4 Key Learnings on Managing Public Sentiment


With IBM, CCC reported on findings from a social media analysis on companies' corporate citizenship perceptions.

The US Chamber Foundation's Corporate Citizenship Conference, Connect the Dots, drew like-minded industry experts to the nation's capital this week. The audience comprised of a broad spectrum of private sector industries and public sector actors committed to positive and sustainable progress.

Tuesday's lunch panel, "The Sentiment of Corporate Citizenship”, explored the impact of corporate citizenship efforts on public opinion of these companies. The panel featured Dr. Lawrence Bowdish, a Research Consultant with the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center (CCC), and Diane Melley, the Vice President of Global Citizenship Initiatives, Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for IBM. The panelists presented insightful findings from a joint social media analysis by CCC and IBM. The project gathered public sentiment, termed “snippets”, towards 24 companies from news sources, blogs, forums, Twitter, media, and review sites. These snippets were then classified as positive, neutral, or negative and analyzed for trends.

Below are the top trends and takeaways from the panel:

1. Environmental and Disaster Related Initiatives are Safe

The project collected 44,700 snippets regarding various projects by the 24 companies which were then categorized into seven major topic areas. The top two categories, education (61%) and environment (23%), accounted for 84% of the total snippets. Snippets regarding environmental projects were infrequently negative with an exception for companies in the manufacturing industry. Sentiments regarding disaster related initiatives were almost entirely positive.

2. Positive Sentiment is Easy to Create for Neutral Audiences but Negative Sentiment is Unlikely to Change

The project compared the reactions to overall company snippets to the corporate citizenship snippets and found that the average level of negative sentiment remained consistent (6.74% overall snippets, 7.28% corporate citizenship snippets) in both cases. In contrast, the positive sentiment varied significantly.  The average level of positive sentiment increased from 19.25% for the overall snippets to 48.43% for corporate citizenship related snippets.

3. Difficult to Control Content Created but Organization Led Statements Have Potential to Shape Positive Dialogue

While it may be difficult to change the negative public sentiment, the study found that positive snippets released from the organization have enormous potential in generating more positive reactions.

4. Strong Reputational Benefits from Generating Corporate Citizenship “Snippets”

The project went beyond analyzing the public sentiment and provides insight that can help companies improve their reputation. CCC researchers created a “Reputation Index” from six corporate citizenship indices (Interbrand, Fortune Global 500, RepTrak, CRO and Harris) and analyzed each company’s position based on a list of criteria. The index was most influenced by:

  1. Changes in Fortune 500 Rank
  2. Snippets Increase
  3. Corporate Citizenship Snippets Increase

The project found a one point Reputation Index Score increase for two ranking increase on the Fortune 500 list, 500 snippets (in a 18 day period), or 50 corporate citizenship snippets (in a 18 day period). Generating corporate citizenship snippets are the most efficient way to increase reputational index score out of the three methods identified as significant.