New research reveals dangerous disconnect in C-suite appraisal of the impact of digital risks

April 24, 2024 · READ

New research commissioned by Resolver reveals a gap in executives’ understanding of the corporate risks social media poses to their brands and their bottom-line impact. The data shows that while brands are aware of the online threats to their businesses in terms of public perception, they underestimate the impact to the bottom-line.

Resolver surveyed over 100 c-suite executives working at a broad range of fortune 500 companies.

Heading into a volatile year

2024 is shaping up to be one of the most volatile years in human history. War and regional conflicts continue to destabilize multiple countries in Europe and the Middle East. The outcomes and duration of these conflicts are unclear, and the downstream effects on politics, culture and the economy are impossible to predict.

The growing threat of reputational damage to brands posed by adverse commentary on social media is a product of several powerful and overlapping structural trends, including greater economic and geopolitical instability predicted for the coming year, rising consumer awareness and activism around social issues, and a diversity of public channels through which to voice negative commentary.

Mis-and disinformation and a year of crucial elections will combine to create new and unforeseen digital threats to brands. Persistent false information (deliberate or otherwise) widely spread through media networks can rapidly shift public opinion significantly towards distrust in facts and authority. Includes, but is not limited to: false, imposter, manipulated and fabricated content.

Social media and adverse commentary was among the top 10 emerging corporate risks identified by respondents.

Growing awareness of digital risks

It’s clear that CEOs and CMOs have been paying attention to threats arising from social media, as these issues have become increasingly common. 86% of survey respondents said their brands would face greater digital risk in 2024, and 80% believe their organization will face multiple corporate crises in the coming year. 66% believe that at least one of these crises will stem from mis-and disinformation.

The growing scale and complexity of the platform landscape also feeds anxieties among top executives working at Fortune 500 companies across the world. Risks are increasingly interconnected, when taken in consideration with diversity of social media platforms and the speed and velocity through which adverse commentary travels across the platform landscape, these risks are likely to magnify causing new and potentially damaging security, financial and operational threats to large corporate brands.

Existential risk, misunderstood consequences

However, the data also points out a key incongruity between the c-suites’ high awareness of the likelihood and severity of digital threats, yet lack of investment into managing or mitigating this risk. To put it bluntly: C-suite execs appear to understand what the risks are, but not their consequences. They also feel unprepared to handle them.

Most concerning, only 3% of respondents reported that their organization was “extremely ready” to navigate these risks, pointing towards a curious paradox in the reputational security of many brands.

What next?

The only way to stop reputational damage is to catch it before it grows or spreads. Our data shows that brands stand a much higher chance of defusing a potentially catastrophic story if they know about it as soon as it starts, identify the key influencers or communities active around the topic, and take steps to contain or clarify the issue.

Conducting a social media audit is a good first step, and can help you understand vulnerabilities, as well as the attack surface your brand represents for would-be assailants. Resolver’s Brand Equity Protection team can help you understand these risks and offer a spectrum of early warning systems and mitigation strategies, including Reputation Monitoring.

Download our full Corporate Risk Leader Survey to discover further insights on the diversity of digital risks facing brands over the coming years, and the strategies that could help them mitigate these emerging threats. 

Download the resolver 2024 corporate risk leader survey

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