Issues Media Monitoring and Response Analysis: March – April 2014

by Season Solorio, Executive Director, Issues & Reputation Management and Joe Hansen, Associate Director, Issues Response, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

Summary

As discussed in the last issue of Beef Issues Quarterly the underlying philosophy of the Issues and Reputation Management program is to carry out measured responses – this means avoiding creating news and targeting the best opportunities for response. On a daily basis, the Issues and Reputation Management team, on behalf of the Beef Checkoff, carefully surveys the landscape across traditional media, broadcast media and social media to determine which issues warrant a response. Using a variety of tools, including CARMA for broadcast and traditional media monitoring and Nuvi for social media monitoring, the team overlays the data from both applications to create a clear picture of how an issue is playing out in the external environment.

Moving forward, each issue will focus on analyzing the issues that took place during the past quarter. 

Background

Each quarter, CARMA reviews traditional media coverage and a small sampling of social media monitoring coverage and assigns a favorability rating to this coverage. From March 2014 through May 2014 a total of 2,203 traditional media stories and a random sampling of 938 social media mentions were analyzed as part of the quarterly monitoring report through CARMA. The random sampling of 938 social media mentions were a snapshot of more than 1,613,883 mentions of the beef industry during the same period.  The significant increase in social media and traditional media coverage this quarter was due to heightened media attention on a standoff between Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy and the Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees and government efforts to protect the desert tortoise, which dominated the beef industry’s April coverage. Reporting on the dispute began the second week of April and continued throughout the month, peaking the week of April 13, when protestors supporting Bundy confronted the BLM after the agency began rounding up Bundy’s cattle and a second wave of coverage was generated by remarks Bundy made on April 19. 

While the Bundy issue dominated traditional and social media coverage in April, beef prices were the leading topic in March and May, resulting in 11 percent of total share of voice and 12 percent of share of voice, respectively. This article specifically reviews media coverage and issues response efforts on beef prices.

Discussion

In late 2013, the checkoff-funded Integrated Communications team convened an inter-disciplinary group of staff to develop a strategy around showcasing beef’s value, recognizing that beef prices stories are often cyclical. Qualitatively, the team knew that in 2013, media had been covering the updated U.S. Department of Agriculture forecasts for rising beef prices and food prices, as well as stories about the lowest domestic cattle herd since the 1950s. 

Table 1: Beef Prices Share of Media Coverage – March 2013 to May 2014

Utilizing media monitoring data from the checkoff-funded Issues & Reputation Management team, a long-term 15 month media analysis was conducted and showed that the share of voice (percentage of total beef related stories that mention prices) was elevated in March, May and June of 2013, resulting in about 10 percent of total media coverage.  This analysis also showed that the overall rating of the stories has remained neutral – just reporting the facts – not offering any negative or positive opinions. However, there was often a perspective from a beef industry representative or an economist familiar with the beef industry to help put the story about low supply, high demand and prices into perspective.

This media analysis suggested there was potential for a dramatic increase in coverage and attention around high beef prices, particularly moving into grilling season and summer in 2014.  The team put together a strategy to proactively and reactively communicate on the issue of beef prices and develop additional resources, tools and content needed to help put a complicated story about price, supply and demand story into perspective.

Over the next several months, the team developed a variety of resources, including: 

These additional resources and tools, put in place in the first half of 2014, have slowly started to help put the pricing story into perspective, resulting in more than 1,000 views in a short time period and being utilized to share with key media and other influencers interested in this topic. Media coverage on beef prices represented 12 percent of total beef media coverage in the month of May 2014. In both traditional and social media coverage, the tone of the media coverage has stayed neutral, though there was a slightly more favorable tenor in traditional media reports compared to social media coverage (neutral 49 rating, compared to a 46 rating, respectively). For example, while one article that appeared in The Associated Press and was reprinted in several other outlets noted the “sticker shock for both consumers and restaurant owners,” (April 12) and cited rancher concerns that lasting high prices will result in consumers changing their buying habits by switching to pork or chicken. The piece also quoted several consumers who indicated they switched, at least temporarily, to alternative sources of protein while prices remain high. Nonetheless, the tenor of reporting on beef prices improved slightly in April, due to several highly favorable pieces, including one appearing on NPR’sMorning Edition.” The article used similar positioning as the Beef Checkoff resources, noting that prices were high due in part to the great demand for beef and recommending value-added cuts for those wishing to continue to eat meat affordably (April 14). On the flip side, a sampling of the social media coverage on price suggests there might be an opportunity to digitally amplify some of the resources and tools developed to share these resources directly through social media with consumers who may be asking questions about beef prices.

Conclusions

While we expect the pricing story to remain in the news for the remainder of the summer, based on FY2013 media coverage, we may see a slow shift downward in coverage in June and July, through the end of the year. The teams will continue to monitor media coverage and look for opportunities to provide experts, resources and context to a complicated pricing story. Perhaps most importantly, we are not seeing prices impact consumer behavior or consumer demand and as another Beef Issues Quarterly article this month notes, beef demand is the highest it has been in years.

Additional Resources

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Monitoring, Summer 2014

June 1, 2014