The world’s most influential organisations are listening to their audience. Whether it’s through social media monitoring, social listening, or sentiment analysis, the biggest names in business are doing it. And so it’s not surprising that a huge number of smaller companies are starting to jump on the bandwagon and reap the numerous benefits.
Keeping tabs on what’s happening online can provide valuable insight into your customer base, and help you develop tailored strategies for the future. But there can be a downside. Any time that you’re tracking online activity, you must be prepared to uncover possible adverse events that could pose a risk to the reputation of your firm.
“Adverse events have been reported by people on the internet ever since there were chat rooms or an ability to post online” ~ Joy Liu, a partner at law firm Ropes & Gray.
In pharmaceuticals, for example, an adverse event could be an online review detailing poor reactions to new medications. In marketing, it could be a parody of an ad, or controversial content incorrectly attributed to your organisation. Adverse events can pop up across every industry and sector. And while some events may not attract much attention, others can become headline news before you know it. An effective way to manage adverse events is to lead through data collection and competitor analysis.
Contrary to the popular saying, ignorance is not bliss. While uncovering adverse events can be challenging, sweeping them under the rug can be even more damaging than the event itself. It’s vital to effectively manage these situations, and the best way is to be proactive, utilising social listening and sentiment analysis approaches to highlight adverse events early on and allow you to respond before they reach crisis levels.
But it’s not all about listening to your audience. Being proactive means listening to your competitors, too. Competitor analysis enables you to take a closer look at others operating within your industry. It’s a method commonly used to identify strengths and weaknesses, but it can also be used to proactively plan for adverse events.
Competitor analysis can show you how and why competing brands have found themselves faced with adverse events, and how they handled these events. It’s a way of establishing a baseline using competitive benchmarking. If you know the status quo, you can ensure you’re quickly able to see when things start to deviate from the norm.
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Proactive steps for managing adverse events online can help to mitigate problems before they even occur. But let’s be honest. It doesn’t always work that way. Even with a best practice social listening strategy, adverse events can and do happen. That’s why it’s important to have a reactive approach policy to handle issues that arise.
While it’s true that each adverse event will require a tailored approach based on the nature and extent of the event, there are some standard steps to take towards success:
- Understand the Event
It’s often said that the speed with which adverse events are managed is key. And while this is certainly true to some extent, it’s important not to jump right in with a public announcement. As you’ll see, responding to an adverse event is actually step three of the management process. Don’t be tempted to skip ahead and miss other vital steps.
The reason? If you’re using social listening effectively, you may be made aware of an adverse event when it’s at tipping point; it could go either way. By jumping in publicly at this stage, you risk pushing the event into levels that it may not have reached organically. While you shouldn’t procrastinate, you should make an effort to fully understand the event before deciding how and indeed if you should respond.
And this is where competitor analysis comes into play. What brands have experienced similar adverse events in the past? How did these brands respond, and how did the situations play out? How has the event influenced how they’ve grown and developed since it happened? Learn from the PR tactics of others, and take a closer look at how adverse events have impacted market position, reputation, and share of voice.
- Identify the Source of the Event
Adverse events can come from multiple sources. This could be inadvertently from your business itself, from your audience, or even from a competitor. Consider the Wells Fargo scandal of 2016. While the scandal was created by Wells Fargo, many banks found that they were experiencing adverse events online as part of the industry-wide fallout. Why? Because, as surveys discovered, 36% of those aware of the scandal began to put less trust into their own financial institutions, even though they were not part of the scandal.
By properly identifying the source of the event, it becomes easier to understand whether a response is necessary, and what type of response is best.
- Respond if Necessary
In some industries, a response may be a legal necessity. For example, in pharmaceuticals, adverse events may need to be reported officially. In other sectors, however, firms may have a choice on whether they respond, and how they respond.
Generating an effective response means developing an informed strategy that acknowledges the adverse event while simultaneously minimising damage to your reputation. And once again, competitor analysis is an essential technique that can be used to create a response that takes into account needs of your particular audience.
Competitor analysis has another benefit here in that it gives you a picture of what your target audience wants and expects in terms of communication from businesses operating within your industry. Competitor analysis can help you to identify what channels are most effective for reaching your target audience, what tone your customers want to be spoken to in, and how quickly your audience expects similar brands to respond.
- Take Advantage
Experiencing adverse events online is not something that businesses can always prevent. But what they can control is how they approach the situation. When an adverse event is dealt with using best practice approaches, opportunities to grow from the event can be identified. It’s often said that ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’. That’s not true, of course. But adverse events can be used to fuel and support growth.
Of course, competitor analysis plays a role here, too, as it does through each step necessary to manage adverse events online. By analysing competitors at this challenging time, you can identify gaps in the market and niche opportunities that you can grab to help position yourself strongly, do what others aren’t, and recover.
Competitor Analysis in Adverse Event Management
When looking closely at the necessary steps needed to manage adverse events online, it becomes clear how competitor analysis can be used to guide businesses through from identification of the event to highlighting opportunities for new growth and development.
By working with a data collection and analysis partner who can collate relevant information and generate actionable insight from this data, you can ensure that you have everything you need to manage adverse events in the best way possible.
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