Issues Media Monitoring and Response Analysis: December 2014 – February 2015

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

The end and start of a new year is, for many people, a slow time of year—however, this often isn’t the case of issues and reputation management. From December 2014 through February 2015, there were a number of beef industry stories, including a New York Times expose about the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center (MARC) in Clay Center, Neb. and several smaller beef recalls, including J&G Foods of Sutton, Mass., recalling 34,000 pounds of ground beef sold at Wegman’s supermarkets for extraneous plastic pieces. The most predominant media coverage of any beef industry issue was the seventh and final meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) in December 2014 and the release of the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in February 2015.

Background

Maintaining and strengthening consumer confidence in beef and the beef industry is critical to the long-term success of the beef industry and is a core pillar of the beef industry long-range plan. 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. The team utilizes this data to create strategic responses to a variety of issues and ultimately, to maintain consumer confidence in beef. This article summarizes three of the largest beef-related issues during this time period.

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 December 2014 through February 2015 a total of 705 traditional media stories and a random sampling of 925 social media mentions were analyzed as part of the quarterly monitoring report through CARMA. The random sampling of 925 social media mentions were a snapshot of more than 2,049,000 mentions of the beef industry during the same period.

As further background, given the volume of coverage related to the Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years by the United States Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services (HHS). At the start of the process, both agencies seek nomination for the 14-member advisory committee. The committee met seven times over the course of 2014, their final meeting was on December 17. The outcome of that committee was the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which is not policy, however, is made available for public comment, as well as provided to the Secretaries of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) Report to the Secretaries of Agriculture and HHS, released on Feb. 19, 2015. The Beef Checkoff has been actively involved throughout the process, including submission of 12 sets of comments to the committee. Read more about the process and the report in this BIQ article. 

Discussion

The New York Times expose entitled, U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit, published on January 20, included allegations about pork, sheep and cattle experiments that took place at a government-owned facility. While this article did get a great deal of traditional and social media attention, there were 37 traditional media stories on the New York Times story and 15,793 online mentions, yielding 114,000,000 impressions through the end of January.  Social media listening suggests that consumer sentiment was not aimed at the beef or cattle industry, but rather disappointment that, if true, these alleged actions could take place at a government-owned facility. Since this article was released, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) conducted a review of the facility and released a draft report of their findings—you can read the report here. The review panel will carefully review the comments received and will then finalize its report and recommendations and provide it to USDA by March 20.  

The largest volume of coverage this period was related to the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which led the coverage with more than 185,000,000 impressions and 62,986 mentions -- it’s important to know that these mentions are about the Dietary Guidelines and may not be about beef specifically. Leading up to the release of this scientific report, internal experts convened to discuss potential scenarios and strategies for how to put the report into context. However, no plans could be or were enacted until the report was reviewed by subject matter experts, including Dr. Shalene McNeill, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff. Once the DGAC Report was released, the Beef Checkoff team actively monitored the conversation online, quickly discovering that the vast majority of stories focused on three things: cholesterol, eggs and coffee. Several stories might have mentioned beef or red meat either in the headline or the body of the story, but it was not the focus of the story. While the Beef Checkoff cannot have an opinion on the scientific report, it was important for the Checkoff to share factual information about beef’s nutritional profile and improved sustainability for those people who were actively discussing the report. For the first time, the Beef Checkoff utilized proactive social media advertising to provide context in the middle of an issues response. The promoted tweet campaign focused on directing consumers who mentioned keywords to a post about the role of lean meat in a healthy diet on the Checkoff-funded website, FactsAboutBeef.com.  The three promoted tweets emphasized lean beef’s role in a healthy diet, the differences between the protein and caloric intake for plant-based protein and lean beef and touted the protein content of beef for the serving size. The three tweets were promoted between Feb. 19 and Feb. 28, 2015.  

The results of the campaign were impressive, eclipsing pre-set measureable objectives and the industry average for similar campaigns. Over 1 million paid impressions and nearly 75,000 paid engagements (re-tweets, clicks, etc.) were garnered for this campaign, with an average of 7.3 percent engagement rate; over twice the industry average for a similar campaign. Organically, the FactsAboutBeef.com post also did very well, achieving nearly 32,000 impressions and over 2,200 engagements. Overall, paid and organic, the campaign achieved an engagement rate of 7.3 percent, which is more than nearly four times the average engagement for Twitter. 

The campaign also presented the opportunity to facilitate additional dialogue with consumers who have questions about lean beef as part of a healthful diet and how beef is raised through the Checkoff-funded Twitter account, @BeefFacts. Information seekers were provided with additional resources from FactsAboutBeef.com, USDA and BeefItsWhatsForDinner.com when needed and the team was able to see some neutralization of sentiment after sharing materials and further information.  

Conclusion

The opportunity to reactively provide targeted information and further context to an issue presented unique learnings. This strategy was extremely effective in balancing the conversation online and sharing positive messages about lean beef. Based on the success of the campaign, you can expect to see more issues-specific social media campaigns in the future, as this strategy was a great compliment to existing proactive issues response tactics.  

Additional Resources

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Monitoring, Spring 2015

March 21, 2015