Strategic Communications

In January, 2011, Bill Salvin, the new CEO and President of NarrativeTrack and the Founder of Signal Bridge Communications, published a blog on the importance of customer trust. Fifty-one percent of customers will believe positive information about a trusted company after hearing it one to two times, compared to fifteen percent in a company that is not trusted. This information is important to us at NarrativeTrack because helping a company reinforce brand loyalty is a major part of what we do. We are able to track potentially harmful stories before they get too big, allowing a company to handle the story before it hurts their brand. In addition, we identify positive stories that help clients reinforce their communications efforts.

 Salvin discusses many other great ideas relating to crisis communications as well as social media in his blog. Check out this post, and maybe pay a visit to his blog as well.

 ~Carly Menacho

 

 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

 

Crisis Communications and Trust

Edelman Public Relations released its annual Trust Barometer this week. It reinforces some crisis communications fundamentals and highlights some opportunities to do better in protecting your company in a crisis. (Disclosure: I have done media training for Edelman, but not in the last few years.) It’s worth your time to take a look what this survey says.

prisonplanet.com
My biggest take away is that companies looking to be better prepared for a crisis should strengthen their social media presence in order to build and reinforce trust in their organizations. According to the study, trust in media is very low. In the US, only 27% of those surveyed trust the media. It’s even lower in the UK at 22%.
Companies that plan to rely on outdated crisis communications plans that focus on press releases and traditional media relations are placing their reputations in the hands of what many believe to be an untrustworthy source. The opportunity here is in developing your company’s social media presence so that you can connect directly with the audiences you need to reach. The cool part is the news media also uses and monitors social media, so you can check that box, too.
If you’ve got a boss that is a tough sell and needs convincing on social media, read Peter Shankman’s great post “Social Media for Paranoid Bosses.” Take a look at Facebook and see what companies are doing on the site. BP America has a superb Facebook page that it uses to tell the story of how it’s restoring the Gulf of Mexico after last year’s tragic oil spill. (Disclosure: BP is a client.)
The biggest reinforcement I saw in the Edelman survey is that people believe the people they trust.
Source: Edelman Public Relations 2011 Trust Barometer
This graphic tells me that you’ve got a better shot at protecting and maintaining your reputation if people trust you. Seems simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to achieve. Another thing the survey revealed is that the two groups rated most credible as spokespeople are outside academics/experts followed by experts within the company.
When was the last time you met with the stakeholders you will work with in a crisis? Met with agency staff or regulators recently? What about the police or fire chief? Have you trained your company’s subject matter experts on how to talk with reporters? In normal times, these types of things pay slow, steady dividends to your company. In a crisis, they could be your lifeline.
It’s ok to depend on the kindness of others in a crisis. Just don’t bank your reputation on the kindness of strangers.
Bill Salvin

Merger Rumors

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Company mergers and acquisitions can cause a great deal of stress and often produce rumors and half-truths from various news sources. News at to when, how, if and should companies merge or acquire is frequently debated and greatly anticipated. Merger rumors are generally hope or fear type rumors depending on the reaction they instill in customers, stockholders and employees.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Rumors that two companies are merging may evoke one of two reactions: customers and clients are very pleased by the possibility of a merger or they are extremely upset. Positive reactions are helpful to a company’s customer base and valuation, however, negative reactions can be detrimental to both. A good example of a strong negative reaction to a merger rumor is the recent chaos caused by the rumor that AT&T is merging with DirecTV. DirecTV customers are outraged by the possible merger, and are even threatening to abandon the company if the rumor turns out to be true. This merger rumor is a fear type rumor. A rumor like this can have a very negative affect on a company’s brand and bottom line.

Tracking a Rumor

At NarrativeTrack, we are able to alert our client’s before rumors like these catch fire

Early Warning tracker for British Petroleum.

Early Warning tracker for British Petroleum.

and spread. This allows clients to make rational decisions and deploy resources with precision and certainty.

Sean Roth is the Chief Technology Officer and head of engineering at NarrativeTrack.

“Our Dashboard provides a variety of ways to display the potential effect of a rumor,

The NarrativeTrack dashboard allows our clients to assess potentially harmful rumors early, before a negative rumor grows and jumps to mainstream media. We also help users identify positive rumors that help and reinforce client’s brands.

As we are only two years from the 2016 Presidential elections, we are gearing up for the start of some serious rumors! Return next week for more on election rumors.

 

 

A Closer Look: The Engineering Team

Left: Lance Berberena, Middle: Sean Roth, Right: Ryan Jenkins

April 25, 2014

Carly Menacho

NarrativeTrack is a dynamic and exciting collaborative effort. The Engineering, Marketing, Sales, Research and Finance teams work collectively to make decisions, grow ideas, and move products forward. Each team member brings a unique perspective to the table. All opinions are carefully considered and then new ideas are executed quickly. This collaboration is a large part of what makes NarrativeTrack such a successful and innovative company.

Group Dynamics

The engineering team plays a vital role in NarrativeTrack’s success. Not only have they contributed to the creation of an ingenious and one-of-a-kind product, they continually develop new and innovative products at a stunning pace.

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Influence Tracker Dashboard Feature

The engineering team is currently focusing on the final additions to their latest product, the NarrativeTrack dashboard. Sean Roth, Chief Technology Officer and head of the engineering team says, “The NarrativeTrack dashboard allows a client to see what stories are circulating in the media about their brand. It provides several views of the data we have related to the client, including one that uses machine learning to see stories that are likely to be undermining the client’s narrative. Other views include stories that are aligned with the client’s narrative and another that shows stories that are currently trending on the Internet.”

Sean works with two other programmers on this as well as the other NT products in development: Ryan Jenkins who has been with the company for a year and a half, and Lance Berberena, who has worked with NT for two years.

A Closer Look

After interviewing each team member separately, I was able to gain more insight into their work and thoughts on engineering in general.

“Right now I am in charge of Quality Assurance,” said Lance Berberena, programmer. “This is very important because I need to make sure our product meets certain standards and is ready to be delivered to our clients.”

Narrative Track strives to create products that are both innovative and user-friendly. Lance is currently focused on making that happen while Sean and Ryan Jenkins continue the hard work of building products.

“My favorite project while working at NarrativeTrack has been Celeriac, an implementation of the Celery protocol in Clojure which we use to process long running tasks and tasks that occur outside of the request/response cycle,” said Ryan about his favorite past projects. “I’ve enjoyed the project because Clojure is a fun lisp dialect and I think the project could even be useful outside of NarrativeTrack.”

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Early Warning Dashboard feature.

I wanted to know how each engineer discovered the company and what made excited them about the prospect of working for NT.

The work presented me with an interesting technical challenge,” said Sean. “I also had the freedom to choose the best tools for the job, which is nice.”

Lance was interested in the opportunity to work on something new.

He said, What initially attracted me was the job description of working as a web developer. I was also intrigued about being able to write crawlers to gather our data across the web.”

I also asked about the special perks to working at NarrativeTrack…

Ryan, an avid caffeine consumer, discussed the projects he has the opportunity to work on. He said, “I get to work on a larger codebase than I’ve ever worked on before and get more say in technical decisions than a junior programmer probably should. That and the coffee.”

Sean talked about his co-workers.

He said, “The people at NarrativeTrack are my favorite. Everyone looks out for one another and never hesitates to help someone else.”

What’s Next

The engineering department plays an essential role in NarrativeTrack’s success. They will continue to improve the dashboard, work on future products, and collaborate with the rest of the company to bring them to market. Lance said, “I feel that NarrativeTrack can go as far as the Engineering team can take it. Meaning that as long as we stay on top of our game we will continue to succeed in meeting the company’s goals.”

We will check back in with the team periodically to find out about new products and website features!

Countering Rumors: 3 Ways to Slow the Flow of False News in a Crisis

As many of you know, today is the 2014 Boston Marathon held in Boston, Massachusetts. On this day, most of us remember the tragedy that struck the city of Boston and the nation during the 2013 marathon. In honor of that remembrance, we are very pleased to share a guest blog post with you all today. Bill Salvin, a NarrativeTrack board member and investor, as well as President and Founder of Signal Bridge Communications, has written a wonderful post addressing the flow of rumors during a crisis.

-Carly Menacho

 

Boston Marathon

Today is the 2014 Boston Marathon, and it’s a fair guess the event will have thousands more in-‐person spectators and millions more virtual observers after the tragedy of 2013’s race. The sad part of all of the increased attention is that much of the information that will be spread about the race is likely to be false. Major events bring out pranksters, scam artists and hoaxers.

After the terrible explosions at the finish line of the 2013 Boston Marathon, social media and mainstream media were both  perpetuators of false information and sources of false information. In fact, there was more false information than true information during the first 100 hours of the event according to a study done by the IBM Research Lab in Delhi, India. The key takeaway is that only 20% of in formation in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing on Twitter was true!
Boston Marathon2For a good look at some of the most egregious examples of fake content spread via Twitter in the aftermath of the bombing, this article from Boston.com is a great round-‐up. From reports of third and fourth bombs to misidentified suspects and false arrests claims, it was a nearly impossible to separate fact from fiction during the hours immediately the event.
Be Fast
Perpetrators of false and malicious stories use the chaos in the wake of disaster to exploit people’s sympathies. The damage done by those false stories is greatest in the early hours after a crisis when there is a vacuum of accurate information. If you start Tweeting right away about your organization and your response to the crisis, you can limit the impact of rumors and false information.

Monitor
There are many great, free tools you can use to monitor social media in real time. I use TweetDeck and I have used HootSuite. There are also monitoring services that you can pay for that will monitor your social media in real time and provide things like general trends and sentiment analysis. There are also more sophisticated services that will identify rumors and suspicious stories and provide actionable information to you in real time. A company that I’m part of, NarrativeTrack, is one such company.

Counter Rumors Repeatedly

Think voting in Chicago, countering rumors and false information is something you need to do early and often. Remember that in a crisis, people come to the information from all directions and at different times. You want to be sure that the accurate information you possess is out there when people need it. You might need to put the same Tweet out every hour for the first few days of a major crisis, especially if false information or rumors start to gain traction with your stakeholders. If you want an example of what you should do on your Twitter account during the first hour of a crisis, you can read my previous post here. The sad truth is that there is no way to stop people from exploiting a crisis with bad information. Rumors have been around since the beginning of time and the social sharing tools available to rumor-‐mongers today makes it that much more important for companies and communicators to keep the information barbarians from controlling the narrative.

Bill Salvin
Bill Salvin is a NarrativeTrack board member and investor and President and Founder of Signal Bridge Communications

This Week in Rumors: Caught Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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Carly Bay Menacho

March 20, 2014

 

Everyone remembers when they were first hurt by a rumor. Whether it’s that person you had a crush on in high school or something more serious in your professional life, these rumors can cause a great deal of damage. Years ago, rumors like this spread mostly by word of mouth. Now, however, we have the Internet and social media, which act as a catalyst for their advancement, making these rumors that much more significant and harmful.

Driving a Wedge

We classify rumors like these as “wedge” type rumors. Aurelio Espinosa, the writer and curator of “RumorsWiki” defines these stories as “rumors that attempt to divide entities and/or persons.” A great example of a wedge type rumor is the very popular story, “President Obama was not born in the United States.” As you may recall, this rumor ran rampant in the United States during the 2008 presidential election. The rumor was designed to form a wedge between Obama and the American people. Espinosa says, “The rumor positions Obama as the villain, a foreigner who is trying to become the President of the U.S. even though he is ineligible. He is seen as deceiving the American public, who are the victims. The rumor perpetuates the narrative of suspicious foreigners.” Wedge rumors often incorporate a point of weakness that further perpetuates the story.

High Stakes

Wedge type rumors are one of the most serious and potentially influential rumor types. This is partially because of their malicious intent, and partially because of the settings in which these rumors appear. While they do appear in celebrity gossip, wedge type rumors are more often present in corporate environments, during election cycles, and times of war.  These rumors often surface as slander, in order to humiliate a person or degrade their reputation.

Below are three examples of well-known wedge type rumors.

 

1.    Osama Bin Laden secretly owns Snapple.

This rumor surfaced soon after the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. It was designed to drive a wedge between the American people and the United States government.

Many variations of this rumor spread as well, all suggesting that the U.S. government was behind the terrorist attacks in New York.

2.    Russian diplomats helped Saddam Hussein escape from Iraq.

This rumor appeared in the early part of the war in Iraq. I speculate that it began in order to drive a wedge between The United States and Russia, and possibly Russia and the people of Iraq.

Many rumors suggesting different countries were giving aid to Saddam Hussein were present at this time. These are very common in times of war when tension between countries is high.

3.    President Obama is having an affair with Beyoncé Knowles.

This rumor, while it may appear outrageous, is a very serious wedge rumor. It may have started with the intent of driving a wedge between the President and the rest of America. It was successful by attacking his family values and lessening his credibility.

 

This concludes our five part “This Week in Rumors” series. Next week we will give you an inside look at how our engineering team operates and what they are working on!

 

This Week in Rumors: Be Careful What You Wish For…

 

 

 

243603-kitten-i-love-cat-and-dog Rumors and Social Media

Everyone can relate to that feeling of excitement you get waiting for news or information about an important upcoming event! Whether it is waiting for a favorite artist to release a new album, the debut of the sequel to a movie, or the long awaited end to an abhorrent event, there is a feeling of elation when we finally receive the information. This familiar feeling is what causes us to obsessively search for news on the subject, and what makes us share the news we find with others.. Again, we can largely attribute the quick spread of these rumors to social media. If you have been following this blog series, you know that we mention social media quite often. This is because sites like Twitter and Facebook play an influential role in the spread of all rumor types. They allow us to hear or read a rumor and pass it along almost instantaneously.

Old Dogs, New Tricks

Even before social media and the Internet, there have been spaces that are entirely devoted to spreading this type of rumor. Many newspapers have a section devoted to “gossip” which often includes wish type rumors. There are magazines such as People, In-Touch, and Star that are completely dedicated to sharing and advancing these rumors. Although social media has increased the speed at which a rumor circulates and the volume of people it reaches, it is not nearly the only contributor.

A King of All Trades

At NarrativeTrack, we classify these as wish type rumors. Wish type rumors are stories that spread out of hope for an event or outcome.  Because of their occasional gossipy nature, this type of rumor is very common in the entertainment industry, sports, and even sometimes in politics. This is not to say that wish type rumors do not cover very serious or important topics. In fact, they often emerge in these spaces. For example, a merger between two relevant companies or the signing of an influential treaty could spark the spread of wish type rumors. Below are three more common examples.

1.    Daft Punk will be appearing with Pharell Williams at the 2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival.

Festival line-up rumors are a good example of wish type rumors. People begin discussing whom they expect to headline, and this information spreads quickly.

2.    Osama Bin Laden was killed during U.S. bombardments in Tora Bora.

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, most of the world was eagerly awaiting the news that the United States had finally captured Osama Bin Laden. This restlessness lead to many rumored sightings and causes of death.

3.    Nick Franklin of the Seattle Mariners will be joining the New York Mets in the 2014 MLB season.

Most trade rumors like this are wish type rumors. During the off-season, fans begin to speculate whom they think will be playing for their favorite teams, and these ideas spread rapidly.  Trade rumors are even more abundant with the rising popularity of sites like Twitter and Facebook.

 

As you can see, wish type rumors cover a myriad of spaces, both professional and not, but their abundance makes them an important rumor type.

Return next week for the final post in the series where we will discuss wedge rumor types!

This Week in Rumors: There is Nothing More Frightening than Half-Truths

Carly Menacho

February 27, 2014

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Rumors and Social Media

If you are like me, each year you receive increasingly more information about major events through social media sites. These sites are a great way to efficiently reach large groups of people, especially since many of us use mobile devices and can access social media sites from almost anywhere. Some of us experienced how helpful social media sites can be during events like Hurricane Sandy in New Jersey or the earthquake in Japan; however, you may have noticed how quickly rumors spread through social media sites and how some of the rumors were inaccurate or simply not true. Most fast spreading rumors fall under the category of “fear type rumors” and these types of rumors can be especially harmful in times of disaster or war.

Understanding Fear

Many of us are able to recall big news events that periodically thrust our population into uncertainty. Events, such as economic recessions, national tragedies, and war can cause mass panic, resulting in the spread of rumors. During these events people are eager to get up-to-date information and answers quickly, so when information surfaces, people are likely to take it as true and pass it on to others even faster. Most of the rumors that spread during times of panic are “fear type rumors”. At NarrativeTrack, we define these rumors as stories that are spread out of fear or anger about an event or person.

War Rumors

War is a great example of an event that instills high levels of fear. During times of war, we become panicked and uneasy. Populations obsessively search for information of any type that helps them make sense of events. This is when “fear type rumors do the most damage.

Nothing new under the sun

The spread of rumors during times of war is not a new phenomenon. Rumors of war even appear in the Book of Revelations. “Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:4-8). Since the beginning of time uncertainty and fear of the unknown has been part of our makeup as humans. Spreading and processing rumors is a natural process that occurs during all times of war.

Word of mouth

In the United States, there was an overwhelming abundance of rumors during the Iraq war. Americans and Iraqis experienced high levels of confusion and fear from the lack of credible information about what was going on. Lack of credible information spurs rumors spread by word of mouth, through news, and over social media sites. Below are examples of “fear type” rumors that NarrativeTrack recorded during the Iraqi war.

1. Britain, the United States, and the anti-Husayn forces are plotting a coup in Iraq.

Origin: This rumor came from an Iraqi Mosquito, which is an assemblage of rumors collected from Iraqi citizens by American and Iraqi soldiers

2. Iyad Allawi personally cut off the hand of a prisoner who would not talk.

Origin: “Transfer of power allows Bush to sidestep anger over Iraq” by Maddox with The Times in 2004.

3. The U.S. found weapons of mass destruction hidden in Syria.

Origin: The Asian Wall Street Journal by E.S. Browning in 2003.

All three of these rumors surfaced during the early years of the war in Iraq. NT was able to track and analyze them in order to make sense of what was going on in Washington D.C. as well as on the ground in Iraq. The Navy was able to use NT’s coding process to classify rumors using rumor types, which helped them to assess how threatening a rumor may or may not be to and operation or information campaign.

Come back next week for Part III of the series where we will discuss “wish type rumors”!

 

 

This Week in Rumors Part I: Curiosity Killed the Cat

cat-laptop-beforeCarly Menacho
February 3rd, 2014

If you spend time on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook you know that users are eager to share any and all new information about upcoming technological gadgets and features. In fact, we get so excited about these new technologies that we are ready to spread information regarding our favorite technologies to our friends and followers.

Social media sites are a great way to pass information quickly to a large amount of people which is beneficial in many ways, however, this also means false information will be spread as well.

Coding Rumors
At NarrativeTrack we can help you separate the beneficial from the harmful quickly. With our system you can assess and code rumors easily. There are several different classifications that we use when coding rumors. We define rumor coding like this: An individual takes a closer look at a rumor in order to determine the emotion associated with the story and the people that are directly or indirectly effected by it’s momentum. Technology rumors, for example, are more often than not, “curiosity type rumors”, which are those that are spread by an individual whose objective is to gain more information about a story. For example, an individual may hear that their favorite smartphone company is coming out with a new feature, so in order to discover if this information is true they share what they know with someone else, thereby “spreading” the rumor.

Below are three recent technology based rumors that were spread over various social media sites. NT would classify the following as “curiosity type rumors”:

  1. Youtube is working on a subscription-based service called “Music Pass.”
    • Origin: This rumor originated on the blog Android Police.
    • Possible purpose: Users may be able to download music and listen to it offline.
  2. Nintendo is creating Android and iOS apps to demo its games.
    • Origin: This rumor originated on the blog Engadget where it was later denied by Nintendo, “…Mr Iwata has also stated that Nintendo’s intention is not to make Nintendo software available on smart devices and as such, we can confirm that there are no plans to offer minigames on smartphone devices.”
    • Possible purpose: Full versions of Nintendo games could not be played using the app, instead it would be for playing demo versions of games on your Smartphone.
  3. Apple’s iPhone 6 will be partially solar powered.
    • Origin: This rumor appears to have began with an analyst with the financial blog “Seeking Alpha”.
    • Possible purpose: Analyst said: “Did Apple place an initial order last week for $68m worth of solar cell coating equipment, so they could use lasers to scribe solar cells onto sapphire screens, for the iPhones and iPods that will be released in 2014?”

    Next week I will tackle “fear type rumors” as the second installment of this IV part series on rumor types!

RumorsWiki: Not Your Average Archive

rumorswiki_LOGORumorsWiki is the nonprofit arm of NarrativeTrack Inc., and a great repository for all things rumor related. Aurelio Espinosa is a historian of imperial Spain and the curator of the site. Like Daniel Bernardi, CEO of NarrativeTrack, they both have experience identifying the narrative and historical elements that define the importance of a rumor. I asked Espinosa why he thinks RumorsWiki is is valuable.  “At RumorsWiki,” he responded, “we are interested in uncovering the historical nature of rumors as strategic narratives designed to achieve goals that are often harmful and destructive.   Rumors also reveal popular manifestations of discontent and subversive voices critical of systems that control information and generate propaganda for the purpose of advancing the interests of the ruling elite.“

ImageBernardi and Espinosa have worked together in the  past, namely when he was Chair of Film and Media Studies at ASU and Espinosa taught a course for him. “Aurelio is a rigorous scholar,” Bernardi commented, “His deep understanding of historiography, media and Spanish literature gives him a unique point of view. I am always amazed at the insight he brings to RumorsWiki.”

Espinosa hopes that the work he is doing for RumorsWiki serves to contextualize the importance of historically significant rumors, even common myths and illuminating facts, and wants other scholars to dig in and do more research on rumors. Each article provides information and analysis of a rumor and identifies its narrative elements (e.g., villains, heroes, actions and moral resolutions). These concepts are not just for academics. Business can add value to their strategic communication plans and learn to protect their brands from various stories circulating in the media sphere.  My next blog will dig into how NarrativeTrack Inc helps companies do just that.

 Quarterly, Espinosa will be blogging on different rumors and concepts, so please check in for updates! Next week will feature an exciting guest blogger you may know…

Narrative Landmines Wins Book Award

Narrative Landmines: Rumors, Islamist Extremism, and the Struggle for Strategic Influence was recently awarded the 2012 Outstanding Co-Authored Book of the Year by the National Communication Association (NCA). Two of NarrativeTrack’s strategic communication specialists, Daniel Bernardi and Scott Ruston, are co-authors of the book. Narrative Landmines explores how rumors fit into and extend narrative systems and ideologies, particularly in the context of terrorism, counter-terrorism, and extremist insurgencies. It aims to explore how digital cultures work alongside economic, diplomatic, and cultural factors that influence political struggles and address the role of new and social media in the creation and spread of rumors.

The aNT blog 11.5.13uthors offer a new understanding of rumors in the context of “narrative IEDs,” which they define as low-cost, low-tech weapons that can successfully counter such elaborate and expansive government initiatives as outreach campaigns or strategic communication efforts. While not exactly the same as the advanced technological systems or Improvised Explosive Devices to which they are metaphorically related, narrative IEDs nevertheless operate as weapons that can aid the extremist cause.

At NarrativeTrack we use the same definition of rumor that the authors use in the text. Rumor is a shorthand term for speculation, half-truths, and misinformation in the form of stories or story elements that, to some contested populations, appear to be rational. We classify rumor as a special type of story owing to form, class, function, and operation within narrative systems.

It is important to also point out that narrative is a system of interrelated stories that share common elements and a rhetorical desire to resolve a conflict by structuring audience expectations and interpretations.

And the term master narratives refers to stories that circulate across historical and cultural boundaries, resolving archetypal conflicts through established literary and historical forms. Because master narratives are deeply embedded within a culture and are repeated in a plethora of texts and contexts, master narratives are particularly powerful systems.

Even if your interest is not examining extremist rhetoric of terrorist groups, this book offers fundamental examples and scenarios of how and why rumors can be dangerous to any strategic message. This is a fundamental read for any strategic communication analysis.