Technology and critical thinking for crisis mitigation

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

EITN has a chat with Carma Asia’s Jeremiah Rodrigues, Client Services Manager about crisis management during this digital age.

EITN: Why has crisis management become tougher in a digital age? What are the main challenges businesses face when met with a crisis?

Jeremiah: According to a report by Facebook and Bain & Company, since the pandemic, 70 million more people have become digital consumers in Southeast Asia, and this is equivalent to the entire population of the United Kingdom.

With an ever-evolving media landscape and the rise of social media, crisis management has become increasingly challenging because issues can emerge from many sources and escalate at lightning speed. One social media post from an unhappy employee can quickly go viral across the internet. A story also does not need to be true to gain traction.

From a PR perspective, many organisations, especially smaller enterprises do not have a structured framework and processes in place to help them clearly communicate in a crisis.

Often when a crisis arises, communications teams scramble to go through vast amounts of coverage and data to understand its impact before deciding on the next steps. There is a need for businesses to respond almost immediately to ‘stop the fire’ and overtake consumers who are interacting on social media in real time. Failure to do so can lose credibility and precious time in the battle to maintain brand reputation.

EITN: How can businesses in APAC tap on data and technology to combat or navigate crises?

Jeremiah: In any potential crisis situation, time is a crucial factor. The more time you have to analyse the issues and prepare a response, the better it is. There are many tools and services available to help businesses stay ahead of an impending crisis. Organisations are turning to monitoring technology that captures brand mentions automatically to help raise any red flags. This is where technology plays a role in gathering data and sorting the huge volume of articles and social media posts at speed.

But technology can only do all the heavy lifting. Media monitoring technology delivers data; it does not do the critical thinking for you. Human analysis is critical to analyse the data and provide valuable insights so business can make informed decisions.

But technology can only do all the heavy lifting. Media monitoring technology delivers data; it does not do the critical thinking for you. Human analysis is critical to analyse the data and provide valuable insights so business can make informed decisions.

At CARMA, we always advise our clients to study the main drivers of discussion, which platforms and stakeholders are influencing the narrative and how the audience is reacting when looking into data. Sometimes, responses are met with scepticism – you want to know about this and keep track of its impact to see how the narrative is shifting. Post-crisis, it is always recommended to review the action steps taken and evaluate the communication efforts.

Of course, prevention is better than cure. Taking steps to deal with issues and therefore avoiding crises altogether is the best way to minimise reputational damage, so leveraging monitoring technology is the most fundamental to crisis management.

EITN: How can businesses mitigate the negative reputational impacts of crises?

Jeremiah: Often when things go wrong, your response will decide whether it comes through with brand reputation intact. Having a crisis communications plan that is up-to-scratch is key. You will not be able to cover every possible issue, but it should guide a method of working.

Once a crisis has been identified, responding with speed and getting ahead of the narrative can be a good way to soften its negative impact of the crisis is to respond with speed and getting ahead of the narrative. This boils down to working with your media intelligence partner to ensure that coverage is constantly being monitored so any negative news is picked up.

What we have seen to be effective is to have the company spokesperson or senior leaders at the forefront of the crisis, leading the way in responses. Interviews and spokesperson quotes are positive reputational drivers which can steer the narrative of the issue into better light. Expressing empathy and authenticity should be at the core of the response.

EITN: In your view, what constitutes successful crisis management?

Jeremiah: As Warren Buffet once said “it takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it”.

It is not always possible to avoid a crisis, but the key is to always be ready and to have all resources available to help with mitigating its impact.

Crisis awareness, preparation, and resilience should be a more prominent topic in the boardroom. In my view, successful crisis management is being able to gain control of the situation and communicating effectively to control the narrative. Following the crisis, it is about rectifying any negative reputation perspectives which might have resulted amongst both internal and external stakeholders.