has to be made in a very limited time, in order to enhance pre-crisis foreseeing ability, in-crisis rescue ability, and post-crisis recovery ability.