We often read snippets of a trend or news and pass them off as irrelevant or uninteresting. The fact they have hit the news, however, means they are of consequence, relevance and interest to some, if not many. Just not all. Or perhaps something is being talked about on social media, but we are not reading about it in traditional media reporting. It is all too easy to think it is not relevant, not really newsworthy or will be forgotten as soon as it has appeared. However, when reviewing every piece of news content or emerging trends, it is good practice to consider: ‘Does this have the potential for a ripple effect?’ Moreover, how might the ripple effect impact us?
This week we witnessed the ripple effect and the potential of a trend that has taken root in the wake of the 2020 US presidential elections. The trend is to challenge the legitimacy of democratic election results. The right to challenge results has always been part of the election process, with an Electoral Commission assigned to investigate. This process was instigated in the USA in 2020, with the accusations and evidence investigated. There was no case to answer. However, as we know, that wasn’t the end of the matter. A crisis of confidence followed, and we witnessed an insurrection on Capitol Hill on Wednesday 6th January 2021: around 2,000 protesters within a population of 333 million.
The riots in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, on Monday 9th January 2023 are a near identical approach to that taken on 6th January 2021 in Washington DC. Extremists stormed a number of government buildings, including the Presidential Palace, the Supreme Court and the Congress, over the same issue – challenging the legitimacy of the presidential election results. This time there were 3,000 protesters within a population of 213 million. The country is now in crisis.
There is also the case of Andrew Tate. Few over the age of 40 had heard of him until his Twitter account was recently restored and he picked an online spat with Greta Thunberg. Tate rose to online fame as an extreme misogynist and teenage influencer with over four million followers and was the third most searched name in 2022 after Queen Elizabeth and Donald Trump. Richard Reeves, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, works on issues related to inequality, social and societal issues and intergenerational mobility. Last year he was told about Andrew Tate by his youngest son, and initially thought he didn’t need to pay attention. Reeves recently said in a BBC interview:
I had three sons in their twenties when I was writing my book. Towards the end of the process my youngest son said to me ‘You've got to write about Andrew Tate’, and I said ‘who's Andrew Tate?’ And then I looked him up online and thought I don't need to write about him. But that was at the beginning of last year and, of course, my son was right. He saw what I didn't see, which is that someone like Tate was going to become huge. And that's, of course, what's happened since.”
Tate was recently arrested shortly after the Twitter spat, accused of organised crime, human trafficking and rape, but his influence on a generation of young men cannot be undone.
Although these are wider political and societal issues, there are several key points and questions to ask and review about our own risk and reputation management and crisis avoidance approaches:
Toxic trends: What trends are taking hold outside of an organisation? To what extent are they influencing any of your stakeholder groups – are they ‘catching on’? Be aware of what is going on and listen to what is getting attention, even though it may not seem relevant now. It might be later.
The ripple effect: How will the trend potentially impact you and your organisation? To what extent do you need to review items on your risk register? Once you have established there is likely to be an impact, work though how you will manage this. It may be revising staff policies in relation to harassment. It may be reviewing operations in other geographies and activity with other governments. Have a crisis management and communications plan in place on what your position is and what you have to say about it.
Sandbagging: What are the real risks and how will you manage them? When should you execute the plan if the ripples hit your shores? For example, if there’s a security threat, or extreme sexist behaviour towards employees. The case of Andrew Tate may well prove to be a toxic trend that stealthily takes hold. This is where the crisis management and communication plan will hold its true value and help be ahead of the ripple effect.
We are living in a post-pandemic age of divisive views and emboldened behaviour. Other examples include the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the Zero-Covid policy protests in China – another ripple effect. It is worth taking a moment to look and listen around you for a fresh perspective on what is happening in the wider world and how it may potentially impact you. And then plan. This is just good risk and crisis management. Only the risks are new.
On this day in history – USA Capitol Hill riots: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/january-6-capitol-riot
Pro-Bolsonaro Riots Laid Bare Threat to Brazilian Democracy – New York Times: https://www.nytimes.com/live/2023/01/09/world/brazil-congress-riots-bolsonaro
The many similarities between Brazilian politics and the United States – The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2023/jan/10/brazil-us-politics-similarities-riots-bolsonaro-trump
BBC Sounds – The story of Andrew Tate: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/w3ct33q2