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As we’ve progressed through this trying year, the holidays have hung over us like an open question. How would we handle a season for gathering in a year defined by social distancing? Indeed, the holiday season has looked a lot different in 2020, with big reductions in travel and many families partaking of holiday festivities through their computer screens. It’s not ideal, but we’re making it work, as we have been since the late winter. And when we look ahead, we see that, though challenges remain, there’s hope on the horizon. That’s something to celebrate this holiday season.

Zignal has had the privilege of helping brands and public-sector organizations make sense of how the public has processed and responded to the events of 2020. Across digital and social platforms, media intelligence has empowered our customers to better communicate with their audiences in the context of this year’s turbulence. 

And so, as we enter the home stretch of the holiday season, we’re reviewing some of the events and narratives our customers contended with in their communications this year, and the lessons to be learned from them. Then we look ahead at what we anticipate in 2021. Keep reading for more, and take a look at our press page for some of the news coverage of this year’s events that our data has contributed to.

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Looking Back on the Lessons of 2020 with Media Intelligence

In April of this year, with the pandemic raging, most people likely expected COVID-19 to continue dominating the headlines for the foreseeable future. Then came historic racial justice protests, record-setting wildfires, and one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history. 

Using media intelligence to analyze conversations across digital and social media, analysts and communications professionals gleaned a number of lessons. Here are three that stand out in particular.

1. The Importance of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

In recent years, companies big and small have begun embracing purpose as a core part of their business. As the events of this year unfolded, citizens watched closely to see how the brands they interact with every day go beyond their financial objectives and actually strive to effect positive social change. Brands that may have previously been wary of weighing in on the big events in the news realized that, when major issues converge on the scale that we’ve seen in 2020, consumers want to know where they stand on those issues. Sitting out may no longer be an option.

Learn more about CSR in the COVID-19 era in our recorded virtual Town Hall.

2. The Rise of Mis- and Disinformation

The events of this year have facilitated a surge of mis- and disinformation. From the pandemic, to the protests, to the election and beyond, false or misleading narratives have proliferated across digital and social media this year. And it hasn’t just affected public-sector or political organizations – brands have been pulled in as well, and are using media intelligence to catch false narratives early so they can plan their next steps. 

Reserve your spot at our January 27 Town Hall event to learn more about how brands can handle mis- and disinformation crises. And check out our Mis- and Disinformation Resource Center for more insights to help you take control of the narratives that affect your brand.

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3. The Complex Economic Effects of the Pandemic

Early in the pandemic, mainstream conversations around the economic fallout largely centered around overall job losses and the rising national unemployment rate. To the extent that particular industries were highlighted, those industries were typically traditional hospitality and airline travel. 

But in those first few weeks, we used media intelligence to dive deeper into the intricacies of the emerging COVID-19 economy, starting with the particular toll taken on gig workers. Later, we explored further, diving into issues like the pandemic housing market and others.

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What’s Ahead in the New Year?

Will the lessons learned in 2020 be equally applicable in 2021? It’s hard to say exactly, but there’s reason to believe that while some things will certainly change, much of what we learned this year will, at a fundamental level, hold true.

Take the mis- and disinformation issue: There’s already evidence that as mis- and disinformation around certain issues, like the 2020 Election, subside, new narratives are taking root around issues that will surely be at the forefront next year, like the COVID-19 vaccination campaign. This recent New York Times article leverages Zignal data to explore this shift. 

On the CSR front: The continued importance of CSR may depend on what events the future holds. Will 2021 be as turbulent as this year was? If not, will consumers still demand that the brands they engage with take stands on the issues in the news headlines? The keys to answering these questions will be patience and the vigilant use of media intelligence to understand conversations in the digital and social spheres.

We hope you have a great holiday. Stay safe, and we’ll see you in the new year.