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Protecting Your Brand From Viral Stories in the Age of Misinformation

Oct 23, 2020

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There are no playbooks for comms, policy, and agency teams who are suddenly having to deal with new breeds of social crisis and digital forces online — From viral social media hoaxes, to boycotts, and misinformation campaigns. Brands are getting caught unprepared and forced to stay in reactive mode to protect their integrity. This is why we launched Incident Management.

In this session at PRDecoded 2020 hosted by PRWeek, we share new tactics for how brands can anticipate and stay resilient against attacks online. We also explain why being able to detect the highly-influential groups who are aligned with your brand purpose is your best defense. Watch and read highlights below.

Why Brands Are Getting Caught in the Crosshairs of Stories Gone Viral Online

Brands today are being increasingly encouraged to take a stand on social issues that are top of mind for the public, and they are getting caught in the crosshairs of consumer activism that leads to boycotts, cancel culture etc. When your brand intersects with issues consumers are now advocating for, there is no choice but to participate in the cultural conversations. To do so in a way that protects integrity and helps your brand avoid communications landmines, you have to know who is actually driving a conversations around an issue, what is their agenda, and how they may use your brand as a platform to amplify their message.

The good news is conversations online don’t happen overnight — though it feels that way sometimes, when viral stories take hold of the public and side sweep brands along the way.

Conversations started by agenda-driven groups online (factions) typically start months, if not years, before they enter the mainstream. They take shape within fringe and dark web channels and through the use of online coordination tactics, they enter the mainstream an impact public opinion. We see that in times of crisis (i.e. a global pandemic, an election year…) viral narratives move out of fringe channels 10x faster than before.

Moreover, when factions successfully push a narrative into the mainstream, there is a 9 out of 10 chance that the narrative will come back to haunt your brand.

What can communications, policy and agency teams do to prevent and navigate social media incidents?

Social intelligence delivered by Yonder helps brands manage incidents proactively, with foresight into what’s coming and insight into the who, why, what and how behind potentially damaging narratives about your brand online.

With proactive and post-event social intelligence, Yonder customers can:

Detect whether something is real or not. Brands must more about the authenticity of an online narrative. Is the conversation being driven by real accounts online or bots? Is the conversation growing organically or are there coordinated tactics involved?

Know who is driving the narrative. Some voices online are louder than others. Brands who know more about the online factions that intersect with their brand — groups that support you and share your values, or those who don’t — are better prepared to build relationships with allies, and protect against adversaries.

Identity the likely impact on your brand. Knowing more about the nature of an online narrative in addition to who is driving a narrative, their motivations/ideologies, how they’re influenced, who they influence… helps brands understand the likely trajectory and impact of narratives online.

The above is key to saving time and resources, and to avoid getting spun up around something that doesn’t necessarily require action or escalation or — what could be worse — something that might escalate BECAUSE you engage.

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