Navigating A PR Crisis: How Media Monitoring Can Help Identify, Respond & Manage Crisis Response

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Media monitoring is listening to who’s saying what about your brand, your competitors, your industry, and any other topic that’s important to you and your operations.

It feels like you’ve been punched in the gut. 

Your boss is standing there in front of you – furious – demanding to know how you let this happen…

An industry report slamming your organization has been circulating since the beginning of the week and your competitors have been laughing it up, splashing it all over social media.

It’s been snowballing out of control, and you, the communications expert, haven’t done a thing.

How could you have when you’re just finding out now?

You feel sick.

A million thoughts and questions rush through your head. A couple of standouts are: “How did I get here?” and, better still, “How do I make sure this NEVER happens again?”

As organizations navigate the hyper-digital world in 2024, a crisis can hit you anytime. A negative review or social media complaint can snowball into a significant PR obstacle, hindering your reputation.

Organizations must adopt a proactive stance and develop a crisis management plan. Surprisingly, industry research highlights that less than half of organizations have a formal crisis plan, with 23% of the surveyed companies not having one. This lack of preparedness underscores the importance of tools like media monitoring in crisis management.

The role of media monitoring in a PR crisis

newspaper clipping

What was once a literal cut-and-paste job – where workers scoured newspapers and magazines for mentions, cut out the articles, and pasted them into physical clipbooks – is now a modern and technologically advanced practice; it uses machine learning, sophisticated algorithms, and powerful processors to track, gather, and organize mentions from across the media landscape. Sure, the premise remains the same – to track a particular topic through the media – but the process has become infinitely more refined.

We’ve traded in our scissors for software.

The past decade oversaw significant systemic shifts in media consumption, such as an accelerated news cycle and fast-paced dissemination through social media.

How an organization manages and responds to crises significantly affects its audience’s behaviour.

Industry research reveals that two-thirds of consumers say they are unlikely to shop with a company after it experiences a crisis and responds poorly. Successful organizations and communication professionals understand the necessity of planning ahead and adopting a proactive approach to PR crises.

That’s where media monitoring comes in. It allows you to analyze conversations and identify real-time trends, helping you understand public sentiment and how it might affect your business.

Particularly in the case of a PR crisis, where time and information are paramount, the right media monitoring strategy can allow you to detect and analyze a crisis early, helping you mitigate the damage and respond effectively.

The information and insights media monitoring allow brands to:

  • Prepare for and mitigate the damage of a potential crisis
  • Respond in a timely and effective manner
  • Resolve the crisis and become a stronger brand

How does media monitoring do this? This page will explore the numerous ways monitoring can help you and your team successfully navigate a PR crisis.

Here’s how we’re going to break it down

Why is media monitoring essential to PR crisis management?

We can think of many reasons why investing in a suitable media monitoring tool can help you combat a crisis.

A little gold nugget from our SlideShare “Taking Control With Media Monitoring: Tips for the Modern PR Guru“: “When you know who is saying what — and where — about the topics that matter to your organization, you give yourself an edge. When you don’t know, you’re at the mercy of your competition.”

when you know who is saying what about the topics that matter to your organization you give yourself an edge

Most PR teams already have some monitoring setup, but they must align its use with their crisis management strategies. Here’s our top five reasons why:

Foresight to avoid a PR crisis

Media monitoring gives PR teams knowledge. The best teams know to share that knowledge with critical organizational stakeholders. Armed with the latest relevant coverage—including potential sources of tension—leaders can sniff out a potential crisis and side-step it.

Early PR crisis detection

Think of monitoring as having a crisis radar. The earlier you have a heads-up, the longer you’ll have to prepare. Plus, media monitoring helps you avoid ending up red-faced when your CEO comes banging at your door, wondering why you didn’t inform them of this threat. No one wants to be in that situation.

Guiding a PR crisis response

Before responding to a crisis, you must gather the facts of the situation as quickly as possible. What’s being said, where, and by whom? If you know the sentiment of your audience, you’re far less likely to respond in a tone-deaf manner.

Understanding the progression of a PR crisis

An effective media monitoring tool with built-in PR reporting functions will show you when crisis-related coverage is accelerating or slowing down. You can benchmark important indicators (like sentiment and key messages) and closely monitor your brand’s recovery.

Finding opportunities to grow

While a crisis is usually perceived as generating only bleak outcomes, remember that it can provide learning and growth opportunities. A crisis demonstrates PR’s ability to deal with an unexpected event. Additionally, media monitoring can identify opportunities to reach a larger audience, build new media relationships, and connect with your audience in different ways.

Potential sources of a PR crisis

How exactly does one plan for all the unknown factors that can result in a crisis? Short answer: you can’t. There are countless ways an unexpected event can disrupt your brand. You’re likely familiar with most of the main categories of potential crises:

  • Natural or human-created disasters (hurricanes, plane crashes, workplace accidents, etc.)
  • Product issues (recalls, defects, etc.)
  • HR/policy conflict (discriminatory policies, etc.)
  • Employee issues (sexual harassment, payment issues, etc.)
  • Spokesperson indiscretions (insensitive or offensive comments and behaviours, etc.)
  • Legal/criminal charges (embezzlement, insider trading, etc.)

Christina Hennessey, Chief Content Officer for Throughline Group, came up with at least 50 ways to have a crisis.

Instead, it is imperative for organizations to take a proactive approach that enables them to be at the forefront of every development in their brand coverage, helping detect PR crises early.

No matter where and how a PR crisis happens, it almost always plays out in the media. Hence, it is imperative that you have a media monitoring strategy in place.

Setting up media monitoring to detect and manage a PR crisis

Media monitoring is an invaluable asset to a crisis comms team. Much of its benefit comes from setting up monitoring processes to optimize your crisis management activities.

Getting the best results from your monitoring solution starts with preparation and know-how. Our in-house team of monitoring experts broke down this initial prep into five simple steps.

Step 1: Choose your keywords

Crisis detection starts with the keywords you track, so it’s crucial to pay attention to them. An overlooked keyword can result in a missed threat to your brand’s reputation.

Here are some categories to keep in mind when building your list:

  1. Your organization’s name, brands, and products
  2. Spokespeople (C-suite, board members, and anyone else taking a public-facing role)
  3. Partners, suppliers, and vendors
  4. Competitors and their products
  5. Industry terms and governing associations and bodies
  6. Events and charities your organization is involved in
  7. Other vulnerabilities you’re aware of (hint: what’s keeping you up at night?

Modern media monitoring tools leverage AI to analyze your initial keyword list and suggest related topics and concepts, ensuring all angles are covered when monitoring your crisis media coverage.

Download How to Hear a Crisis Coming: 5 Steps for Setting Up Your Media Monitoring Tool for Successful Crisis Detection for tips and worksheets on how to choose your crisis-detection keywords.

Step 2: Set up searches

When setting up searches in your media monitoring tool, you need to balance their specificity with the total number you create. In other words, do you want many specific searches or fewer broader ones?

Your preference will depend on various factors, such as the size of your communications team, the complexity of your organization’s structure, and the number of coverage alerts, media briefings, and reports you want to create.

For more practical tips on setting up your searches, check out this guide.

Step 3: Use coverage alerts

Automated coverage alerts are especially useful in scenarios where having real-time notifications of media coverage is crucial—like a PR crisis.

Agility’s Coverage Surge notifies users whenever there is a significant change in your coverage metrics, so you are always the first to detect a PR crisis. Additionally, Recent Coverage highlights whenever new coverage that meets your criteria is found so you’re the first to uncover any new mention of your brand.

PR Crisis Ultimate Guide Recent Alert

Recent coverage alerts can help you identify potential crises before they snowball into a major PR debacle


Generally, you should set up alerts for anything that worries your comms or leadership teams. Do you need to keep a close eye on sources of disinformation? Should you know immediately if your brand gets covered in a specific outlet? Do you prefer to see alerts right away about mentions with negative sentiment?

Check out the two main questions to ask yourself when setting up coverage alerts.

Step 4: Leverage AI to analyze coverage

Once you’ve set up coverage searches, it will pull in every coverage that meets your keyword criteria. This will allow you to analyze the coverage and highlight crucial takeaways that can help guide your decision-making.

Advanced media monitoring platforms enable PR and communication professionals to conduct deeper analysis, such as understanding the contextual and semantic themes behind the coverage. This reveals critical takeaways from your coverage that would guide your crisis response.

Step 5: Send media briefings

Media briefings are the peanut butter to coverage alerts’ jelly.

While both alerts and briefings play critical roles in guiding a brand through a crisis, they have distinct purposes:

  • Recent Coverage Alerts send email notifications about a new media mention immediately.
  • Coverage Surge Alerts alert you when your coverage metrics experience significant changes.
  • Media Briefing Emails contain a set of mentions (often curated) and are usually sent daily or weekly.

It’s best to think of a coverage alert as a heads-up on a single mention sent to a handful of key individuals on your team. In contrast, a media briefing is a more complete story of your brand’s coverage, often sent to key stakeholders outside the communications team. The analysis and angle of the media briefing may depend on the department requiring the analysis or the use case, such as reviewing the sentimental analysis of media placement.

With media briefings, you curate the most relevant stories to share with stakeholders. What qualifies as important to you? Maybe it’s mentions that indicate where the crisis is headed or mentions in notable outlets.

Agility’s AI-powered platform allows you to delve deeper into coverage analysis, with Intelligent Insights enabling you to include key takeaways directly into the media briefings. Additionally, this AI-driven feature enables different departments to generate customized insights through a console. This helps them extract valuable information for their distinct use cases, driving informed decision-making.

Check out the three main considerations when setting up media briefings.

Step 6: Assess crisis progression

Reporting is crucial in understanding how a crisis is progressing and when a brand starts to regain control of its image.

Regularly creating reports during a crisis helps your team see the impact of the latest coverage and determine the next steps. It will also help you understand how the media and public perceive your crisis response. Our monitoring experts recommend setting up a series of reports and sharing them with your crisis team and other stakeholders.

Luckily, reports are easily compiled using any top-tier media monitoring tool. If your organization has complex needs, media intelligence services offer a white-glove solution that pairs advanced media monitoring with human curation to identify the most crucial elements of a crisis and track its progression. For example, tracking the volume of your brand’s coverage over time can help you determine the overall shape, any notable spikes, and when the story is dying down (or resurging).

With coverage over time, you can annotate when the crisis occurred, when your organization responded, and other key events in the timeline. This will give you a clear view of why spikes or drops in coverage appeared. It will also help highlight how timely your response to the crisis was.

Pr Crisis Ultimate Guide Graph

Coverage tracking allows you to visualize your mentions over time, highlighting key events where the crisis occurred – or how your response fared

Although you may not know your exact reporting needs beforehand, it’s good to understand the available reporting capabilities.

Effective media monitoring during a PR crisis

To successfully weather a crisis, brands should have a proactive media monitoring strategy in place. Brands must also be agile and reactive, adapting their monitoring practices as the crisis progresses. Evaluate your needs and how media monitoring supports them to keep your program running like clockwork.

Here are our six tips on how to stay agile and informed:

Get all the facts

Collecting the facts is critical at the beginning of—and throughout—a crisis. Rapidly analyzing what’s happened so far will help you with your initial response and provide direction on how to best monitor the emerging crisis. Ensure you have the complete picture by meeting with all involved parties, seeking out the unknowns, and being on guard for misinformation.

Revisit your setup

As you learn more about the situation, enhance your tracking capabilities by regularly tweaking your media monitoring searches. Agility’s AI-powered media monitoring platform offers related concept suggestions so you can cover every possible news angle.

Consider separating different story angles and organizing your coverage with naming conventions and tagging. Remove keywords sparingly!

Pay close attention to social

It’s well-known that social media can spread news of a crisis and be its point of origin. Whether it’s an unflattering hashtag on Instagram or a retweeted video on Twitter, a crisis can escalate rapidly when the algorithm boosts the story’s visibility.

As a preventative measure, regularly update your social media keywords and dedicate a team member to monitor the coverage. This will be critical in detecting the early signs of a crisis. For best results, adjust your searches regularly, use automated alerts, and review posts mentioning your brand.

Track journalists covering the crisis

One area where a PR crisis can have a silver lining is media relations. Consider the journalists (or influencers) covering the crisis as partners rather than adversaries, and train your spokespeople to do the same. Monitoring these journalists may provide you with opportunities to control the narrative.

Reach out to them to offer your brand’s statement and exclusives with spokespeople. These actions may result in establishing relationships with new contacts who will continue to cover you long after the crisis is over.

Track other players’ responses

There’s a good chance you aren’t in this crisis alone, but you may not have access to the involved parties—for example, competitors or former clients. If you are unable to work directly with an involved party, it’s critical to track their media coverage. Analyze their responses with your crisis team. Keep an eye on their non-crisis activities. Get the complete picture of their coverage by monitoring beyond their brand name (like you do with your organization).

For more tips on monitoring during a crisis, check out our guide Stop, Drop, and Monitor: A Guide to Effectively Using Media Monitoring During a Crisis.

Derive insights quickly with AI

Monitoring a PR crisis can be tedious, as PR professionals must carefully monitor multiple platforms and analyze media mentions. AI-powered media monitoring platforms enable real-time data analysis – helping users consider various viewpoints, interpret contextual analysis, and identify sentiment analysis.

Even when conducting damage control, AI can help analyze the effectiveness of the response and its impact on brand reputation. It will gauge changes in audience sentiment, brand engagement, and overall perception to track crisis progress.

Why you should monitor others’ PR crises

As important as it is to track your brand and crisis-related coverage, it’s equally important to track the coverage of other relevant parties. Observing another brand going through a crisis, whether a competitor, partner or another industry player, means you’ll see them at their most vulnerable. How they operate while navigating a crisis can provide valuable insight—but only if you add them to your searches.

Here are six reasons to track your competitors’ next crisis using a top-rated media monitoring tool:

  1. Simulation testing for your crisis team. A crisis that only indirectly affects your brand is the perfect scenario to practice your team’s response processes and see what works and what doesn’t.
  2. Identify potential threats. If your brand could easily replace the current one in the headlines, it’s time to kick your crisis management activities into high gear.
  3. Glean competitive insights. Dissect the messaging points communicated and actions taken by the brand experiencing the crisis. Evaluate the success of their response and debrief with your crisis and leadership teams about lessons learned.
  4. Reveal opportunities. A competitor’s dumpster fire can be your time to shine, connect with new audiences, and better position your brand in the industry. Look for opportunities to story-hijack recent coverage.
  5. Inform timing for PR activities. If a particular story is dominating news coverage, you may want to reschedule your own announcements and PR activities.
  6. Build relationships. Sharing insights gained from a competitor’s crisis with your client is an excellent opportunity to build a stronger relationship if those insights could aid them in the future.

For more details on monitoring your competitors’ crises, read our blog post 6 Reasons You Should Monitor Your Competitors’ Crises.

Media monitoring tools for a PR crisis

There are three main types of monitoring solutions:

  • Free or cheap options
  • Paid media monitoring tools
  • Premium media monitoring services

Are you equipped to handle your next crisis with your current media monitoring provider?

Free or cheap media monitoring options

If your media monitoring budget is non-existent and you still want to prepare for a potential crisis, consider setting up Google Alerts to track coverage in online news and blogs. You can augment this with free social media monitoring options.

But be warned… the results will be bare-bones, and you’ll probably miss some mentions, which isn’t ideal for crisis monitoring. Plus, you won’t have many options for efficiently sharing the coverage with others, nor will you have any easy crisis reporting options.

Trying to make the case to your leadership team to invest in a paid media monitoring tool? We recommend sharing the limitations of the free tools and why media monitoring is critical for detecting a crisis (something we’ve covered above).

Paid media monitoring tools

Having a budget to work with opens up many options. When we say media monitoring tools here, we’re referring to cloud-based software tools.

media monitoring tool is one that you set up (usually with the help of the provider) and maintain yourself. It includes a dashboard, the option for you to receive automated coverage alerts and media briefings, and integrated reporting capabilities that make it easy to share the progression of the crisis with all your stakeholders.

Advanced media monitoring tools utilize AI to automate routine tasks, extract deeper insights, simplify media communications, and suggest ideal outreach contacts—all within a single platform. Media monitoring platforms that combine media databases and outreach solutions are especially valuable for crisis response. They help you formulate effective responses and identify the right contacts to reach out to – streamlining your crisis response strategy.

Premium media monitoring services

When your needs are a little more extensive, it helps to have a personalized, fully managed service at your disposal—a provider who can partner in tracking your crisis.

If you’re working for a large organization that generates a lot of media coverage or has complex monitoring needs, a managed media monitoring service will be the best fit. You fall into this category if you…

  • Need someone to help separate the wheat from the chaff
  • Want advanced analysis and measurement
  • Care about quality of coverage, not just quantity
  • Require someone to create custom reports that meet your needs exactly
  • Trust sentiment analysis to a human over a piece of software

Agility PR Solutions’ media intelligence services provide exactly that. It combines powerful monitoring tools and human-augmented, fully managed services. Our media analysts set up and fine-tune keyword searches, curate executive-ready daily briefs, and add context and sentiment insights in a way that only humans can. And we always ensure you’re delighted with every curated report and media brief delivered!

The difference between this and an automated tool is the level of analysis you’ll get. An automated monitoring tool gives you the quantity of your coverage; a managed service gives you quantity and quality. When you know the quality, you can more easily measure your PR efforts and connect them to your organization’s business goals.

You can learn more about the types of media monitoring tools available in Media Monitoring: The Ultimate Guide.

Evolving from a PR crisis with media monitoring

A PR crisis is primarily associated with doom and gloom; for the most part, that reputation is rightly earned. No one likes to be blindsided by a threat that could damage their brand or reputation.

However, it’s essential to recognize that a well-handled crisis can set the stage for many beneficial possibilities for a brand and its PR team. Tools like media monitoring provide a significant advantage here. Practitioners paying attention to what’s being said about their brand will more easily identify and seize on these opportunities.

Here are five ways to capitalize on a crisis and come out of it stronger than before with the help of media monitoring.

Demonstrate PR’s efficacy

A crisis is your chance to perform in the spotlight for your leadership team and colleagues, as they will look to you for guidance. This is the time to prove how well you keep calm and perform under pressure to mitigate damage and regain control.

How can media monitoring help? Keep stakeholders informed during a crisis with media briefings and reports from your media monitoring tool. Use benchmarks like coverage sentiment before, during, and after a crisis to show how PR activities are helping to recover your reputation.

Forge new media relationships

A crisis may be your opportunity to build a relationship with a media contact from a sought-after publication or influencer with a large following. Even if your coverage is negative, make a good impression by working cooperatively with the media. Be responsive and honest.

How can media monitoring help? Use media monitoring to identify and contact those reporting your brand’s crisis. Most media monitoring solutions also provide details on the journalist’s reach and past articles they’ve written to help you prioritize who you want to work with.

Increase your PR budget

A crisis is often the time to make a persuasive case for allocating more resources to the PR team. Be sure to lead with the benefits of new investments in the short term (handling the crisis) and long term (recovering your brand’s reputation, avoiding future crises).

How can media monitoring help? Pull press clippings of the current reactions to the crisis from the media and public. This will make a powerful statement about the severity of the crisis and why additional resources are necessary.

Augment your brand’s authenticity

Journalists and the public can sniff out anything less than a genuine response to a crisis and will condemn it across traditional and social media. This is the most crucial time to ensure your brand’s actions align with its stated values. Drive this point home to your leadership team. They need to make high-level decisions that set forth a more authentic path for your organization and allow you to connect more effectively with your audience.

How can media monitoring help? Social media coverage is an excellent barometer for your brand’s perceived authenticity. Carefully review social posts and flag those referencing incongruity or hypocrisy in your organization to see if the claims have merit.

Learn from past mistakes

At the very least, every crisis is a learning opportunity. When a brand makes a concerted effort to learn from its past mistakes and do better in the future, critics often note and respect it.

How can media monitoring help? Benchmark media coverage before and after any responses or statements you put out. Provide coverage briefings to show leadership how your brand is currently perceived and what must happen to avoid negative coverage in the future.


Monitoring yourself also opens the door to the wonderful – and, to be honest, necessary – world of benchmarking.

When you start to listen, you’re able to track the coverage you’re getting. As the months, quarters, and years roll by, you’re then able to compare your current levels to past performance. This is how you know if you’re improving, furthering your brand’s goals, and evolving as a communications professional.

And benchmarking can be applied to many different aspects of monitoring:

  • Overall coverage over time
  • Share of voice
  • Spokespeople quotes
  • Key messages conveyed
  • Instance of favorable vs. unfavorable mentions
  • And many, many more!

It’s all about being in control. When you monitor yourself, you gain the knowledge you need to do your job better.

If you’re ready to learn more about how media monitoring can help with crisis management, book a demo today! One of our representatives will walk you through our top-rated solutions and help you choose the package that makes the most sense for your brand.