Typically, when society speaks on disinformation, or the intentional misrepresentation of information, the conversation steers toward its use as a political tool to influence the minds of potential voters.
However, disinformation’s impact is felt beyond just the political arena. As one study from 2019 by the cybersecurity firm CHEQ estimates, corporate disinformation is costing the global economy $78 billion each year.
Given the heightened attention to disinformation due to its presence in politics in addition to its impact on the bottom line of many notable business sectors, like pharmaceuticals and automotive, it would be safe to assume that most businesses are prepared to address disinformation if it impacts their business. To find out how prepared communications professionals are to address disinformation and how effectively their businesses have addressed the issue, Brunswick conducted a poll of 200 communications, advertising, and marketing directors in December 2020 as well as a poll of 395 US consumers in January 2021.
So, are communications professionals prepared? That is still very unclear. Our data reveals that:
- 65% of communications professionals believe they are very prepared for managing disinformation, but only 25% of US consumers think business leaders are doing a good job of stopping the spread of disinformation.
- While business leaders may feel prepared to address disinformation, their customers and employees are still facing a slew of phishing scams, fraud schemes, and fake news.
Additionally, when it comes to identifying who holds the responsibility to defend their organization against disinformation, communications professionals’ expectations are scattered even though 92% of them say they have a plan.
- A third of communications professionals identified their HR department as the lead defender against disinformation and only 14% say it is the responsibility of a Chief Risk Officer in place to combat disinformation.
- It is alarming that there is not more consistency in who is developing the plan. This may explain why 95% of communications professionals are still very or somewhat concerned about the impact of disinformation on their business.
Our data suggests organizations need a more well-defined plan to address corporate disinformation. Whether or not your organization has a plan, here are a few things to consider preparing for false narratives as you would for any other enterprise or consumer risk:
- Understand the Landscape: Identify disinformation narratives and prioritize those that are potentially the most damaging to your brand or reputation
- Build a Playbook: Create a plan to guide your response to potential disinformation. This should include guidelines for developing alternative narratives and a strategy for effectively messaging in proactive and reactive media
- Deploy a Long-Term Resilience Strategy: Distribute creative and emotive content across various platforms that informs allies, so they have a stronger built-in resistance to being swayed by false narratives
- Monitor for Effectiveness: Continue to monitor channels and track audiences for awareness and opinion change