media update’s Emma Beavon takes you through three things PR pros need to know about keeping their brand-safe online. 

Brand safety is defined as the strategy put into place to help ensure that online advertisements do not appear on websites, videos or articles that will go against their values. 

To effectively come up with a strategy to maintain brand safety, PR professionals need to know these three things: 

1. Social listening is your friend

In an article on media update, amaSocial defines social listening as the process of finding insights within social media conversations. It does this by gathering social media posts that are relevant to a brand, campaign or topic and analyses the information they contain to find insights and trends.

Social listening helps you understand why, where and how these conversations are happening as well as what people think.

Alternatively, PR pros can employ third-party tools that follow conversations around your brand. There are also brand tracking and media monitoring companies, such as Newsclip Media Monitoring, which will monitor mentions of your brand in the media.

It is important to know what consumers — and potential consumers —  have to say about your organisation, as well as the sentiment of posts about your brand. Following keywords and following trends on social media allow organisations to determine how people are reacting to the brand or a specific campaign. This then allows the brand to decide whether any action is required after a period of negative sentiment.

It is more important than ever to record and read into conversations about your brand following the release of earned media because, if the public reacted badly, it can have disastrous effects on your reputation.

This is because while negative sentiment about your brand on a website is bad for your brand, the real problem to worry about is when that negative framing spills onto social media and gains traction. Being able to catch the start of these conversations can be the first indicator that you might have a problem with ad placement and can help you manage the conversation at a crucial point. 

2. Influencers need to be vetted

Influencer marketing has become a prominent marketing strategy in the last few years. They can be great for promoting your brand’s products or services but, just like all normal employees, you need to vet your influencers.

This rise of influencer marketing has brought the issue of brand safety to the forefront as branded content often finds itself unintentionally placed alongside damaging content on social media platforms. Brands have at times found their content placed next to objectionable content that users consider being offensive, upsetting, or inappropriate.

Influencers can also run posts and campaigns with brands based on fluid standards. This could then reflect badly on your brand as it will be seen as disingenuous, much like the influencer you chose. So to avoid a potentially huge PR crisis, it is best to do some checks before deciding on an influencer. 

Your brand also needs to eliminate the possibility of influencer fraud by determining whether their followers are real or fake. This is because there is no point in hiring an influencer for your brand when the majority of followers are not real people and therefore won’t be able to buy anything from your brand. 

There are tools that help you to identify fake followers such as IG Audit, and Social Audit Pro. These tools audit a person’s Instagram account in order to tell you what percentage of their followers are real and fake.

3. The placement of your ad is important

The placement of your adverts can have a huge effect on how your brand is perceived. Whatever your ads are placed next to are automatically assumed to be associated with your brand’s values. 

As a PR pro, voicing issues about brand safety should be part of your crisis management checklist. 

Digital risk includes more than just social media mistakes. Automation has allowed for the possibility of programmatic ads popping up where you don’t want them to. For example, you wouldn’t want your ads to pop up on a video that includes hate speech.  

Luckily, the South African Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), has created a list of topics that may attribute to an unsafe environment for your content called ‘The Dirty Dozen’ (but one extra topic has since been added). 

These categories include:
  1. Military conflict
  2. Obscenity
  3. Drugs 
  4. Tobacco
  5. Adult
  6. Arms
  7. Crime
  8. Death / injury
  9. Online piracy
  10. Hate speech
  11. Terrorism 
  12. Spam/ harmful sites
  13. Fake news 
This list is to be used as a general guideline, as the IAB does acknowledge that what is considered ‘safe’ for a brand is subjective. For example, road accident attorneys or car insurance companies are comfortable being placed next to a road accident story. But a car company or an alcohol supplier would not want their adverts next to the same story. 

Programmatic advertising teams can provide advice and risk management of the placement of advertisements, but their scope depends on the size of the organisation they are working for. However, as a PR pro, it is beneficial to learn how and where your brand’s adverts are being placed. 

What else do you think PR pros must know about brand safety? Let us know in the comments section below

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Every brand has faced some kind of PR crisis at one point or another. To make sure you are fully prepared, check out these Five ways to handle a public relations crisis.