Prospects and the Advisor
One of the early lessons learned from VRA’s news and field monitoring tools development was that context matters. A time series chart of incidents over time or volatility in situation assessments in a given country are not comparable to other countries. Thus, in the mid-2000s VRA began to develop a tool to assess structural attributes of countries to provide a measure of resilience or vulnerability as a backdrop to the dynamic measure produced by news monitoring and field observations.
VRA’s Prospects tool was designed to systematically learn from the past by ingesting historical country profiles, matching them against the outcomes with which they were associated, projecting these structural attributes into the future, and forecasting the likely outcomes going forward. These results are then interpreted in light of the specific drivers that were prominent in the forecasts to support the formulation of options for structural prevention and mitigation. These country profiles in turn serve as backdrops to inform the interpretation of the analysis of the dynamic news and field events analyses. They also allow the dynamic measures to be normalized across countries to support comparisons.
By the mid-2000s also, the rise of social media had begun to provide an alternative data source that revealed popular perceptions of people and entities. These views express sentiment toward others in the unstructured text streams of social media. To tap into this affect, VRA developed a sentiment extraction engine (the VRA Advisor) to support reputational analysis based on text with no requirement that it be structured like a news report. In other words, the Advisor was designed to operate on text-based interactions such as that carried by social media, messages and similar modes of communication.
The VRA Advisor draws upon the same automated natural language processing technology as its Reader, so it can be used to track shifting popular sentiment in near-real time. The Advisor tool is also designed a set of user-specifiable parameters and settings to address the specific needs of customers with uniquely targeted reputation requirements.