As a PR professional, I understand there are a few unchanging rules when dealing with a crisis. Key among these are acknowledging the crisis quickly and responding honestly, offering the public as much information as possible. Now, in the age of social media when news can sweep the globe in a nanosecond, these rules become even more important.

But while too many companies fail to plan for crisis communications, even more are unprepared for that crisis to make its way to the social sphere. A recent study by PR agency Burson-Marstellar and market research and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland, found that while 79% of business leaders expect to face a crisis within the next 12 months, only half understand their online audience and how to engage with them, despite recognizing the importance of digital media.

This worrying trend compelled us to take a closer look at just how big a role social media plays in a PR crisis and the effects a crisis can have on a brand’s reputation. Using our social media monitoring tool, SM2, our research team analyzed three infamous social media driven PR crises:

We looked at each brand over a six month period, beginning three months before the crisis and tracking the three months following. We examined both volume of social media posts about the brands and the sentiment of each social media post before, during and after the crisis to determine the severity of the public’s reaction. By looking at the data for three months in advance of the crisis, we were also able to determine the average net sentiment for each brand and the time it took them to return to their pre-crisis standing.

Looking at these three incidents, we found that the more proactive the brand was in handling the crisis, the more quickly they were able to recover. While Nestlé offered very little explanation and tried to cover up the issue, they took 50% longer to return to their average pre-crisis sentiment. Domino’s, on the other hand responded quickly, acknowledged the issue, made an apology and offered a resolution, and they were the fastest to bounce back.

Check out the infographic below for the highlights of our findings.