Ipsos Corporate Reputation

EMBARKING ON THE DATA INTEGRATION JOURNEY: SMOOTH SAILING

Communicators today are in the fortunate position where data is more abundant than ever; from reputation surveys to campaign measurement tools, business intelligence to employee feedback systems, and from media analysis to owned platform insights. The options for data collection and analytics are endless. However, making sense of this data and consolidating it into a useful system, where insights can be quickly drawn and communicated to leaders throughout the organisation is a daunting task.

A variety of data sources are used by communicators today, each providing different inputs to overall reputation measurement and management programmes.

Each of these data sources has a specific purpose within the communications environment. Social and traditional media analytics can help to determine how messages resonate and can provide intelligence regarding overall tone, sentiment, topics, and issues covered for a company versus its competitive set. Whereas issues monitoring can help a company keep abreast of regulatory issues that may impact the business environment. Reputation metrics and key stakeholder feedback can provide more detailed data about a company’s reputational strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, as well as a deeper understanding of what attributes will have the greatest impact on reputation.

Rather than looking back and only analysing what we have done, using it to inform what we could do or should do.”

The use of these various data sources runs the spectrum from not being utilized at all to integrated systems providing real-time intelligence for reputation monitoring and crisis management.

“We talk about data informed decision making, not data driven, and that is an important distinction. PR people have traded on their gut feel forever, “It feels like the right thing to do” or “It doesn’t feel like the right thing to do” and that gut instinct is really important and we shouldn’t lose that but we can’t trade on it anymore, we do have to have the data to inform the decision. It is how we interpret that data and the experience we bring to looking at that data and the gut feel that is critical. So that is why we say data informed.”

“We have information spread in the organization. We are not ready to take advantage of all we have [due to a] lack of tools and resources.”

“The team uses a lot of media listening, we are just starting social media listening and if you call it a data source, our monitoring, our media monitoring of ourselves and others.” 

“We have more data than we think, and we do not use it enough.”

“Live tracking of social media. I think what is critical is not to be too led by real-time data. Watch your trends but don’t watch for immediate [changes].”

“We look at data to see what the best route is of telling a particular story. We’re looking to see at what’s cutting through. What topics of a particular campaign worked or didn’t. We measure corporate reputation in 12 markets and report it quarterly.”

“When we look at research, we look at things in the immediate, mid-term, the long-term, and then the agile step in between. To start with immediate, we look at leading impressions and an understanding of where we are and how we’re playing. Sentiment is an important part of that. In crisis management, we’re not just looking at the value of the conversation but the velocity of the conversation.”

“The other thing is reputation tracking is important for us. We’re looking at [specific stakeholders] and understanding what drives reputation for them.”

With so many sources in use, how do communicators ensure they are utilizing the right data mix and taking a holistic picture into account when planning communications strategies, developing messaging, navigating today’s regulatory environment, or determining whether an issue is likely to turn into a full-blown crisis?

The key is successful data integration to merge data sets and create a system that allows for easy exploration of key topics, issues, trends and reputation metrics. Robust data integration platforms have the ability to bring together real-time social media data, online and traditional media, broadcast and video content, legislative and regulatory updates, and survey data into a common platform allowing for ease of data exploration and insight identification. The days of Boolean search strings to monitor static topics have given way to machine learning and topic modelling to identify related topics and issues in real-time data streams. Alerts can identify meaningful shifts in volume or sentiment on critical topics to provide an early-warning system to alert communicators of potential issues requiring attention. When paired with frequent survey data, an integrated data system doesn’t just display data side-by-side, but it instead is designed to track the key issues and attributes that have the greatest potential to impact reputation, as identified by deep survey exploration and using these as the basis for ongoing social and online media tracking.

The most sophisticated systems can utilize always-on survey data paired with real-time digital intelligence feeds to generate predictive analytics that help determine whether media stories or social content will have a meaningful impact on reputational metrics.

The takeaway from our Reputation Council members is that integrated data streams are becoming a more critical tool, allowing more timely, informed decisions on how to proactively manage reputation, navigate the issues environment, and monitor emerging crises. However, today, many communicators feel they have a long way to go before they truly have integrated data available. When asked how they would rate themselves on a 10-point scale, most put themselves somewhere in the middle – not completely siloed, but not very well integrated.

It’s a manual process really…through people getting together and sharing [their data].”

“In comms it is still very siloed at the moment. We have a data analytics team, a data science team who are pulling all data together from all our products and looking at it from an operational maintenance point of view, but from a comms point of view we are still a long way off.”

“We have a good dashboard, but we really lack this type of data integration.”

“We’re using AI and data lakes rather than trying to get a standard system in which everything goes into but actually has spiders that are able to crawl through. We’re looking into the extent to which we can predict how a story will impact our reputation.”

While data integration can take time and care to execute in a way that will be most beneficial to each organisation and comms team using it, data is not enough on its own. It’s critical that communicators have the expertise and resources available to extract insights, identify issues and trends, and be able to translate the data into a narrative that supports their objectives. Strong partnerships with market insights and analytics and working collaboratively with data analysts to be sure they understand the mission and objectives of the communications team will help to ensure these tools are utilized to the best of their ability.

“As a business we are still learning how to use data and what does it mean. Data is useless without the analytics.”

“Honestly, the function isn’t run by people who tend to be very good at data.”

“Data is the fundamental piece of information that [our internal stakeholders] are going to respond to and make a decision on. But you still need to tell a story and have a narrative.”

The data integration and analytics journey is one many communicators are just beginning to embark on, but one thing is certain – those who are able to harness the power of today’s data streams and analytical capabilities will be able to make smarter, faster decisions that allow them to separate true crises from turbulence, to capitalise on unique opportunities, and to design more effective strategies that result in positive reputational impact.

“This is one of our biggest opportunities – looking at how to bring all the sources together to draw intelligence and insights. [It’s a] huge opportunity on our priority list and we haven’t gotten to it yet.”

“The biggest growth area in corporate relations is your ability to analyze data effectively and make the right decisions. This will eventually be a part of each team within the corporate affairs team.”

“ONLY 19% OF COUNCIL MEMBERS FEEL THEY HAVE INTEGRATED DATA IN THEIR COMMUNICATIONS”

KEY POINTS:

01. The proliferation of data sources has put more information at communicators’ fingertips, but most communicators have not fully integrated their data sources, limiting the ability to develop fully-informed strategies.

02. Social media analytics and feedback from key stakeholders are the primary data sources used in corporate communications, but may lack the comprehensive insights needed to enable the best decision-making.

03. Reputation Council members desire greater data integration, but most are uncertain of the best methods to do so.

Amid the uncertainty of the pandemic, the S of ESG is coming under greater scrutiny

Actions on E, S and G in tandem remain essential to corporate reputation

As ESG has surged up the consumer agenda, new Ipsos data shows that improving society is identified as the top priority for multinationals among consumers across the globe – perhaps not surprising given the social implications of the pandemic. While fundamental issues such as safe working conditions are seen as most important here, each company should carefully consider how to adapt its operations to improve sustainable business practice. Companies should continue to pursue actions on all three pillars of ESG though. Not just because E and G remain critical in the public’s eyes, but also as it – as we should all know now – makes good business sense to do so.

Companies’ role in creating shared value

Companies are increasingly assessed on the extent to which they bring ‘net benefits’ to society. Especially among the financial community and the media there is a focus on ESG: companies’ performance on Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) issues that come with doing business. Not just because you ultimately shoot yourself in the foot if you run out of the natural resources you need, treat your staff unfairly, or become wound up in corruption scandals. No, also because doing the right thing has BECOME a source of value creation. Not least, this is because we – ‘the public’, consumers and employees – pay more attention to what companies do or stand for than we did a decade ago – be that their efforts to increase staff diversity & inclusion, meeting net zero goals, or paying their fair share of taxes.

In March 2021 Ipsos asked consumers across 28 markets to rank ESG priorities for multinationals. While all three aspects, ‘E’, ‘S’ and ‘G’, were seen as important, improving society (S) came out as the top priority, with 41% of the votes globally. Protecting the environment (E) followed at 31%, almost on equal footing with practicing good governance (G, 28%).

In 22 out of the 28 countries surveyed, improving society received the most picks as the top priority, with a majority of the vote share in Spain (54%), Poland (52%), Japan (52%) and Korea (50%).

These findings are not surprising in the context of COVID-19. Health & safety precautions in the workplace, as well as a desire for job security amid economic uncertainty, have, for many, become necessary concerns.

How should companies engage with the ‘S’?

Given the increased focus on the role of companies to contribute socially, where should they focus their efforts on the ‘S’ pillar of ESG?

Looking at which societal issues people want multinationals to address, our survey shows that improving working conditions and worker health & safety come top. This is true across all regions, from Europe to APAC, to Middle East-Africa, to LATAM through to North America. Potentially contributing here are new COVID-related concerns about ventilation, social distancing, face masks at work etc., on top of existing issues.   

Despite ample attention across (social) media for issues around gender equality and diversity, these topics came out lower down the list. Again, this holds true when looking in detail at the answers from people across different parts of the world. 

It’s impossible to give a blank slate answer to how companies can best create shared value on ‘S’. The priorities in the eyes of consumers listed above, give an idea. But what that means for each individual business is something that needs careful consideration. That’s why it’s so important for companies to engage with their stakeholders on these issues. Employees who feel their employer looks after them, will be more willing to go the extra mile: a ‘give’ for the ‘get’. Local communities who see that companies take their interests at heart, will be more open to dialogue and working together to create mutual benefits. Etcetera.

Ipsos advises businesses on how they should address ESG challenges and helps them to define, manage and communicate their priorities. A relevant example to multinationals is our advice on how to frame “benefits” of ESG strategies to consumers. As people aren’t driven by sustainability claims alone to take action (as they often feel they are doing enough already), it is most effective to couple these to an extra incentive personal to them. So instead of saying: “switch to renewable energy to reduce your carbon footprint” position this as “switch to renewable energy will save you money AND help you reduce your footprint”.

Finally, what’s left to say is that, as I have said before, investments in ESG issues should be financially responsible and prudent in their own right, giving shareholders a return on investment. Ultimately, genuine progress on ESG will help to protect companies’ social licence to operate and bolster their reputation.

For more information please contact:

Marloes Klop
Research Director, Corporate Reputation

Marloes.Klop@ipsos.com

Technical details about the survey

These are the results of a 28-market online survey conducted by Ipsos on its Global Advisor platform. Ipsos interviewed a total of 14,000 adults aged 18-74 in the United States, Canada, Malaysia, South Africa and Turkey, and 16-74 in 23 other markets. The survey was fielded between 19 February and 5 March 2021.

The sample consists of approximately 500 individuals in each of Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China (mainland), Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, Poland, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the US.

The samples in Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, South Korea, Spain, Sweden and the US can be taken as representative of their general adult population under the age of 75.

The samples in Brazil, Chile, mainland China, Colombia, India, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Turkey are more urban, more educated, and/or more affluent than the general population. The survey results for these markets should be viewed as reflecting the views of the more “connected” segment of their population.

The data is weighted so that each country’s sample composition best reflects the demographic profile of the adult population according to the most recent census data.

Where results do not sum to 100 or the ‘difference’ appears to be +/-1 more/less than the actual, this may be due to rounding, multiple responses, or the exclusion of “don’t know” or not stated responses.

The precision of Ipsos online polls are calculated using a credibility interval with a poll of 500 accurate to +/- 4.8 percentage points. For more information on the Ipsos use of credibility intervals, please visit the Ipsos website.

The tech sector always bets that product quality will override privacy concerns

Probably the most common criticism levelled at the tech sector is the one about privacy – the sense that the tech sector, or government enabled by the tech sector, are collecting far more data on individuals than they should, and that the data is then being sold or used for unclear purposes. While the tech sector sticks closely to its cherished, and well-proven, ideology that positive user experience nearly always mitigates these concerns in practice, it is also true that the concerns of pro-privacy groups within society, and government, are getting louder and more prominent.

Stark evidence of this can be seen across two, relatively recent, product launches. Both of which have attracted major criticisms from privacy and digital rights campaigners, while at the same time being major commercial success stories.

Concerns around business and government use of personal information is high on a global scale

Let’s look at those concerns first – the 2020 Ipsos Global Trends survey[1] shows in stark detail the level of concern that exists around the world about what is being done by companies and governments using the personal data being collected from people when they go online.

A rise in private sector surveillance

So, bearing such concerns in mind, let’s examine the news coverage of Amazon’s Ring product line over the last few weeks. Ring is a video doorbell system, which seems innocuous, but with millions sold what you end up with is a potential surveillance network the size of which has never been seen before, and all in the hands of Amazon. And what has Amazon done with it? For one it initially entered into partnership with a large number of law enforcement agencies in the US that allowed them access to the videos it records without a warrant being required[2]. To quote from the Guardian, because of Ring “law enforcement are given a backdoor entry into private video recordings of people in residential and public space that would otherwise be protected under the fourth amendment”. While Amazon has recently extended its moratorium on sharing its facial recognition software with police, a ban it says that will stay in place until Congress creates the appropriate safeguards, it is puzzling why a similar approach to sharing data with law enforcement has not been adopted with Ring. Especially given the high-profile critique of the product by former Amazon software engineer Max Eliaser;

“The deployment of connected home security cameras that allow footage to be queried centrally are simply not compatible with a free society. The privacy issues are not fixable with regulation and there is no balance that can be struck. Ring should be shut down immediately and not brought back[3]

Now Amazon can certainly say that they are following the law as it exists and that the capabilities and requirements of the Ring product are all made available to the consumer at the point of sale. Amazon has acknowledged some of this controversy and has consequentially changed how police ask for video content, now requiring the police to ask for footage via the Ring Neighbors app, allowing local users to comment or assist as they judge best[4]. However, to a background of high consumer concern about how personal data is being used and with Ring cameras being described as “a threat to privacy at best and a danger to society and democracy at worst[5]”, critics may accuse Amazon of not thinking product features through a bit more carefully. That said, when they have a product that has shifted many millions of units in the US alone it is clear that, as ever, product utility quashes privacy concerns at point of purchase. A fact underlined by the 4.6 rating the Ring 3 has on Amazon.com, a rating based on 33,000+ reviews.

From surveillance to tracking

Enough with Amazon, I hear the tech fans cry, that’s just one of the major brands. Well, let's turn to Apple and its brand-new gadget - the AirTag. A device sold as the means to find things you have lost, via a Bluetooth signal that alerts sympathetic devices that are web-enabled. Perfect for finding your luggage, your car, or, as has been pointed out by a wide range of news agencies, the person you are stalking.

Apple has attempted to build in safeguards to prevent “unwanted tracking” but the slew of media coverage over the last few weeks that point out how ineffective those safeguards are in practice probably shows how little thought the designers of this product put into thinking about the downsides of this product compared to the potential upsides. The warning sound that alerts the user to unwanted tracking is easily missed, and while people with an iPhone might be able to find unwanted AirTags those with Android phones cannot (right now).

While plenty of apps, charmingly called “stalkerware”, exist to help one person track another, and there are other products similar to AirTags where the manufacturers have put far less effort into stopping them from being used for nefarious purposes than Apple has. However, part of the surprise here is that, as The Washington Post articulates well “AirTags show how even Apple, a company known for emphasizing security and privacy, can struggle to understand all the risks involved in creating tech that puts everyday things online[6]. This disconnect between a company that is often praised for its firm stance on personal privacy and the potential misuse of this product is vast and easily fixed with little effort. As Wired suggests “Apple leadership needs to give abuse survivors and experts a central place in its development process, incorporating their feedback from the start. Otherwise, the company will continue to make products that endanger people more than they help[7]”.

Responding to this wave of criticism[8] Apple has announced some changes – reducing the amount of time before an AirTag starts beeping once it is away from its owner's iPhone and promising an Android application as well. Just like Amazon with Ring its good to see Apple responding to the issue, but it again raises the question of how a product like this got to market with these issues when Apple usually takes these issues so seriously. That said, just as with Amazon’s Ring it is highly likely that this product will sell incredibly well despite any privacy concerns due to its sheer usefulness. In fact one industry analyst in Forbes[9] confidently predicts its success, and possible billion dollar revenue for Apple, due to the vast number of devices the product can connect to and the popularity of the Find My app among Apple product users.

Consumers value privacy – as well as products that make their lives easier

Ultimately the tech sector knows its customers very, very well and knows that while there are people who may not buy these products because of privacy issues there are far more people who will ignore those concerns and buy them anyway. Negative media coverage of the like described above will have very little impact on the level of individual customers. That said, increased media focus on perceived privacy issues reinforces some of the negative reputational themes that affect the tech sector and the brands within it and are currently fuelling many of the debates that are ongoing around the world among legislators thinking of new regulation. Innovative new products that skirt the edge of what is appropriate, or legal, when it comes to privacy is one thing, as long as they are profitable, but fuelling the fires of regulation is another. The tech sector may want to ponder this.

Article links

[1] Markets: Argentina, Albania, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Russia, Romania, Serbia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the United States. 

Method The survey for the 2020 edition was carried out online using the Ipsos Online Panel, and face to-face interviewing in Albania, Montenegro and Serbia. The results are weighted to ensure that the sample’s composition reflects that of the adult population according to the most recent country census data. Total global data has not been weighted by population size, but are simply a country average.

Fieldwork dates June-July 2019

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/may/18/amazon-ring-largest-civilian-surveillance-network-us

[3] https://amazonemployees4climatejustice.medium.com/amazon-employees-share-our-views-on-company-business-f5abcdea849

[4] https://www.cnet.com/home/security/rings-police-problem-didnt-go-away-it-just-got-more-transparent/

[5] https://thenextweb.com/news/amazon-engineer-ring-should-be-shut-down-immediately-and-not-brought-back

[6] https://www.washingtonpost.com/technology/2021/05/05/apple-airtags-stalking/

[7] https://www.wired.com/story/opinion-apples-air-tags-are-a-gift-to-stalkers/

[8] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-57351554

[9] https://www.forbes.com/sites/timbajarin/2021/04/20/airtags-are-apples-next-billion-dollar-business/?sh=4f60c605d187

For more information please contact:

Carl Phillips
Director & Global Stakeholder Research Lead, Corporate Reputation

Carl.Phillips@ipsos.com