Crisis Management: Key Metrics and a Case Study

The definition of crisis is “a time when a difficult or important decision must be made.” To effectively monitor and manage a crisis and understand the decisions they need to make, organizations must be plugged into the online conversation. Strong, strategic social listening in a crisis ensures you know a crisis on campus is brewing before you get a call from your president, allows you to monitor the issue in real-time to inform your PR response, ensures campus safety, and mitigates brand impact.

Key Crisis Metrics

Especially in a crisis, the volume and complexity of social listening data can become overwhelming. Whether your role is to work with leaders to inform campus response, respond to individuals on social media, or work with campus safety, there are key metrics that allow you to identify actionable insights instead of drowning in data.

Crisis Conversation Volume: The number of online mentions related to the crisis. This is the first metric you should measure. This number can be tracked in real time and reported in hourly or daily increments. Identifying all conversation about the crisis—not just the mentions of your campus—is important so you have the full context of the conversation.

Over time, crisis conversation volume can be benchmarked for your campus so you can quickly compare new issues to those you’ve already experienced. For example, you could determine if the crisis sparking conversation is roughly equal to the controversial public art displayed on campus last year, or if it’s closer to the time you had to lock down campus after false reports of an active shooter, and react accordingly—if at all.

Crisis Share of Voice: The percentage of the crisis conversation volume that references your campus or individuals associated with your campus. This provides important context to the conversation to determine if your brand is synonymous with the crisis, or just a secondary actor.

Sentiment: The percentage of the conversation that is positive, negative, or neutral. Most enterprise social listening software automatically tags mentions for sentiment, but depends on algorithms that are imperfect. Sentiment is best used as an at-a-glance metric; it is only perfectly measured if you have a human reviewing individual mentions using agreed-upon guidelines.

Top Topics: The words or phrases most often mentioned in the conversation. You’re likely familiar with word clouds—they’re a quantitative representation of qualitative data. In fact, there’s a data table that powers every word cloud. The frequency of each word or phrase in a data set is counted to create the word cloud. Having access to the quantitative data in addition to the qualitative representation helps your team understand what, exactly, people are talking about in the crisis conversation. This aids in prioritizing messaging, identifying threats to campus safety, or identifying misinformation.

Media Mention Volume: The amount of articles (including blog posts) that have been published about the crisis. This metric can be ranked according to website traffic, MozRank, or social shares of the articles.

Individual Mention Volume: The amount of people (individuals) talking about the crisis. This metric removes mentions from the media or other organizations and focuses on the humans engaged in the conversation so you can assess the public awareness of the issue. Analysis of these mentions can help you identify influencers and any non-human elements of the conversation (e.g., bots, fake accounts, etc.).

Strategic Questions

Once you have all of your key crisis metrics, you can answer strategic questions that will help with your social listening and crisis management. Download The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook and find the crisis management questions on page 15.

Crisis Case Study: Sometimes the Best thing to Say Is Nothing

One of Campus Sonar’s expert services is helping you through the difficult decisions that you need to make when you encounter a crisis. A recent university client dealt with a crisis when a former employee was implicated in a scam. The news story broke in the national media and the university needed to know if the story was spreading, how it was spreading, and how quickly it was spreading.

Monitoring the Conversation

As a current Campus Sonar client, the university asked for our help in monitoring the crisis. A few hours after their phone call, analyst Amber Sandall had them up and running and continued to provide the university with up-to-the-minute news.  Amber provided the university with the scope of the online conversation and mentions—most of which they wouldn’t have been able to find without help from our software and data analysis. Amber monitored:

  • Total online conversation around the issue
  • Client-specific conversation, i.e., how much of the total conversation about the issue mentioned the university
  • Online reach of the conversation, whether the content surrounding the issue generated a lot of shares and comments or if it was contained to a few individuals or organizations
  • Mentions from key individuals or organizations in the higher education industry

By monitoring the conversation, the goal was to help the university answer five important questions. The answers to these questions would determine their response to the crisis.

Building a Client Dashboard

As soon as Campus Sonar became aware of the crisis, Amber built a query (~1,400 characters with over 50 search terms) that included relevant key words and links to news articles. She also created an online dashboard to monitor the conversation, mentions, and reach. The university had 24/7 access to the dashboard that updated in real-time—allowing them to see all of the results that pulled in from the query. Amber monitored the dashboard to watch for an increase in sudden mention volume or a key individual or organization covering the issue. Throughout the issue, Amber kept the university aware with a trend analysis (e.g., who is providing coverage or commenting on the issue, whether we expect the issue to grow or die out, top authors and sentiment, percentage of conversation that pertains to the university, etc.).

The University’s Response

Amber’s analysis provided the university with the information they needed to determine the appropriate response. The university’s media relations team didn’t have a social media strategy, but Campus Sonar worked quickly to help them understand the online conversation, enabling the team to confidently report crisis details to their executive leadership while it was unfolding. Campus Sonar’s analysis of the scope and volume of the conversation convinced the university that an official response wasn’t necessary. In fact, it may have saved them from unnecessary negative attention to an issue that naturally died out on its own.

Key Takeaways

Don’t dismiss manual investigation. When Amber dove into the university’s mentions and did some manual investigating on the individuals who commented, a handful of them were associated with the higher education world. Amber monitored these key individuals in case a reporter wrote an article, or a competitor responded.

Consider fake content. Because this issue involved citizens who are regularly in the news (veterans), part of the online conversation was driven by bots or fake right-wing accounts. Ultimately, real people interact with fake content so it still drives the conversation. It’s important to determine who is influencing the conversation.

Find Out More about Social Listening

The Higher Ed Social Listening Handbook profiles more crisis case studies, as well as case studies for other social listening insights, such as brand management and influencer marketing, that allow you to execute your strategy.

Download the handbook