Over the past three years and hundreds of research and analysis reports we’ve completed for companies and governments, we’ve gained deep insight into how humans are using the social media, reacting to news media, engaging with brands…and how business and government is struggling to deal with the impact of the Internet and social media.
Forget Reputation Management
A number of companies, but still not very many, have given their PR or marketing teams social media monitoring tools, reputation management software and engagement solutions. The VP in charge has reported this to the C-Suite. Pats on backs all around, notice to shareholders that all is under control. Great. Problem solved. Yet they are still finding it a struggle. This is because by the time they are deploying reputation management tools, it is too late. Necessary and the right decision. But they may have less issues if they understood that they have lost the “narrative” entirely. This is why we’ve developed the Narrative Architecture.
What The Heck Does “The Narrative” Mean? Why Does It Matter?
It matters where it counts – in the bottom line. Hard cash. Profit and loss. What the “narrative” is today, is all the pieces of digital and traditional media that come together to reflect what people believe, not whether it is right or wrong, just what the perception is. News media stories, video snippets, tweets, blog posts – all come together to form the narrative. Once a narrative has formed the perception is set.
How The Narrative Forms
Everything we do as human beings starts as an idea. An idea comes from any number of inputs; a news story, a book, an email, a tweet a Google+ posting. A person or perhaps a group, then creates the mythology behind the idea – the components that make it come alive. This could be as simple as putting together a blog post that says Monsanto’s GM seeds cause cancer. This is not true of course, but perhaps a vague science report indicated a possibility. So a group makes a lot of content in such a way that it forms a mythology. They then publish their myth online. If enough people and that includes influencers with a large number of followers, picks it up and it starts to spread and new elements are added, it may then reach the mass news media. At that point, the myth forms into the narrative and the perception of the public is set. We will be publishing some findings to reflect how myths about Monsanto have become the narrative and now Monsanto is in a pickle trying to control the narrative. You cannot control the narrative.
The Mythology Phase is Key
If Monsanto and other companies, such as those in the Oil & Gas sector around fracking, understood how the narrative is formed and could engage as a myth forms, they might have a chance to shape the narrative. Instead, the PR world and many traditional practitioners are still in the world of dealing with the narrative. This costs businesses and governments far more than it has to.
The Narrative Architecture
The architecture of events, signals and actions that results in the narrative are as follows. We’ve built this architecture based on hundreds of case studies and our own research projects, tracing them back to their beginnings when the foundation of what the narrative was laid. These four phases are as follows;
Inception: When the idea is formed based on some kind of input. It may be one person or a group that is the inception of an idea.
Mythology: The idea is then expanded, others may contribute and collaborate. Content is created around the idea to form the mythology. This could be a blog post(s), a tweet or two, some video and images.
Amplification: This is when the mythology starts to spread across social media and the Web as a whole. When key influencers start to share and add their own views and content two things happen that can be measured (which we measure at MediaBadger); 1) Adoption, which is the rate of adoption by influencers and 2) acceleration, which is how fast it is spreading. There are a few good social media monitoring tools that will pick up a weak signal at this point.
Narrative: At this point, it has either mass appeal across many social media channels and may also hit mainstream mass news media. This is when the larger population then forms their perceptions. The narrative has been formed.
Over the next few weeks we will be presenting some case studies that show how a narrative was formed and where companies could have jumped in to dispel myths before they became the narrative. Keep an eye on Twitter, Google+, here and Facebook for more.