Defending Against Disinformation 


Information warfare is no longer a problem just for governments. Increasingly, companies find themselves targeted. Few have adequate defenses. As the threat expands, developing the capability to counter disinformation needs to be at the top of your to-do list.

I remember watching, from the White House Situation Room, Russia launch a ferocious assault against Ukraine. The soldiers and arms actually were less concerning than the trolls, bots and an extraordinary effort at mass manipulation of reality.

Not only was Moscow focused on maligning those fighting for democracy in the country, but it also managed to convince many that patently false claims were true or vice-versa. We did three things in response that are useful anywhere.

First, regularly and rigorously track popular disinformation narratives. This will help you understand lifecycle, common tactics and tradecraft. It can also provide early warning when the focus starts to shift toward topics that may be related to your industry.

Second, start building tools to protect yourself from an information attack. These include basics like fact sheets, external validating voices and a playbook for your team on how to respond.

Most lines of attack can be identified ahead of time. Make resources available on your website and social media channels that address areas of concern that can help defuse disinformation. Often those assets are far too complex or hard to find. Making them compelling and creative can ensure their effectiveness when issues arise.

Last, go on offense. Developing a clear counter narrative to the false accusations can move you off a defensive posture. Use this seemingly challenging moment as an opportunity to educate a broader portion of the public about your work, vision and values.

Ensure that your response embeds emotion, as this is what too frequently enables fake facts to spread easily. One of the biggest mistakes clients make when faced with these situations is to fall into the same false frame.

For brands, disinformation can be extremely dangerous and it is growing more common and sophisticated daily. But, by closely tracking trends, developing strong defenses and preparing a proactive platform, you can significantly mitigate, and even maneuver around, the threat. The key is not to ignore or discount the problem’s potency. Instead, engage early and come equipped with countermeasures to deny disinformation the ability to define the discussion around your company.

-Brett Bruen

Brett Bruen teaches crisis at George- town University and served as President Obama’s director of global engagement. He is president of the Global Situation Room.