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What do a series of arson attacks on 5G cell towers have to do with the declaration, several months earlier, of a global pandemic? Or a chain of video game shops with populist ire against Wall Street? Or the maker of an electric guitar pedal with an anti-vaccine conspiracy theory?

The answer lies in the conversations around these events. As these conversations play out, narratives – or conversations focused around a specific topic or story – quickly gain steam, ultimately spreading into new territory, tying together seemingly disparate topics, and impacting businesses and organizations in tangible and unexpected ways. If you were an executive at a cell carrier in early 2020, you likely never expected the technology at the heart of your business to be implicated in conspiracy theories around the novel coronavirus. But the signs were there, in the narratives emerging in various forums across the internet, growing and evolving until they spilled over into the real world. 

In today’s vast and complex online conversational ecosystem, getting ahead of narratives takes technology that can see things before you can, that can pick up on needle-in-a-haystack anomalies today, before they impact your business or organization, for better or worse, tomorrow.”

These narratives aren’t always easy to detect with the naked eye. In today’s vast and complex online conversational ecosystem, getting ahead of narratives takes technology that can see things before you can, that can pick up on needle-in-a-haystack anomalies today, before they impact your business or organization, for better or worse, tomorrow.

Put another way: It takes what we call narrative intelligence. 

Narrative intelligence is fundamental to successful risk operations and communications in 2021. It’s also at the heart of Zignal’s cutting-edge product suite, the Zignal Narrative Intelligence Cloud – including our brand new module, Zignal Emerging Narratives, which I’m excited to announce we’ve just released in beta.

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What Is Narrative Intelligence, and Why Does It Matter?

Put in simple terms, narrative intelligence is the awareness and holistic understanding of stories with the potential to impact you – before they actually have the chance to do so. It’s the ability to look at billions of mentions online and see that some of them are connected and gaining momentum before this is recognized in the mainstream. The suite of tools in the Zignal Narrative Intelligence Cloud empower users to catch these stories in real time as they emerge from the conversational landscape. Importantly, these tools are designed with the understanding that narrative intelligence is not just defensive – in addition to spotting, analyzing, and getting ahead of narrative-borne threats, narrative intelligence also enables you to capitalize on narrative-borne opportunities. 

“Narrative intelligence is not just defensive – in addition to spotting, analyzing, and getting ahead of narrative-borne threats, narrative intelligence also enables you to capitalize on narrative-borne opportunities.”

This means that if you’re a risk professional responsible for issues like cybersecurity and privacy, you can protect against the damage that your reputation, stock price, sales, employees, and even physical property can incur when threatening narratives spill from the screen to the real world. It even has implications for your compliance status – with many industries awakening to the potential impact of narrative-borne threats, narrative intelligence has become essential for meeting regulatory requirements around due diligence, as we’ve seen, for example, with the FDA 21 regulation in the pharmaceutical industry. On the other hand, if you’re in communications, narrative intelligence arms you with the knowledge you need not just to understand conversations affecting your brand, but also to rapidly craft and deploy new, more impactful messaging, stake an early claim on emerging opportunities, and respond to challenges to your business. 

All of this has real, quantifiable impact on your reputation, your bottom line, and your security. And with risk and comms teams taking a more collaborative approach to dealing with narratives, it’s key to have a tool that unifies both sides of the house. 

“With many industries awakening to the potential impact of narrative-borne threats, narrative intelligence has become essential for meeting regulatory requirements around due diligence, as we’ve seen, for example, with the FDA 21 regulation in the pharmaceutical industry.”

The holistic awareness businesses and organizations gain through narrative intelligence has never been more necessary. When I joined Zignal as Chief Product Officer earlier this year, the infodemic was in full swing. Narratives related to the pandemic, the 2020 election, climate change, racial justice protests, and beyond were spreading like wildfire, threatening corporate and governmental entities in spaces ranging from software to oil to finance. With a rise in both the pace and the complexity with which narratives spread, it’s clear that simply monitoring for brand mentions is sorely insufficient. Instead, businesses and organizations need to understand the nuances with which those mentions, as well as other data points like key influencers and media sources, form narratives – and how those mentions can impact a brand without even specifically mentioning it. They need to see the correlations and context behind the stories, mentions, influencers, and threat actors. They need to be able to analyze sentiment and real-time momentum. All of this is key to their ability to inform mission-critical decision-making.

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Enter: Zignal Emerging Narratives Beta

Against the backdrop of this ever-evolving information environment, we’re launching the newest addition to the Zignal Narrative Intelligence Cloud, Zignal Emerging Narratives, in beta. This new module works together with the Zignal Enterprise platform to chart deeper territory in narrative intelligence, allowing users to detect, assess, and analyze the narratives with the most potential impact to their organization in near-real time – even before the narratives hit the mainstream and become public knowledge. Risk and communications professionals will be able to:

  • Identify emerging narratives more rapidly and efficiently
  • Assess hidden narratives by seeing their potential impact, nature, and source
  • Pinpoint narratives with the most potential impact and prioritize accordingly

And here’s the exciting part: Zignal Emerging Narratives is already available for early adopters. Take an early look at the platform to see the kind of narrative intelligence technology that communications teams and risk analysts will need to be successful in the new information ecosystem. 

I’m thrilled and honored to have this chance to help guide our customers into this new frontier in narrative intelligence. This is a crucial opportunity to get ahead of risks, harness opportunities, and stay in control. And with more high-impact narratives swirling around our discourse than ever before, it couldn’t have come at a better time.