Vetting prospective opponents, whether they be people, groups, or companies, requires digging for needles in many haystacks. The teams that thrive in this field – commonly referred to as opposition research or vetting – are made up of individuals who love to dig for information and are well-versed in the best practices, techniques, and tools to find those hidden needles.
At kglobal, we love to dig. Our team is energized by the thought of scouring through depths of publicly-available information to unearth hidden truths. And we get results: our team’s research has resulted in multiple candidates for Senate-confirmable positions rethinking, and in some cases withdrawing, their candidacies for political appointments in the Executive Branch in order to avoid uncomfortable public scrutiny.
If you love doing the research, here are a few pointers on where and how to start digging.
Create an overview: Who is this person/organization?
After being tasked with finding information about an individual or organization, use basic open source research to create a basic profile of the subject. Start by doing a Google search to find any official bios, and conduct a news search to learn about their public persona, statements, and actions. Dig deeper by conducting public record searches to comb through your subject’s finances, campaign contributions, and court cases.
Social media can be a goldmine, but take your time with it.
Expand your opposition reach into social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube. If your subject is an active social media user, you might hit the jackpot if you stay persistent and go beyond just scratching the surface. We’ve found controversial social media posts after combing through hundreds of tweets and Facebook posts – patience is key!
Identify points of possible concern. Based on what you’ve read and now know about the subject, which areas are ripe for potential conflicts? Then dig further using these tools.
Now that you’ve created a general profile of your subject, don’t stop there. We’ve found numerous discontinued blogs and websites via the Wayback Machine. This amazing tool can help you explore web pages from 20 years ago, including forgotten campaign websites, shuttered blogs, and old news organization archives. Additionally, there are numerous media monitoring programs that can find news articles that were once featured in print news coverage but no longer can be found online.
Don’t forget about books and academic research. Look into books, scholarly journals, graduate work, and other published research that cite your subject and read them cover to cover to unearth any relevant information for your summary. We’ve uncovered damaging information on our subjects after sifting through multiple books that referenced actions from their previous employment.
Outline areas of concern in an objective tone and summarize your overall findings last.
Now that you’ve compiled your research, outline your areas of concern before you begin your summary. Make sure to refrain from any commentary and stick to the facts that you’ve uncovered. Losing your objectivity will undercut your analysis. Instead, organize your research into topic areas, source all of your findings, and summarize succinctly and accurately. Happy digging!
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| by Courtney Pories
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