Social media a top risk concern for communications leaders

28 May 2021 2 min. read

Social media/adverse commentary was the fourth-ranked corporate risk among communications leaders, according to a recent report from Crisp, a social media and crisis advisory firm, and Kroll, a management consulting firm. The report in March 2021 polled 100 comms leaders, mostly at large corporations, across North America and Europe.

Social media ranked above cyber threats, extreme weather, and supply chain disruptions in the admittedly biased perception of comms executives. If one were to survey IT or supply chain leaders, the ranking would very likely be different.

With social unrest, economic downturns, and political division causing more fault lines and potential for digital chatter harmful to corporate bottom lines, comms execs view themselves as the first line of defense against emerging risks, with 88% saying they have taken on greater responsibility for risk identification and management.

“Companies operate in a very polarized environment today,” said Vikram Sharma, president of Crisp. “This means even those who live their corporate values consistently aren’t able to avoid public scrutiny from consumers, employees and shareholders, let alone the deliberate actions of agenda-driven groups who exploit digital chatter to coordinate and execute new ways of undermining corporate reputation, operations, or market value.”

Social media a top risk concern for communications leaders

Even in the companies that do some level of social media monitoring, many comms executives say they lack the resources to cover all the channels where risks might surface. Respondents said they monitored an average of 6.4 media channels – likely including the big players like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Few, however, said they review closed social media channels, forums, or alternative platforms – places where Kroll and Crisp say “significant online group planning and coordination takes place.”

Though 88% of comms leaders identified digital chatter as an essential source of risk intelligence for identifying and mitigating issues before they become a crisis, 73% said their corporate budgets were lacking for new risk intelligence solutions.

“The speed at which news spreads on the web means that firms are working under an increasingly tight timeframe to identify and mitigate risks that arise through digital chatter. Clients are asking us to help proactively manage alarming digital chatter by assessing the legitimacy and accuracy of the issue—from disinformation campaigns by rivals or short sellers to correcting misguided commentary,” said Benedict Hamilton, a managing director at Kroll.

Inability to address social media risks has real world ramifications, with most respondents identifying damage to corporate or brand reputation (93%), followed by negative publicity (92%), employee morale/wellbeing/recruitment (73%), and customer experience (59%).