Your Guide to Creating a Collaborative, Centralized Command Center

Posted by Margot Sinclair Savell on September 15, 2017

How many times have you lacked confidence in your company’s media and social analytics? How often have you received data one week or even more after the activity occurred?

Do your analytics demonstrate the full picture of your brand’s social health, or is the information in silos?

Most importantly, how can your company be responsive in an era when we are drowning in data that is delivered at a high speed?

The answer is a collaborative, centralized command center that supports your organization’s multichannel marketing strategy and is staffed by a cross-department team to 1) monitor and respond to the media data, 2) find out what is driving the conversations, 3) provide rich visualizations, and 4) deliver information in real time to the Chief Communications Officer, other senior leaders and key managers.

Command Centers

A command center – sometimes called a global war room, mission control or brand newsroom – is a dedicated meeting room where carefully selected team members pool their expertise and skills, going beyond social listening to social intelligence and narrative intelligence.

In some cases, a large state-of-the art command center provides all the bells and whistles to showcase your brand’s media success and discover new narrative-borne opportunities. In other situations, you might simply set up a small room containing a few desks, computers and a couple of screens projected on the walls.

Either way, these projections display real-time mentions and reactions to breaking news. With a few keystrokes, you see how your brand stacks up against competitors, if your coverage is trending positive, which messages are resonating, which media channels are used most frequently by your target audiences, who are the influencers driving narratives on topics that are important to your business, and if your content was amplified across channels. In just a click, you review results in various geographies and languages.

The screens in the command center can also be visible on computers, mobile phones and tablets, so executives and others can view the real-time data with their morning coffee, in their offices, in the evening, during travels or anytime, anywhere.

Centralized Collaboration

Online conversations happen around the clock, sometimes hundreds or even thousands of brand mentions each day. In a centralized, collaborative environment, the cross-department command center team creates order out of the data chaos, by organizing and expediting the flow of information, and coordinating with other departments, business units, regions and countries.

The composition of the team is crucial. In addition to analysts, social media managers, brand managers and content developers, this group includes representatives from PR, marketing, digital, events, sales, products and customer service. The team is also experienced in crisis communications and can quickly ramp up, should a crisis occur.

Team members monitor and analyze media conversations, determine the best processes to engage with your audiences and decide on the best methods to distribute key content companywide. They mine data for valuable insights, spot trends and identify successes, while discovering opportunities to drive creative strategies and communications decisions in the future.

Their research can also help determine the awareness and perception of your brand in geographical markets, and the effectiveness of your thought leadership efforts. Collaboration by representatives across the company can also spark ideas for new campaigns and programs.

Your Guide

Here are the steps to set up a collaborative, centralized command center.

Select the Team, Physical Location and Equipment

  • Carefully choose your team to work in the command center. (See above for what positions should be represented.) Most organizations assign anywhere from 3-12 team members for command center operations.
  • Make sure members have clear and focused roles and responsibilities, such as monitoring the data, analyzing it, responding to posts, and distributing frequent reports to key players in your organization.
  • Select equipment such as computers and flat-screen monitors. Organizations typically display between 2-12 screens, depending on the size of their team and the depth of their analytics.
  • Determine the preferred monitoring platform and/or software that can collect all the data for your metrics, channels, geographies and languages.
  • Find the best location for the command center – for example, do you want it in the center of your communications department or on the main floor in a highly visible area? Do you also want small (two-screen) kiosks for executive offices? Do you want a command center at your headquarters only, or also at other geographical locations?
  • In a related decision, define who should be able to view the screens and visualizations. Should partners, clients, customers and other visitors to your offices be able to see the command center? Should the C-suite, other senior leaders, department leads and employees have access to it? Or should the command center team present them with daily data points instead? Who should be able to see the visualizations on their computers and mobile devices?

Choose Metrics and Visualizations

  • Ensure that you have a solid analytics strategy and a distribution plan in place before you focus on the real-time data visualizations.
  • Determine what represents success to your C-suite, and choose metrics accordingly.
  • Connect additional key metrics to your business and communications goals.
  • To collect the data, develop complex search strings based on the most relevant keywords, which represent all departments, business units and geographies. Analysts should lead this effort but the entire team should collaborate with them.
  • Customize your visualizations – in addition to a view of key metrics, do you want to see the results by channels (i.e., a Twitter feed or global heat map), by hashtag stream, top influencer posts, or the media visibility of your executives and other spokespeople? Do you want to view a word cloud, a video stream, current industry news or web analytics? Do you want to parse data by business units, geographies and languages?
  • Test your search strings and the resulting visualizations in a soft launch and revise both until you have the most accurate and relevant information possible.

Of note, command centers have high visibility (both physically and via the analytics), so the best practice is to start with a pilot project – perhaps focusing on one department or one business unit. Once you demonstrate its accomplishments, then expand the process across the company and geographies. For large international corporations, the ultimate goal might be a global team of rapid-response experts in every language, who are well-versed in the best practices for analytics and crisis management.


The team in your command center will discover trends, provide strategic, centralized insights across the organization, protect your security and reputation from risks stemming from online narratives, drive future communications and business strategies, centralize intelligence across the enterprise, and communicate to a diverse set of stakeholders.

But the starting point should always be to determine what represents success to your senior leadership. My next blog post will provide additional details about command centers focused on the C-suite.

To learn more how Communications and Risk teams can build a Command Center to maintain broad awareness of narratives related to your business, download our guide to getting ahead of narrative-borne threats.


Margot Sinclair Savell is an award-winning writer who has decades of experience crafting and editing content. During 15 years at agencies such as Hill+Knowlton Strategies and Weber Shandwick, she specialized in strategic counsel for measurement, insights and analytics. In 2016, she was inducted into the PR Measurement Hall of Fame.

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