Issues Media Monitoring and Response Analysis: January – March 2016

by Season Solorio, Executive Director, Issues & Reputation Management, and Amy Poague, Manager, Issues Analytics and Content, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, contractors to the Beef Checkoff

Summary

On a daily basis, the Issues and Reputation Management (IRM) 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 Lexis Nexis for traditional and broadcast 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. 

Background

Each quarter, the team reviews traditional media coverage and sampling of social media coverage to determine the level of attention that an issue receives. From January 2016 through March 2016 more than 900 traditional media stories and 2,222,323 social media mentions of the beef industry were analyzed as part of the quarterly monitoring report through Lexis Nexis and NUVI. The 2.2 million social media mentions resulted in more than 2.3 billion social media impressions during the same period.

This was a significantly higher volume of media coverage compared to past quarters. The high volume of traditional and social media coverage was due to heightened media attention on the Oregon Standoff between Ammon Bundy and state and federal law enforcement agencies. Reporting on the dispute began on January 2nd, when the armed group occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and continued through February 11th, when the final occupier surrendered. During this time, traditional as well as social media conversations were consistently spiking as a series of events played out. 

While the Bundy issue dominated traditional and social media early in the year, the release of the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was the leading topic that the checkoff-funded issues management team monitored in January, resulting in more than 100,000 mentions and 457 million impressions, with leading conversations about what constitutes a healthy diet and in some cases, discussion of beef’s role in a healthy diet. Additionally, the Chipotle E.coli outbreak sparked an increase in traditional and social media conversation about food safety, as well as speculation in traditional and social media about the potential source of the outbreak for a short time, with a few speculations that the culprit was beef. However, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service was quoted in several outlets, saying “Distribution data shared by Chipotle does not establish a link between Australian beef, or any single source of beef, and the Chipotle restaurants where case patients reported consuming steak.” This statement put to bed much speculation that there was any beef connection. Therefore, this issues and media analysis article focuses on the media coverage and communications efforts on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Discussion

As an issue unfolds, careful listening and analysis is required to understand how a topic is being interpreted by the consumer and portrayed by the media. Careful interpretation of both traditional and social media can provide significant insights that are instrumental in helping effectively manage and respond to an issue.

On January 7th the much anticipated, final 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were released. These Dietary Guidelines reflected lean beef’s place in a healthy diet. Prior to the release of the final document, there was building speculation in traditional and social media about what would and would not be included in the final dietary guidelines. This speculation was primarily generated by food and environmental special interest groups, who believed the guidelines should suggest reduced meat consumption. Speculation was further fueled after public statements from Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell in October 2015 suggested that “fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats and other proteins, and limited amounts of saturated fats, added sugars and sodium remain the building blocks of a healthy lifestyle.”

Utilizing our traditional and social media monitoring and analysis tools to look at past coverage of Dietary Guidelines and similar announcements, the team determined that there would be high levels of traditional and social media surrounding the release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines.

Recognizing that consumers may have questions about what the new Dietary Guidelines mean and how they could build healthy diets with foods, such as beef,  the team proactively worked to develop content for FactsAboutBeef.com to help individuals understand the nutrition research around beef. Once the guidelines were released, the team reviewed from a scientific standpoint the guidelines and finalized web-content, such as the blog post, “Should I Eat Less Red Meat for a Healthy Diet?,” hosted on the FactsAboutBeef.com website. This post helped consumers understand about the recommended levels of meat consumption as put forth in the dietary guidelines document. Additionally, consumers were provided with information as to how lean beef could fit in a healthy diet with a blog post, “4 BOLD Reasons Lean Beef Supports Your New Year’s Resolutions.” Both pieces of content were shared actively through social media to reinforce to those individuals talking about the Dietary Guidelines that beef can be part of a healthy diet and lifestyle.   

As expected, traditional and social media levels sharply increased the day that the 2015 Dietary Guidelines were released. National media outlets such as, TIME, Forbes  and the New York Times began to cover the story providing consumers with information about the recommendations. 

Chart 1: Below, you can see the sharp increase of social media and traditional media, on Thursday, January 7th, at the time of the release of the final report.

 

Utilizing traditional and social media monitoring tools, the team observed that media coverage was balanced and for the most part, did not focus on recommendations around beef, but instead focused on the dietary recommendations for sugar, coffee and cholesterol, which were recommendations that differed from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. The media stories that did cover meat were neutral, simply reporting on lean meat’s inclusion in the Dietary Guidelines. The articles focused on sugar received larger volumes of negative attention. The low volumes of negative discussion about lean meat led the team to believe that the current FactsAboutBeef.com resources that were made available properly informed the consumer on the recommendations for lean beef in a dietary pattern, and that no further action would be necessary at that time. As you can see from the chart above, within a few days of publication, traditional and social media conversations around this subject quickly declined. 

Chart 2: Below you can see the amount of social media attention that the recommendations for sugar received, as opposed to conversation around meat’s inclusion in a healthy dietary pattern, the morning the dietary guidelines were released.

 

Conclusion

Issues and Reputation Management is equal parts art and science and the beef checkoff has the tools and the team in in place to protect consumer confidence, and therefore consumer demand, in beef. The ability to understand how an issue is being perceived and interpreted by consumers and the media, provide perspective or shift a strategy during an issue at the right time, is critical. The team uses all of the tools – traditional and social media monitoring, to advise on response efforts on a daily basis.

Additional Resources

 

 

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Monitoring, Spring 2016

March 20, 2016