Three content trends in reputation management

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For the past seven years, my professional life has involved getting corporates to better tell the stories behind their businesses. In turn, this allows them to better build relationships with their publics. It’s a simple enough concept, but does require an understanding of how to navigate highly regulated industries and actively manage brand reputation on the internet.

Last month at the UK’s Content Marketing Association (CMA), of which Kekst CNC are proud members, I spoke about three content trends impacting reputation management. The talk and subsequent Q&A covered the online aspects of reputation management programmes and are summarised in this blog.

You can see a copy of the presentation here:
Three content trends in reputation management from Michael White

Trends in reputation management

The visualisation shows that between December 2018 and January 2018 there have already been 3,088 articles online about social media forecasts or predictions. It highlights some of the key themes that have been found from the coverage. In particular, pointing out the relationship between three emerging clusters:

  1. The fact that social media influencers across food and fashion are closely aligned with selfcare.
  2. Social media marketing forecasts frequently mention the growth of artificial intelligence and automation.
  3. The continued focus and growth of the social media impact on politics.

This visualisation shows the big picture and just how busy the content marketing and public relations trends landscape is. Of all of these predictions and trends, I focused on three key areas in my presentation..

What are the trends impacting reputation management?

The deficit of trust and the rise of fake news

2019 started as 2018 ended, with a global deficit of trust in the world’s businesses, leaders, governments, and media. Research by Ipsos Mori in the UK revealed clear public confusion; TV newsreaders are trusted to tell the truth by 62%, but journalists by only 26%.

In 2015, the First Draft project, backed by technology giants and charitable organisations, began to tackle challenges relating to trust and truth in the media. At the time, Claire Wardle from First Draft, identified 7 types of mis- and disinformation.

For organisations, all of this matters. However, frequently reputation management programmes come across false and fabricated content.

In Claire’s accompanying 2015-blog post, she says something highly relevant for 2019:

“If we’re serious about developing solutions to these problems [fake news], we also need to think about who is creating these different types of content and why it is being created.”

Before fake news, we had astroturfing, which Wikipedia describes as:

“… the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organisation to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants.”

Or when an online presence has been deliberately meddled with to support an individual or organisation, or to maliciously target the competition.

In other words, a place where businesses can pitch using people and bots to place fake reviews on a Google Review listing. Where whole networks of spam websites are created to negatively impact the search engine results of competitors.

Managing the reputation of organisations is about understanding the WHO, WHY, and WHAT of fake and false content and news – it’s premeditated.

Dark Social: Industry capability to monitor social media has become challenging

Dark social is the unseeable and unmonitorable part of social media. Over recent years we’ve seen a huge growth in the popularity of so-called ‘walled garden’ communication channels such as SnapChat, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat… this has made it much harder to gain an overall picture of how brands and high-profile figures are being mentioned online.

Again, Dark Social is not new. But following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, monitoring mentions on social media has become a much more challenging task.

The industry reaction to recent data changes by Facebook has been mute publicly, particularly to limitations to access Instagram posts. However, behind closed doors, wars are raging. Brands have funnelled thousands, if not millions, into Facebook advertising over the years – so data changes have not been universally applauded.

As Facebook shows that it’s acting following the Cambridge Analytica scandal there will be negative impact upon developers, causing them to rush making quick fixes to handle the aforementioned Facebook changes. It can also restrict innovation, given the tight controls Instagram has put in place for data. For 10 years we’ve seen huge leaps by social insights tools to provide best-in-class analysis, 2019 might see a slowdown.

Beyond the Screen: consumer and corporate brands need to be ready for an screen-less world

Beyond the screen describes the growth of podcasting and the use of voice assistants to find content online.

Reports show that podcasts’ share of the time spent listening to audio sources has doubled in the past four years with, in the US alone, 73 million people listening monthly and 17 million listening weekly (Edison research). 85% of podcast listeners stay tuned for ‘all’ or ‘most’ of an episode (podnews).

But this is more than people consuming content. ‘Beyond the screen’ also means being aware of content impact from a reputation point of view.

This is about voice assistants; how people are searching without a screen. Whilst inherently tied to the growth of voice assistants such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home, this is also about how we are creating and structuring content online.

Research by YouGov recently found that one in ten Brits owns a smart speaker, which works out to about 6.6 million people. This shows that smart speaker ownership among Britons has doubled since last autumn.

So, in a word where voice is playing a clearly more important role how do we ensure that our company and clients are being correctly described by these voice assistants? Some (small!) tips:

1 – Wikipedia engagement

Voice assistants regularly use Wikipedia as a data reference source. However, Wikipedia isn’t just an encyclopaedia. It is an active online community with over 34 million registered ‘Wikipedia’s’ on the English version of the site, which also receives around 1.7 billion visits a month and with some 302 language variants. Following the guidance in the Statement on Wikipedia from participating communications firms, it’s possible for agencies to work with Wikipedia Editors in a compliant, transparent, and ethical way.

2 – Following SEO best practice

Ensuring all content on your website is appropriately tagged, labelled, described… voice assistants may look at the top search engine results to learn about your brand. Think of it this way, if a visitor to your website was partially sighted and relied on automated assistance to navigate your website, would each part of the website, including descriptions of images, make sense for him or her? In addition, look at aspects such as Google Business Pages etc.

3 -Ongoing, proactive, integrated, public relations support

Of course, I would say this! But you need reputation management experts who can help promote and manage relationships with your audiences, all the time. Given news is a key source for voice assistance, thought I would mention.

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