Generally, when marketing press releases land in my inbox, I open them with a fair amount of skepticism. But this one arrived from my friend Johnna Burke, Global Managing Director of AMEC, so I actually looked forward to reading it. Alas, it was yet another misleading end-of-the-year report: The Biggest Comms Crises of 2023. So misleading, in fact, that it qualifies its publisher, NewsWhip, for our Measurement Menace of the Month award.
The report defines “biggest” in terms of those crises that got the most attention in the media and the most engagement on social media. Those definitions put the following crises into their 2022 baker’s dozen of biggest:
- Joe Rogan and Spotify
- Elon Musk and Twitter
- Kanye West and Adidas
- Kyrie Irving and Nike
- The downfall of FTX
- Ticketmaster and Bruce Springsteen
- Ticketmaster and Taylor Swift
- Rivian electric vehicles
- Jif peanut butter
- The railroad strike that didn’t happen
- The Boeing strike that didn’t happen
- Starbucks strikes
The concept isn’t a terrible idea. Except that most communications professionals wouldn’t find a lot of useful similarities between the downfall of a billion-dollar company and the recall of one batch of peanut butter. Also, it doesn’t take into consideration what is likely to be driving decisions in the war room, e.g., the relative impacts to the organization in terms of legal costs, employee morale, customer retention, and stock price.
NewsWhip’s deceptive charts are the problem
It is the deceptive execution that qualifies NewsWhip for our Measurement Menace of the Month. It’s a lesson everyone who has ever put together a measurement report needs to learn: If you’re going to compare data, you need to use the same limits on your axes.
The report is filled with pretty charts, all of which illustrate crisis-driven spikes in media coverage and public engagement. But every chart has different scales on their axes. So, while the charts look comparable, they illustrate vastly different amounts of coverage.
For instance, the volume of public engagement with Musk tops out somewhere around 1.5 million a day, and the engagement around the Boeing strike tops out at 5000 a day. So comparing the two is the equivalent of apples to goats. Similarly, in the media charts Musk tops out around 14,000 media articles compared to 600 for Starbucks. They both may be existential crises for well-known brands, but comparing the two is like comparing birds and coffee.
Crisis interruptus leaves us wanting
Another problem here is that some of these crises are just not over with. Generally, we define the length of a crisis as “time to neutrality,” or the number of days or weeks it takes to get from mostly negative coverage back to mostly neutral or positive, or whatever the previous normal was. Clearly the deadline for NewsWhip to publish this end-of-year promotion was December 6th, because that’s when they stopped collecting data. For at least Musk and FTX, one hell of a lot has continued to happen since then. Who knows when those personalities will fade from our headlines?
For more insight, look at engagement per media story
It will be months if not years before we can calculate the comparative costs of these various crises, which is certainly the way history will measure their success or failure. So a more valid way of comparing crises with the data we have now might be to look at the engagement per media story.
What this calculation reveals is the extent to which the crisis was amplified and prolonged by social media:
Looking at it this way, we can at least congratulate the Boeing team for excellent crisis management, and award Bruce Springsteen fans the crown for the most noise. We also know that the messes that Ye and Rogan made of their personal brands are far worse than Kyrie’s. Pfizer and Rivian saw a lot more hate than I would have guessed, given how low on the media radar screen they actually were. And finally, I’m guessing that FTX’s low amplification score may indicate that the size of the audience for Crypto news is a lot smaller than some people think.
For their misleading charts in their Biggest Crisis Comms of 2022 report, we select NewsWhip as our Measurement Menace of the Month. Congrats! ∞