Crisis management during COVID-19: social listening guide for brands

Julia Miashkova
by Julia Miashkova on April 8, 2020

You don't need me to tell you about the weird times we live in. At this point, any of your social media feeds is likely about 80% COVID-19, and so are your inboxes and DMs. All things postponed, canceled, or changed forever, everybody is affected by the pandemic.

If you're safe and well (which I honestly hope you are), you're better off self-isolated and washing your hands religiously. While these are the necessary precautions we take for the sake of our health and wellbeing, what can be done for the wellbeing of brands?

COVID-19, as much as it's a health hazard to all of us humans, is a massive hazard to businesses: economic as much as reputational. While some brands are handling the pandemic like total pros, warming and winning the hearts of customers, others are getting some very bad reputation points as a result of their layoff policies or simply poorly-informed marketing moves. 

To help your brand weather the storm and sail safe #AfterThisIsOver, it's crucial to do the from-home-work now when we're in the middle of it. It doesn't have to be hard or time-consuming either — all you need to do is keep yourself and social media monitoring going.

I've put together a checklist for you to take care of your brand health during the coronavirus crisis. For effortless reputation monitoring, we'll need Awario's social listening and analytics. In case you haven't, go ahead and grab Awario's free trial and let's get started.

Step 1. Fine-tune your monitoring

Reputation management starts with continuous brand mentions monitoring, always. Even if you're well along that front, with years of consistent social listening data as your asset, there are some things to be coronavirus-adjusted.

Namely, you'll need a new mentions monitoring alert for the time of the pandemic. This is done to keep your regular mentions monitoring intact and running for years after the crisis is over, without coronavirus conversations overpowering everything (as they tend to). In your new mentions monitoring alert, let's go Boolean and throw COVID-19 into the search.

In order to track your brand reputation in the time of coronavirus, you'll need to set Awario to collect mentions of your company and the pandemic. Here, we'll need every COVID-19 name in the book, including colloquial terms and expressions. I'll leave my Boolean alert down below for you to copy and paste into yours. 

(+"Your Brand Name"
(coronavirus OR coronaviruses OR pandemic OR corona OR "Sars-CoV-2" OR ncov2019 OR covid19 OR SARSCoV2 OR coronaoutbreak OR coronalockdown OR coronavirusoutbreak OR coronapocalypse OR covid OR covid019))
AND lang:en
FROM facebook,instagram,news-blogs,reddit,twitter,web,youtube

Now that you've modified your search conditions, Awario will search social media and the web for every mention of your brand in relation to coronavirus. Give the tool some time to collect social data and go right to the Dashboard

Step 2. Get a quick scan of your performance

In this step, we'll be exploring the social listening analytics represented in Awario's Dashboard. Let's see how COVID-19 affected conversations around your brand.

  • The Mentions and Reach graphs will give you insights into the volume of conversations. Here, we're looking for any fluctuations in brand mentions in the context of the pandemic. 
  • The Sentiment field is the assessment of the tone of mentions. As part of crisis management, we're interested in the increase in negative mentions, if any.
  • The Countries and Languages sections give you an overview of the geographical distribution of conversations. For brands tracking their performance globally and in multiple languages, the sections are especially useful for tracking shifts in local markets.
  • The Topic cloud is where you explore the contexts behind the mentions. Dive into the trending keywords that pop up in your brand mentions in times of crisis. 
  • The Sources section offers a breakdown of conversations by social platform + the web. Here, you can spot any irregular activity depending on what platforms you target the most.
  • The Mentions and Influencers feed is where you discover the biggest names behind the mentions. See if there are any influencers or publishers you'd like to get in touch with.

For a full overview of your performance on any given platform, go ahead and unselect the sources you're not interested in. This can be done by clicking on the social media and web icons located at the top of Awario's Dashboard. You can also narrow the stats down to a specific time period by adjusting the time frame on the top right.

Step 3. Address the most important mentions

Now that you have a general idea of what's been going on with your brand online, let's take a closer look at the mentions driving the conversation. For this, we'll be diving into the Mentions feed

In times of a crisis, social media is the place your customers go to talk about it. Your job is to handle brand mentions and respond to the most urgent issues and concerns, even if you can't provide an immediate solution. To detect your most important mentions, sort conversations by Reach and group them by Authors.

We put the most influential mentions first as they're more likely to blow up into a reputation crisis, but the ultimate objective is to take care of every mention. An even shorter path to crisis management would be applying advanced filtering to specify the time period, sources, reach, and sentiment. This way, you get to dig up relevant mentions only.

Whenever you spot the mentions you'll need to address, go ahead and star or tag them for a quick follow-up later on. Better yet, click on the mentions in the feed and see full posts with Author cards to the right. You can double-check the author's background, follow them, add a note, or interact with the mention in-app.

Make sure you tag all important mentions so that nothing gets lost in the process. Eventually, make it a goal to engage with every brand mention — companies that listen make it out of the crisis much safer than those that don't.

Step 4. Check your media coverage 

Mass media can be your most trusted ally and the fiercest enemy, depending on what coverage your brand gets, especially in times of a crisis. While replying to mentions from influencers' and customers' personal accounts is important for keeping a human face, communicating your messages to the media is essential for promoting goodwill with publishers. After all, the classic definition of a reputation crisis is a feud facilitated by no other than mass media.

Social listening is brilliant for keeping close tabs on the media coverage your company gets in times when media coverage is incredibly thick as is. Because Awario monitors both social media and the web, you get a full picture of your online performance, including blogs and news.

To jump right to the news coverage your brand is getting, you'll need to unselect social media platforms and keep News/Blogs and the Web as your sources.

The drill is the same here: depending on the sentiment and urgency, you either interact with the mentions in-app or star/tag them for a follow-up later on.

Step 5. Set up notifications and stay updated

One thing about crises is they are overwhelming. One day you're running your business as usual and the next day it feels like the world is falling apart. Social media is perfectly reflective of it: posts pop up 24/7, and it's becoming harder and harder to prioritize them and stay sane.

Leave non-stop brand monitoring to Awario and set the tool to update you every now and then. When you set up mentions monitoring, daily email notifications are enabled by default. You can tweak this further in your settings and add weekly notifications or disable email updates altogether.

To stay in the know at all times, although that might be a dangerous strategy given the slew of pandemic-related information online, you can set Awario to send you Slack notifications in real-time. This way, you'll be notified of all new mentions as soon as they are discovered. 

Step 6. Learn from the mentions and plan ahead

The most important lesson a crisis teaches us is that there's no way to be fully prepared for it. Even with a mighty PR department at your disposal, pandemic-related communication strategy is not something you prioritize way ahead, when nobody can quite anticipate it.

What you can do now, however, is take note of the online conversations around your brand and learn from them to then re-think your content strategy. Awario's Topic cloud is a brilliant feature for catching the topics dominating the discussion at any given moment, in times of crisis very much included.

Keeping an eye on the Topic cloud is the quickest way to scan all your brand mentions for trending keywords and running themes. By hovering over the cloud, you can see the volume of conversations and assess the damage in case something negative is trending. By clicking on the keywords, you can jump right to the mentions and explore the conversations further.

Depending on what's stirring the talk this week, you can plan your messaging for the upcoming weeks or months to reflect customers' concerns and deliver better services under the circumstances.

Final thoughts

Crises are no joke, and this goes for brands as much as it does for public health. We need every piece of support and compassion there is. Markets are changing, consumer behaviors do too, and nothing will be quite the same. 

As soon as we make it through the difficult times, however, there will remain a lot of work to be done for businesses and brands. Depending on how well you're handling the crisis now, the aftermath of it all will vary accordingly. Stay safe, keep calm, and use social listening for seamless crisis management. Awario has your back on this one.

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Thanks for taking the time to read this guide, I hope you'll find it useful in your crisis management work! If you need assistance with setting up brand monitoring in the context of COVID-19, leave a comment below and we'll help you get social listening started.

Meanwhile, to help you set up a steady communication flow — both internal and external — make sure you check out these no-cost templates for crisis management designed by our friends at Venngage. They put together a pack of resources you can use in crisis and beyond. 

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