Crisis always seems to hit at the worst time. The middle of your Saturday… Sunday evening panic-buttonduring dinner with your family… the middle of your REM sleep cycle….

As PR pros, we’re never “off.” We’re always checking our phones, ready for anything our clients need. When crisis does strike, it helps to be ready with a plan of action. Here are four steps you can take to make sure you’re ready with what your client needs, when they need it.

1. Create reporting templates: Talk to your client about how they prefer to receive reporting. We typically provide a tabbed excel spreadsheet that includes a tab for social buzz, a tab for traditional/online media and a tab with broadcast coverage. Make a template of this report and have it ready, so you aren’t fussing around with formatting while your client is nervously tapping his or her desk, waiting for their first report to come through. We include our clients’ colors and logos to ensure it can immediately be forwarded up the chain without any additional edits on their end.

2. Know your monitoring tools inside and out:

  • Social media – Make sure you know which tools you’ll be using for social media monitoring, and then the service you use provides search results immediately. Some of today’s popular tools actually take a few hours, or even days, load the results for your search terms. This time you just don’t have.
    • Quick Tip: Trend graphs (which many services provide) are invaluable. They can show how much traction your story is getting – is it going viral, or tapering off? You can start to guesstimate the lifespan of your story based on its timing online. Here’s an example:

Buzz Bin - Crisis Monitoring

  • Traditional Media – Same goes for your traditional/online media monitoring tool. How quickly does it post articles/news results. Is it easy to export the data quickly and in a useful format? Does it provide UMV for websites as well as print circulation?
    • Quick Tip: Never rely just on your monitoring tool. Always do a back-up Google News search to be sure you’re not missing any critical articles or pieces.
  • Broadcast media – Often stories will start on the local news and then gain traction over time (sometimes even over a period of months) before breaking with national media. It’s good to have your eyes and ears open from a local perspective, and the tools that allow you to do this are much cheaper than they were a few years ago. If it was out of budget for you, it might be worth taking another look.
    • Quick Tip: If you find yourself in a crisis without a broadcast monitoring service, and you need one fast, you may be able to set up a free trial with some vendors, to at least get you through the first few days of crisis monitoring.

3.  Keep tweaking your search terms: As the story starts to gain momentum, read the pieces that result and click on their Twitter share buttons to see the automatic tweets they prompt. Sometimes, your original search terms aren’t included in those 140 character snippets, so you may have to add additional terms to be sure your capturing all of the social buzz.

 4. Have a deep bench: You’re doing a disservice to your client and your team if you’re the only one who knows how to use your media monitoring tools and pull a report quickly. Suppose you’re out of cell range when a crisis hits. Your team will be left scrambling to try to pull a report without any guidance. Create a weekly rotation schedule so that team members know they are on deck during a given weekend if a crisis arises.