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How to Use Social Listening and Digital Insights to Prevent and Handle a Brand Crisis

With increasing internet accessibility and social media use, it has become much easier for trends and conversations to spread. Before you know it, certain topics and issues quickly become viral in this digital era, owing largely to social media. For brands, this could be a good way to raise awareness and reach a massive audience. On the flip side, it could also open a whole Pandora’s Box of threats in the form of reputational risks and PR crisis.

A single negative Tweet or TikTok video could easily go global and spiral out of control, resulting in huge losses for your brand. So it’s up to you to prevent this type of social media crisis and protect your brand reputation. This post will show you how to leverage social listening and digital insights to do just that.

What is a brand crisis?

A brand crisis can be defined as an event that threatens a brand’s reputation and its perceived ability to meet expectations. It’s typically well-publicised and a trending topic of discussion on social media. With more and more people talking about the event, it quickly goes global and influences people’s perception towards the brand. 

This shift in perception eventually affects the company’s bottom line as it plays a role in consumer purchase decisions and customer loyalty. As such, brands need to quickly manage and resolve a social media crisis before it escalates into something worse.

The 2018 KFC chicken shortage is a leading example of a brand crisis. An issue in the supply chain trickled down and led to the chicken restaurant running out of chicken across several locations in the U.K. This caused mass outrage among loyal KFC fans, with some even calling up police to complain.

More recently, Balenciaga’s ad campaigns resulted in a PR crisis and widespread social media outrage. The crisis became so bad that the brand had to rope in a crisis management expert to help them through the scandal.

These are just a few examples of what a brand crisis might look like. As you can see, it may start from something as seemingly simple as an ad campaign. Supply chain disruptions and product quality or performance issues are also leading causes of a PR crisis such as the ones highlighted above. Regardless of its origins, the event can quickly turn into a major disaster with social media fuelling conversations and getting it in front of a larger audience.

Social listening allows brands to keep track of relevant social media conversations plan a waterproof crisis management strategy.

How to use social listening to prevent a crisis (and know when the crisis has struck)

With social media being a platform where most modern brand crises begin, it’s also a powerful resource for anticipating possible issues early enough to prevent them. Social listening allows brands to keep track of relevant social media conversations and identify threats before they turn into a bigger problem.

You can use social listening tools to detect an upwards trend in negative sentiment, which could indicate an upcoming social media crisis. This will give you enough time to get to the root of the problem and resolve it before it escalates. The source could be anything from an influential post that went viral or a customer service issue that could have been prevented. When you stay on top of complaints and rumours, you can proactively address them before they spiral out of control.

Brands can also set up alerts and get notified whenever there’s a huge spike in negative brand mentions or a change in sentiment, which would indicate that the crisis has struck. You can develop a communication plan to address the issue and then use social listening to monitor how the audience is responding to it. This allows you to restore trust and loyalty, and more importantly, learn from the experience to prevent future crises.

The measures to prevent a crisis (and handle it when it’s struck)

Preventing and managing a brand crisis usually involves constant social media monitoring coupled with an appropriate crisis response plan. Let’s break down the key steps involved in crisis management and prevention.

1. Identify early warning signs with brand and industry tracking

The key to crisis prevention is adopting a proactive approach with brand and industry tracking. Brand tracking involves continuously monitoring your owned social channels to measure changes in brand perception and sentiment. These changes may serve as an early warning sign, allowing you to spot impending problems well before they turn into an actual issue. 

It also requires monitoring relevant brand mentions, hashtags and topics to see what people are talking about. The process helps you identify potential threats that could escalate into a crisis based on the content of those conversations and the sentiments behind them. 

Keep in mind that a few negative comments and mentions are reasonable. However, a gradual increase in negative sentiment and conversations could be an early sign of something more serious. Meanwhile, a sharp spike might indicate that the crisis has struck.

2. Get the facts right and identify the source of the crisis

If the crisis has already struck, the logical step would be to repair the damage. Before that, take a closer look at the crisis to assess the extent of the damage and identify the source. This is essential so you can come up with an appropriate crisis management plan that’s specifically designed for the situation. You can’t rely on a one-size-fits-all response since each crisis may have a unique DNA depending on factors such as the source and type.

Use social listening tools to measure the audience reach of the crisis and the volume of conversations. Checking whether the media has picked up the event is also an essential step as this may drastically amplify its reach. A critical step is to trace the social media conversations back to the source. Identify the specific event, post and user that triggered the initial spark so you can better understand the background and determine how to approach the issue.

Although social monitoring tools are necessary to collect valuable data, make sure you also have human analysts to analyse the data you’ve collected. Since human analysts can take a critical look at the data, they can better identify nuances and underlying issues behind the crisis. This will give you a comprehensive understanding of your brand crisis to inform your management plan.


A crisis can start from something as seemingly simple as an ad campaign. By leveraging social listening and digital insights, you can prevent a crisis from spiralling out of control.
3. Develop an appropriate corporate communications strategy

Now that you’ve identified what needs addressing, it’s time to come up with a plan for how to address it. Every brand needs to have a crisis communication plan in place so there’s a proper guideline to follow for your crisis management team. This will outline how and where to deliver the message, which is typically determined by the audience you’re targeting with your message. 

Conduct an audience analysis to get a better idea of who’s going to receive your message. Are they primarily customers, employees or local community members? Understand which segment is the most vocal in their criticism and which segment is most likely to be affected. Then come up with an appropriate communication plan that factors in their needs, concerns and questions.

If the crisis has gone global, you may also need to adapt your response strategy according to different cultural nuances, languages and geographic locations. Convosphere can help with this. Local analysts will assess the severity of the problem and determine the concerns of the audience in specific regions. This will then allow you to devise a customised response strategy that utilises the most relevant communication channels and fully addresses the problem. 

With the cultural insights provided by local analysts, your brand can showcase a genuine concern for the needs of your audience and a desire to find a resolution.

4. Measure the effects of the response

While you may have carefully crafted your response, remember that it might not magically solve the problem. You need to continually monitor social media conversations and track brand performance metrics to see the impact of your response strategy. With social listening, you can track key performance indicators (KPIs) and observe how people are responding to your strategy. 

You may even need to refine your message to better align with the demands and concerns of your audience. Convosphere is on hand to provide you with advice to help you streamline your crisis management strategy.

5. Assess if the crisis has (truly) ended

As you notice improvements in brand sentiment and perception, you may be able to tell that the crisis is starting to die down. However, it’s important to keep your guard up and ensure that the crisis has truly ended before you allow yourself to relax. Even if the conversation seems to have slowed down in one market, there’s a chance it can spread to other regions.

Work with Convosphere’s multilingual social media monitoring team to see if the crisis has affected other regions. This will help you prepare an appropriate response plan to keep it in check before it affects your company’s bottom line.

6. Analyse and learn to prevent future crises

Finally, use the insights from your social listening efforts to inform and optimise your strategies. Analyse the data and the event to figure out why the crisis happened, how it escalated and how effective your response was. Based on this analysis, you should be able to discover practical ways to improve your social strategy and avoid future crises from arising.

Social listening tools uncover valuable data to show you when, why and where a brand crisis is happening, but human analysts are needed to know how to act on the data.

Strengthen your crisis management with Convosphere

Social listening and monitoring tools uncover valuable data to show you when, why and where a brand crisis is happening. However, you also need human analysts to analyse the data and tell you how the crisis should be managed. This is particularly important for a PR crisis that has gone global since there are cultural contexts and nuances to take into consideration.

With Convosphere’s local market presence and cultural familiarity across leading markets, you can effectively customise your crisis communication plan for each region. Contact us today to get global insights and add a human touch to your crisis prevention and management strategy.