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In the Battle to Control the Narrative, the Terrain Has Changed

January 4, 2021LeAnne Gault

“In a fight between a bear and an alligator, it is the terrain which determines who wins.” ~Jim Barksdale

The wise observation above concisely illustrates the importance of terrain in any fight. More than likely the bear will win on the land, and the alligator will triumph in the water because each knows his own terrain. In competitive activities like war, sport and business, knowing the terrain can make all the difference between winning and losing, success and failure. Add the maxim, “Understand the narrative” to “Know the terrain” and you’ve got the two most important principles required to compete successfully in the business, government, and financial sectors.

Historically, knowing the terrain and understanding the narrative used to be somewhat straightforward. Battles were fought on battlefields. Borders were made and then changed based on wars, treaties, and even marriages. Narratives were controlled by the mainstream media, the government, or "spin doctors" and could often be contained within a nation's or industry's borders. 

But social media has completely changed the terrain. Facebook has 2.7 billion users which makes the platform larger than the populations of China, the United States, and Russia combined. When it comes to understanding the narratives on this new unbordered terrain of social media, it isn't news that most Americans aren't reading the daily newspaper or even watching the evening news. Instead of the paper of record delivering everything from local happenings and sports scores to current events on the global stage, more and more people are turning to Facebook and Twitter.

According to 2019 Pew Research Center report 55% of U.S. adults now get their news from social media either "often" or "sometimes" – an 8% increase from last year. And 28% said they get their news "often," up from 20% in 2018.

As the Pew Research's reporters noted, "social media is now a part of the news diet of an increasingly large share of the U.S. population." It's an increasing large share of the global population as well. 

Also in 2019 phys.org reported that 86% of internet users had been duped by misinformation/disinformation campaigns on social media according to a global survey by the Centre for International Governance Innovation. 

Here's another quote (I love quotes): In 1973, Italian novelist/philosopher Umberto Eco wrote, “Not long ago, if you wanted to seize political power in a country you had merely to control the army and the police. Today it is only in the most backward countries that fascist generals, in carrying out a coup d’état, still use tanks. If a country has reached a high degree of industrialization the whole scene changes. The day after the fall of Krushchev, the editors of Pravda, Izvestiia, the heads of the radio and television were replaced; the army wasn’t called out. Today a country belongs to the person who controls communications.”

We consider communications as conversations. Conversation moves markets. News coverage, social media, and online forums feed off each other. That feeding frenzy can have massive impacts on companies, stocks, and investors. Whether it’s competitors, biased media, foreign adversaries, or homegrown agitators, knowing who’s creating and who’s sharing a narrative can make all the difference. 

There are a number of ways teams have gathered information about online narratives in the past, but how many have been able to dial into the organic conversations as they happen in real-time?

Kudzu consumes and analyzes tens of thousands of news articles and online conversations every day, as well as the people and organizations who create them. It can show you how narratives are started, who’s amplifying them, and how they evolve to affect the things in which you’re invested: Your company, your portfolio, your people, and your government. 

EdgeTheory's technology then atomizes all of the information coming at you from thousands and thousands of news sources and online narratives. The Kudzu platform utilizes large-scale consumption of publicly-available information (PAI) and sophisticated data analysis algorithms to extract narrative intelligence and conversation trends from traditional news organizations, social media outlets, video publishing platforms, and other digital sources, then atomizes those sources into easy-to-understand and shareable narrative themes as well as a providing summary of each article. So not only do you have the narrative intelligence to understand, detect and visualize amplification patterns and behavior among entities of all types, you also have what you need to participate in the conversations that matter to you. 

As the ground shifts with political movements and greater social responsibility, online narratives are constantly at the mercy of hourly events. With narrative intelligence, you can address FUD, or a communications crisis the moment bad news strikes, or be prepared for changes in the market. Just as well, narrative intelligence not only prepares you with insight into what’s happening right now but allows you to see future trends with predictive analytics based on the data you’ve accumulated.

 It’s one thing to pay close attention to what is being said and amplified, it’s another entirely to engage. With valuable data in hand, narrative intelligence gives you an edge in producing bespoke content for you to use to join in a conversation or even counter misinformation. The exponential growth in people logging on to consume and share media in 2020 has only amplified the need for narrative intelligence. 

Kudzu provides clear insights into the volume, amplification, and top trends that enable organizations, agencies, and investors to understand the public perceptions of a brand, industry, or investment. Narrative Intelligence analyzes text, video, photographs, and social media feeds to detect viral narratives, identify which entities are proliferating the narrative, and contextualize the conversations. 

So if your battle is on terrain that is no longer limited by geography, how can you win? How do you know if you're the bear or the alligator? If you want to be the one calling the shots, it is critical you know and understand the world around you, and the best way to do that is understand the rise, fall, and source of the narratives that affect your world. Decision makers who do not know and understand the Narratives better be lucky or they won't survive.

Contact us to get a demo and see what Kudzu can do for your organization.

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