Enterprises manage a tsunami of data daily – typically generated from digital and social media mentions about a company’s brand. These social and digital data points have the potential to dramatically affect the perception of a brand, especially when a crisis erupts. Communications departments are charged with establishing sound crisis management plans to counter any fallout that arises from an executive faux pas, product recall or shareholder lawsuit. Yet when the inevitable crisis is manifested in the form of a data tsunami, 60% of comms professionals are overwhelmed by the volume of information. This is a scary statistic, especially for the various departments involved in crisis response.

Part of this issue arises from the disparate sources of data stored in various PR, communications and social media tools. These silos fragment the data and workflows leveraged during a crisis response. For example, the PR and social media teams may establish wildly different metrics and thresholds for calibrating or detecting a crisis. At the same time, crisis-response teams cannot take an integrated approach to a problem. In the future, every enterprise must modernize their crisis communications plans by centralizing data, systems and workflows. Here are the top four areas that every crisis response team should address:

#1. Leverage one source of the truth for KPIs, metrics and reporting

During a crisis, individuals may not always operate using the same playbook and data set. This fragmented approach will result in confusion across the team and a substandard decision-making environment. During any digitally-fueled crisis, it’s important that the entire cross-functional team leverage one source of the truth. Most companies today operate across a fragmented set of departments, data sets, systems and tools and workflows. As part of the planning process, organizations should rationalize and centralize tool sets, data, KPIs, reporting frameworks and workflows.

For example, some of Zignal’s largest enterprise customers today have established large “mission control” centers inside of their headquarter and affiliate offices. These centralized “hubs” serve as an aggregator of media intelligence data, reports, processes and decisions. Most importantly, during a crisis, these physical locations become the nerve center of all operations to ensure consistency, rapid response and data-driven decision making.

#2. Establish a baseline from your core metrics

What truly constitutes a crisis? The answer will vary from company to company. By establishing a metrics- and fact-based baseline, communications teams can quickly calibrate the severity of a real (vs. imaginary) crisis. Teams should track total mentions and impressions, average sentiment, keywords and the influencers who discuss their brand. Based upon this data, organizations will know their baseline of normal daily activity. When a crisis hits, these predefined threshold parameters will help assess the nature and severity of a crisis — ultimately guiding the appropriate response and commensurate resources.

#3. Build an integrated cross-functional team

During a crisis, the participating cast of characters involved in the response phase is broad. The team will likely include individuals from public relations, communications, digital marketing, social media, legal, investor relations, public affairs and the CEOs office. As you build out your cross-matrixed team, define the roles and process for data and reporting, escalation, decision-making and engaging the media.

#4. Look for the early warning signs

Just like a burglar alarm protecting our homes, it’s important to establish an early-warning alert system for crisis communications. This system can potentially mitigate a crisis early by generating proactive notifications whenever any threatening activity is detected.

While it’s impossible to predict the nuances leading up to every crisis, companies should create their own list of crisis triggers to monitor across the media spectrum. For example, financial services firms or retailers should monitor excessive mentions of their brand with a co-occurrence of “data breach.” Where to start? Executives, sales members, customer support representatives, public affairs and other key team members can help create this list based upon previous crises, business rules and legal policies.

Be prepared for your next crisis

While you can’t plan for the timing of your next inevitable crisis – you can start modernizing your systems and processes. The first step is to anticipate the full firehose of data generated from traditional and digital media and establish one central platform for both media and social intelligence. By doing so, you will empower every department across the enterprise with accurate insight and decision-support, allowing them to proactively respond to any crisis.

To learn more about how a centralized approach to data and media intelligence can help your organization with crisis management, download our eBook “Ten Ways that Big Data Will Modernize Your Crisis Communications Plan