Today’s risk forecast: Uncertainty with a chance of resiliency

Chief Communications Officers have become a critical risk mitigator and resilience builder for the organization, using digital chatter to prevent crises.

May 12, 2021 · READ

Don’t like the weather? In some places they’ll tell you to wait five minutes and it’ll change. The risk landscape isn’t all that different. It changes constantly and the rising frequency of unknown risks makes it difficult to predict when a storm will hit.

These storms are often driven by the winds of consumer, employee and shareholder expectations. In other cases, online groups touchdown unexpectedly leaving a trail of brand destruction in their wake. Fortunately, today’s enterprises don’t have to depend on their local weather person for answers. Rather it’s the Chief Communications Officer who has become a critical risk mitigator and resilience builder for the organization.

Resolver recently surveyed this important audience to better understand how their role is changing as a world of change accelerates around them and their companies. The Communications Leaders Risk Survey, which was conducted in partnership with Kroll, asked 100 leading communicators what they see on the risk horizon.

Here’s what they told us: In a word, uncertainty. More than three quarters (77%) of them expect to encounter greater uncertainty in the marketplace. This accelerated rate of change not only spells concern for companies, it makes risks harder to predict.

Unfortunately, this lack of awareness is rooted in much of corporate culture. In a report from the National Association of Corporate Directors, nearly half of respondents said their primary focus is on oversight of known risks instead of understanding “disruptive, atypical risks.” Unfortunately, several examples made headlines this year already about unknown risk, such as bot-driven stock manipulation, covert activist campaigns, and celebrity ambassador misconduct.

Communications teams already have their work cut out for them by way of proactively planning and preparing for known risks. However, the fact that more than two-thirds of respondents (68%) expect their organization to encounter new and unknown risks is what remains perhaps even more daunting.

Risks are testing company values and brand purpose

With environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in the spotlight, brand purpose has emerged as a key driver of corporate reputation, increasingly tied directly to business performance.

Expectations for brands have changed, and the traditionally capitalist definition of corporations has been challenged. In the U.S., the Business Roundtable, an association of chief executive officers of America’s leading companies, recently declared a commitment to fostering “diversity, inclusion, dignity and respect” while supporting employees, communities and generating long-term value for shareholders.

Leading with brand purpose is not only the “right thing to do,” there’s compelling evidence that it’s good for the bottom line. Consumers, employees, investors and a myriad of external stakeholders demand that companies take a stand on politics, voting, elections and social justice.

When asked about the risks currently facing their brands amid rising expectations of consumers, employees and senior stakeholders the majority expect societal issues to rise and have a greater impact on risks to their organizations. In fact, a staggering 86% of respondents expect more of these risks to be associated with societal issues, such as social injustice.


Embracing their expanding role as risk mitigators and resilience builders

As difficult as these challenges may be, successfully navigating them offers the risk-savvy communications leader an opportunity to own a seat at the executive table. To ensure successful risk mitigation and appropriate brand positioning and messaging, it is the communications executives who are now understandably on their CEO’s speed-dial to consult on risks. This aligns with the 88% of respondents who say they are taking on greater responsibility in identifying and mitigating risks.

Communications leaders are uniquely prepared to go all in on brand purpose and values, seeing it as a chance to elevate their brands and build resilience. This demands a communications skill set that enables sharing cross-functional information with great sensitivity and consistency, and a deep understanding of audience needs.

It is not surprising that 75% of communications leaders surveyed say they are looked at by their organizations as a strategic advisor. This same 75%, however, narrowly define that role as specifically focused on how risks emerge and accelerate online via digital chatter.

Their role is critical to sharing timely and accurate messaging on all aspects of their business and are the “hub” of information flow. Emerging risks, like other news and information, are increasingly found first in digital conversations or chatter.

This often puts communications leaders in the position of “first to know” in the organization and key players in both identifying and mitigating known and unknown risks. In other words, the communications function is, in many ways, now the first line of defense charged with identifying and addressing risks before they escalate into a full-blown crisis.

As instinctive risk mitigators, communications leaders know the importance of identifying harmful digital chatter on owned and paid social media channels. This complexity of the social media landscape was also demonstrated in Brands at Risk, our 2020 survey of 1,000 US consumers about digital chatter. But this chatter is also hidden in online groups on the deep web, concealed communications teams that don’t have adequate access or bandwidth. In today’s extreme climate where organizations are faced with a daily barrage of unforeseen challenges, it’s difficult to keep pace.

The value of partnering with an experienced leader

As noted in our report, communications leaders are adapting a new enterprise mindset to the accelerating world of risk, but more than two thirds of those surveyed (69%) said it’s getting more difficult to anticipate or identify risks surfacing through digital chatter.

When an organization is unable to acclimate to this new world of new risks, it can turn to a risk intelligence partner. Resolver is a fully managed early-warning risk intelligence service combining AI with human intelligence. This unique formula analyzes millions of digital conversations in real time, revealing hidden relationships between individuals and their groups to predict potential impacts as early as possible.

Our AI technology has been trained for over 15 years, and is uniquely modeled around the risks posed to today’s global organizations. When coupled with the deep industry expertise of our analysts, Resolver provides intelligence on the agendas, tradecraft and interplay of individuals and groups that threaten brand reputation. We also deliver enterprise-grade protection against corporate or public safety incidents created by security threats to assets or to the safety and well-being of employees, brand VIPs and the public.

Today Resolver defends $6.5 trillion in combined market capitalization for over 100 brands. We can protect yours too. Learn more about Resolver Corporate Risk Intelligence.

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