Last Thursday, a diverse and passionate group of global brand and communications leaders came together to explore and unpack some of the most urgent issues impacting the communications and media landscape – and learn how to employ the most cutting-edge strategies and technologies to thrive now and into the future. Here’s what happened at Zignal Summit 2019.

A New Reality

Zignal Summit 2019 opened with Josh Ginsberg, CEO of Zignal Labs, setting the main focus for the day. With brands facing multiple crises per year, the rapid spread of disinformation and the proliferation of influencers, Ginsberg asked the audience to consider how to build and protect their brands in an increasingly complex and chaotic world.

Zignal Labs CEO Josh Ginsberg opens Zignal Summit 2019.

Finding a Brand’s Purpose

Kicking off the “brand building” portion of the day, keynote speaker Sharon MacLeod, former Global Brand Vice President, Dove Men + Care, Unilever, spoke about how it is essential for modern brands to have a purpose.

Keynote speaker Sharon MacLeod discusses the importance of brand purpose.

Speaking about how her professional and personal purposes intertwined during her work on the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty and the Dove Paternity Pledge, MacLeod told the audience that if brands can develop and execute a defined and well-integrated purpose, they’ll not only grow business, reputation and loyalty, but can exert an enormous amount of positive influence and change on the world.

“Brands with purpose grow faster than brands without purpose. That’s no longer a debate – we’ve empirically proved that at Unilever.” – Sharon MacLeod, formerly Unilever

Digging Deep into CSR

Building upon the importance of brand purpose, a panel with speakers from ExxonMobil, SAP and (formerly) eBay discussed how to respond to the challenge and expectations around implementing a successful corporate social responsibility (CSR) – and eventually brand-driven – program.

Panelists from SAP, (formerly) eBay and ExxonMobil (left to right) discuss how brands can respond to the CSR challenge.

Chris Librie, former Head of Global Impact and Giving at eBay, discussed the importance of rolling up your sleeves and actually activating a CSR program, not just talking about it.

Jonathan Gallegos, Public & Government Affairs at ExxonMobil, echoed the importance of action over words and why you shouldn’t wait until a crisis has struck to implement CSR simply as a reactionary measure.

“Businesses exist to fulfill a need in society – that goes beyond just making a profit. When we [ExxonMobil] do business in emerging markets, meeting health needs for the people living in those markets has been paramount.” – Jonathan Gallegos, ExxonMobil

Gale Daikoku, Communities & Ambassador Program Lead, Influencer Marketing at SAP, spoke about the importance of finding your tribe and your voice – and then sharing your passion with that tribe to execute authentic, human-driven CSR initiatives.

Weighing In

Panelists from United Technologies Corporation, Pramana Collective, Synchrony and Capital One came together to discuss how brands can develop strategic storytelling to weigh in on topics and issues important to consumers, a critical aspect of modern brand building.

When discussing how to determine which topic your brand should champion, Carlisle Campbell, Vice President at Capital One, discussed the importance of using data-driven insights to find issues that both you and consumers care about.

Caroline Caswell, Partner and Managing Director of Operations at Pramana Collective, said that while brands may have good intentions when weighing in on a topic or social issue, they often miss the mark. She urged the audience to remember that a stance on an issue is not a campaign – it’s a core value that you must choose to live and breathe every day.

Panelists from United Technologies Corporation, Pramana Collective, Capital One and Synchrony (left to right) discuss strategic storytelling.

George Sutcliffe, Communications Insights & Analytics Lead at United Technologies Corporation and Lisa Lanspery, Senior Vice President Corporate Communications and Public Relations at Synchrony, agreed that when finding the topic and issues right for your brand, the topics must tie back to your company’s mission and have buy-in not only from your executive team, but from all employees.

The Power of Data

Shifting into the more quantitative side of brand building, Dr. Joe Smyser, CEO of the Public Goods Project (a nonprofit public health monitoring and communication organization) spoke about how social and media data can be strategically leveraged to optimize the way we respond to modern challenges.

Dr. Joe Smyser discusses how AI and data analytics can be used to solve public sector challenges.

Specifically discussing how The Public Goods Project has utilized the Zignal Labs platform to optimize their approach to multiple public sector health challenges, such as mental health campaigns and the opioid crisis, Dr. Smyser demonstrated the power of data to authentically engage real people on any topic.

Times (and Technologies) Are Changing

Shifting the overall discussion to how we can protect the brands we have built, Fred Cook, Chairman of Golin & Director of the Center for Public Relations at USC, took the stage to discuss the results of USC Annenberg’s Center for Public Relations annual Global Communications Report, which this year explored how technology is impacting the PR industry.

Fred Cook discusses results from USC Annenberg’s Center for Public Relations annual Global Communications Report.

Some of the fascinating insights Mr. Cook shared with the audience included:

  • 61% of PR professionals believe technology will drive considerable change in the PR industry in the coming years.
  • 62% of PR professionals think in five years the average person won’t be able to make a distinction between paid, earned, shared and owned media.
  • The majority of PR professionals believe that technology will make citizens more engaged over the next five years, but also more misinformed and polarized.

The Next Digital Transformation

With digital transformation breaking down silos, streamlining measurement and converging paid, earned, owned and shared channels, panelists from GoPro, Prudential Financial, CVS Health and Vulcan, Inc. explored how innovative media leaders can tie digital transformation efforts back to the bottom line.

Panelists from Vulcan, Inc., CVS Health, GoPro and Prudential Financial (left to right) discuss digital transformation.

Allyson Hugley, Vice President, Analytics & Market Research, Global Communications at Prudential Financial, urged the audience to understand and embrace the entire media ecosystem, as audiences no longer consume content in a segmented fashion. Hugley also spoke about the importance of utilizing data and digital tools to understand the continued evolution of digital transformation.

“If you do not know how to use digital tools, you won’t be able to truly understand data. This disconnect, brought on by the advancement of digital transformation, is only going to get bigger unless we really lean into developing technical acumen.” – Allyson Hugley, Prudential Financial

Daryl Drabinsky, Senior Director, Head of Digital and Social Communications at CVS Health, echoed these thoughts by urging the audience to consider themselves technologists as we move into the future.

A New Kind of Threat

Dr. Chase Cunningham, Principal Analyst, Security & Risk at Forrester discussed the rise of new kinds of modern threats that brands must learn to combat. With the rise of computational propaganda (read: disinformation) and an age where anyone can be an influencer, Dr. Cunningham urged the audience to consider social media intelligence as critical threat intelligence.

Dr. Chase Cunningham speaks about modern cyber risks.

While more traditional cybercrimes like hacking and data breaches still exist, brands are also now subject to more subtle influence attacks and campaigns, such as being impersonated on social media, having an influencer’s tweet affect stock price or being the victim of a deep-fake video.

“Emotions + social media = gasoline. The fire you can create with fake graphics and video is huge. For about $10, for example, you can create a pretty convincing deep-fake video.” – Dr. Chase Cunningham, Forrester Research

Ready to Respond

Panelists from Lending Club (Anuj Nayar), Maven Road (Paul Herrera) and the Brunswick Group (Antonio Ortolani) built on Dr. Cunningham’s presentation by discussing how brands can prevent and detect crises in our increasingly chaotic world and evolving threatscape.

Panelists from the Brunswick Group, Maven Road and LendingClub (left to right) discuss strategies for crisis communications.

Discussing various experiences of handling crises in their own companies, the panelists all agreed on one key point: a crisis can happen anytime – and come from anywhere. In order to effectively protect your brand, you must have a pre-defined strategy in place for every type of crisis – and test and tweak those strategies as often as needed so you are always ready to respond.

Building and Protecting Your Brand

At Zignal Labs, we’re always working on the next innovation to help you build and protect your most valuable asset – your brand.

As part of this commitment, Adam Beaugh, President and Co-Founder of Zignal Labs, took to the Summit stage to introduce two new products from Zignal Labs – Media Quality Score (MQS) and Influence Intelligence.

Zignal Labs President and Co-Founder Adam Beaugh introducing two new products from Zignal Labs.

Leveraging natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence, Zignal Media Quality Score (MQS) produces a score ranging from -10 to +10 that enables brands to immediately identify upward or downward reputational trends, take informed, corrective action, shape marketing strategies and clearly demonstrate earned media impact to the C-suite.

Zignal Labs Influence Intelligence maps media coverage and social media conversations in real-time to help brands identify influential human and automated social media accounts and influence events, dissect social media influencers, mitigate rapidly emerging risks and amplify positive stories across influencers.

Want to learn more about Zignal Influence Intelligence and Zignal Media Quality Score? Request a demo here. For the latest on how to build and protect your brand, check out our Resource Center or get in touch with our team to learn more.