In this episode of TP Bites, Jordan Greenaway and Luke Thompson discuss our Reputation Audit and go into detail about what this service includes.
Luke: Hello, and welcome to another episode of TP Bites. I’m joined by Jordan Greenaway, Managing Director of Transmission Private. And today we are talking about Reputation Audits. So Jordan, first question: What is a Reputation Audit?
Jordan: A Reputation Audit is effectively an online deep dive about an individual to find any material that could expose them to reputational or privacy risks.
Luke: And talk me through the sorts of challenges that you’re looking at.
Jordan: So, in terms of a traditional Reputation Audit, we look at three different channels. One is search — what turns up for a search of someone online? What type of online content is there about them? That could be newspaper articles, that could be blog posts, could be other material could even be images and videos. Next, we look at social media — what is there about that individual on social media, either posted by them or posted about them? Finally, we have this other bucket category called ‘Other Risks’ — which is all the information there is about the individual in leaks or on political donation registers.
Luke: Looking at the first category, search results, talk me through the process — what’s the first step, Jordan?
Jordan: So, the first thing we’ll do is use our technical tools to understand what search terms people are using to find and identify information about the individual. Then we’ll pull out the analytics and see how many people using a particular search term, and even where they’re searching from. We’ll want to really understand how information is being acquired about that individual. After we have that raw data, we can then use our tools and our team to effectively pull down as many results that turn up against that search term as possible. Usually, we run to about 100 results — but we can go beyond that in special circumstances. And then our team of PR and communication specialists will go through that content and manually evaluate whether it’s a reputation risk or not.
Luke: Next question: what is a reputation risk and what you’re looking for?
Jordan: The reason the process can’t be automated is because some mechanisms use sentiment analysis — where they just make a snap AI judgement about whether a piece of content uses words like bad, or horrible or terrible. But the problem with that is it doesn’t go deep enough. As professionals who have backgrounds in PR media, we understand the type of content that could be leveraged against a client to, for example, kick up a negative PR news story. Which is why we’ll go down the list, read everything, and if we think that there’s a potentially risky angle, then we will flag it for discussion with the client.
Luke: Moving into that second category, social media, talk me through the process there. How many social media channels are you actually looking at?
Jordan: Usually, the process is broken down into two halves. Firstly, we identify all the accounts that had been set up by the client and will go down 150-200 different networks to look to see if that individual has any forgotten accounts on that network. There are networks that everyone knows like Twitter and Facebook, but there are also networks that some people might not know like AngelList. We will go through all these networks to see if that individual that client has set up a profile on that network and, if they have, we’ll then look at that content and audit it. Because we know many clients have set up accounts, or maybe put out comments that were ill-judged, or maybe look different now that time has passed. So we’ll manually assess whether it’s a risk, and we’ll flag it. That’s the first half. The second half is we’ll go down the most popular networks, usually the one that we focus on his Twitter, and we’ll identify any mentions of that individual or their businesses on those networks. And again, we’ll look at all that content and we’ll scrape it all up. Then, our team will manually assess whether that mention is positive or negative, or risky or not risky.
Luke: And why Twitter?
Jordan: Twitter is probably the most publicly accessible network. Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook, for example, are all login based and you have to be friends with someone necessarily to see most of their posts. But with Twitter, the vast majority of content posted is public — you don’t even need to account to access that information. So for example, if an individual an employee or a member of the press or a journalist or someone else is searching for the individual’s name on Twitter, they’ll be able to pull out all that content. That’s why we focus our energies there.
Luke: The final category: Other Risks. Tell me about that.
Jordan: So ’Other and Further Risks’ is a little bit of a catch-all. It’s a little bit bespoke depending on the client. For example, if you own a football cup, there might be comments about you on a very particular password protected football forum. In that case, we’ll need to do some bespoke work to pull down that content. Or, for example, if you’re a shareholder of a business that employs 250 people, there might be content about you on employee websites, like indeed and Glassdoor — and that will need to be pulled down. So one aspect of it is saying "Okay, so this is a particular type of individual, where could there be hidden content about them?" and developing customised solutions to pull down that content. That’s the first half of of risks. The second half kind of splits into three categories. The first is leaked information — is there leaked information containing details about the individual’s email accounts, their physical addresses, their home addresses, and their telephone numbers? We will pull down data to see which domain names or URLs or websites that individual is associated with, because that may reveal routes to find out information about businesses that people don’t know they own, or websites they historically set up that might appear embarrassing now. Finally, we will look at what we call connections. We’re looking at how that individual can be related or connected to other businesses and how the individual can be related to other family members. Can they be connected back to other family members? And finally, we look at political connection — can the client be linked to political individuals? Have they made political donations, for example? But this final category is catch-all and quite customised.
Luke: So, the three parts: ‘Search Results’, ‘Social Media’ and ‘Other Risks’ — how do you bring it all together? How do you present it to the client?
Jordan: As you can see here, Luke, it’s a 12-page report and it takes about a week to compile on our end. The next step is we’ll take this to the client and go through it with them. There’s also a number of Excel spreadsheets that have all the data so the clients can go through it all manually. Finally, the last page I’ve got in front of me here provides an analysis of their reputation — whether it’s positive, negative, whether there are any risks and the list of recommendations. In this case, we’ve got about six or seven recommendations to resolve risks that we’ve identified.
Luke: And most importantly, in that report, you’re highlighting and bringing out all the risks. Correct?
Jordan: Absolutely. Actually, I think the most important page is the recommendations. Half the battle is identifying the risks. But we want to make sure that the client can have some quick, pragmatic, practical resolutions to those risks. So that they can go away not only have an understanding of what’s out there, but can take quick steps to resolve them.