Nineteenth-century artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler understood that his livelihood and legacy depended almost entirely on how critics presented his work to the public. And although he didn't have access to today's sophisticated brand monitoring technology to help him identify and respond to all the conversations about himself, he did have the right idea.

Whistler became so obsessed with critics who denounced his work as "lacking narrative structure and form" that he compiled scrapbooks of reviews, asked friends to send him papers that mentioned him, and employed a press-clipping agency. He even went so far as to pinpoint a specific offender and take him to court for the damage inflicted. Perhaps Whistler should be credited for being the first person to implement systematic brand monitoring!

Flash-forward to today. Brands are increasingly focused on listening for online activity involving their organizations. But they have put an emphasis on measuring audience sentiment to firefight instances of negative brand perception, especially those expressed over social media channels. Is that really enough to protect them from the reputational risks and other business risks stemming from the broadening online landscape?


Organizations require deeper, contextual insight into the situations driving sentiment. Social media and more comprehensive online brand monitoring tools should enable companies to hone in on potential threats (such as Whistler did) that might make or break their business. Armed with that intelligence, brands can be better prepared to tackle risks that can become events that spiral out of control and to prevent any negative perception and further damage from forming as a result.

Sentiment vs. Situations

Brand sentiment is only the tip of the iceberg. By the time the sentiment is bearing down on a brand through a social media storm, the brand is already in full recovery mode. An organization may be reacting, but the range of specific, immediate actions needed to respond to the sentiment are minimal.

Underneath sentiment, however, are situations.

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image of Greg Mancusi-Ungaro

Greg Mancusi-Ungaro is chief marketing officer of BrandProtect, a Toronto-based vendor offering Internet threat detection services. He also is a co-founder of the openSUSE project

LinkedIn: Greg Mancusi-Ungaro

Twitter: @gmancusiungaro