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How Social Intelligence Can Protect Brand Executives & Spokespeople

Mar 11, 2021

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Your C-suite, spokespeople, brand influencers, board members, founders, frontline employees, even former employees all have an impact on brand perception and reputation. From a crisis management standpoint, these people have become some of the most vulnerable points of a brand’s strategic marketing and communications plans. Why? 

These brand ambassadors use their personal social media accounts to make statements or to post their opinion on current events, politics, and social issues — in fact, these days they are expected to. This makes them perfect targets for antagonistic groups and online attacks. And even when they are not posting or participating in a conversation, bad faith actors will work relentlessly to provoke a hasty response or remove important game pieces from the conversation, giving their narrative the spotlight and mitigating a company’s efforts at damage control.

Without access to critical intel, your spokespeople are likely to fall into the trap of legitimizing a bad faith narrative or, on the other hand, ignoring an authentic audience, exposing themselves to further criticism and ultimately causing harm to your brand’s success and reputation.

It is crucial that a brand’s ambassadors are properly briefed and trained to deal with an increasingly unpredictable — and often hostile — online environment. Social intelligence allows strategic communications teams to work in better alignment with executive, spokespeople and other brand ambassadors by helping you:

  • Move out of reactive mode and play better offense by knowing who (and where) your brand’s allies and adversaries are online, to understand how a statement from your CEO or spokesperson might resonate, backfire, or result in action by groups who oppose their point of view. 
  • Protect executives, spokespeople and other brand ambassadors if/when they get caught in the crossfire of a narrative online that might sideswipe them and your brand, or if/when online factions provoke them into engaging with a narrative.
  • De-escalate situations that involve your executives, spokespeople, employees and others by letting them know when a narrative is being driven by an authentic audience or via inauthentic tactics and faction online

Watch a clip of our recent webinar where we reviewed five new plays to protect your brand from new forces online, including what to do when executives and spokespeople become the target (or center of) disinformation campaigns or damaging narratives. Watch the full webinar here.

What is Social Intelligence for Brand Protection?

Social Intelligence is an AI-powered, brand monitoring service that utilizes machine learning to detect online coordination, campaigns, and organized groups. It can track and digest the spread of agenda driven stories that influence the public perception of a brand or company. 

Social Intelligence tools are used to fill in the gaps that standard analytics tools overlook; gaps that can leave a brand vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation. By covering these gaps and knowing about narratives before they can hit the mainstream, companies can maintain brand security by keeping their employees and brand ambassadors informed and proactive in the battle against bad faith faction and narratives.

Using Social Intelligence to Protect Executives, Spokespeople, and Employees

Social intelligence tools have the ability to let you know when narratives are forming, who is spreading them, and why they are attacking your brand. With this knowledge, you can be proactive and nip these bad faith narratives in the bud, before they hit the mainstream. Additionally, if a narrative has already hit the mainstream, social intelligence tools can help you strategically manage an incident and either react, or make a confident decision not to.

How Social Intelligence Let’s You Play Better Offense Before Issuing a Statement

Protecting a brand is difficult when you are always playing defense. Social intelligence gives brands the ability to be proactive in online battlegrounds,control the narrative and prep their brand ambassadors for potential trouble.

Brand executives and spokespeople will often champion values and positions around political, social, or other issues. Those values may or may not align with the brand’s. When they do, it helps the brand cultivate an identity and build trust with their target audience. When they don’t, it can derail the brand’s communications strategy and give it a perceived affiliation with a political party or social cause.

In both situations, a spokesperson’s words may be embraced by audiences who share their views, and could also be co-opted, distorted, or targeted by adversarial groups online. Either of those scenarios could end up in your spokesperson becoming a vehicle for agenda-driven narratives onlines and your brand losing control of the story.

Social intelligence helps communicators understand what’s shaping public opinion around issues championed by your spokespeople, so that you can know in advance how any statements will resonate with groups of allies online, or backfire with groups of people who have opposing views. More importantly, social intelligence allows you to understand the likely actions taken by either of those groups in response to a statement.

Using Social Intelligence to Protect Executives and Spokespeople When They Are Provoked Online 

Sometimes brands have the luxury to work with their executives, spokespeople, and employees to prepare statements around politics, social issues, new company policies, new regulations impacting their industry… Other times, the narrative comes to you. Or for you.

Agenda-driven groups online often coordinate to start petitions, hashtags, etc. that put pressure on a brand(s) to change policy or practices. Social intelligence detects these kinds of narratives before they become a mainstream media story. So if a narrative begins to emerge online — perhaps in the hard-to-see spaces of the internet that traditional analytics tools can’t monitor — social intelligence allows brand teams to look into the faction driving that narrative. If, historically, that faction leverages tactics to trade up such as doxxing company employees, coming after spokespeople, or digging up old tweets by company executives, then the team can give their brand ambassador a heads up before they fall into the trap of engaging with a narrative and in doing so, amplifying it and turning into a snowball of a crisis for the brand.

How Social Intelligence Can Help De-Escalate Situations Involving Your Executives and Spokespeople 

If your brand is already under siege, social intelligence gives your team the information needed to formulate a tactical response in order to get out of the crossfire or to wrestle back the narrative and employ effective damage control strategies.

For example, a narrative may turn out to be largely inauthentic (what does authenticity mean and how do you measure it?) meaning it involves low-quality accounts and not your customers or target audience. Sharing this with your executive and spokesperson can help put them at ease and let them know that engaging with the narrative is not only not necessary, but could actually be detrimental for the brand.

On the other hand, if a narrative turns out of be authentic, then your strategic communications team can leverage intelligence about where the narrative started, who is behind it, and it’s likely trajectory and impact on the brand, in order to work across the organization to develop the best plan to mitigate risk for both your spokesperson and the brand.

A word of caution. Brands that are constantly reacting run the risk of putting their ambassadors into a situation where they hastily respond to an online attack, abandoning or misconstruing the brand’s core values and giving ammunition to online aggressors and bad faith narratives. Even the most well-meaning response can backfire when it’s not carefully crafted and informed by social intelligence data. A failed response can make a bad situation worse, and stoke social media wildfires.

How Social Intelligence Can Support Incident Management

The power dynamic is shifting. The internet and social media allow consumers to more easily hold brands accountable. Brands and brand ambassadors must be consistent in their values and messaging or risk being called out in public, creating PR incidents and eroding brand trust.

Social intelligence fills analytical gaps and allows brand ambassadors to respond to online narratives (or know when not to!), without needing to make assumptions or use their gut to anticipate risks and make tough calls.

Yonder’s Incident Management Solution

Traditional social analytics tools can track some narratives, but don’t provide specific intel or are able to identify the groups/factions that start a narrative, who they influence, who they’re influenced by, how they’re spreading the narrative, and whether the narrative is authentic or not.

Without the power of social intelligence, brands and brand ambassadors can be left vulnerable and unable to effectively respond to online narratives or make confident decisions about when not to engage. Yonder provides social intelligence that can arm your brand and spokespeople with the early insights and planning that they need to stay ahead of bad faith elements and damaging narratives.

Yonder’s customers receive daily reports that highlight relevant, emerging topics, as well as comprehensive incident reports that answer questions about when to ignore, monitor, or escalate a narrative:

  • Why is this happening? 
  • Is it “real”? 
  • Who is behind it? 
  • What is their agenda? 
  • How much risk or opportunity is here? 
  • What might happen next? 
  • Should we respond? 
  • How do we do it?

Protect Your Brand Ambassadors With Yonder’s Social Intelligence

Don’t wait for an incident to harm your brand or attack your spokespeople! Fill our the form below to download our guide to learn how you can get proactive and stay ahead of the game by adding social intelligence to your tech stack today — before the next narrative emerges.

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