Beef Issues Quarterly Archive

Issues Media Monitoring and Response Analysis: April – June 2016


by Brandi Buzzard Frobose,  M.S., Associate Director, Issues Communication, and Season Solorio, Executive Director, Issues & Reputation Management, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff

On a daily basis, the Beef Checkoff-funded Daily News Team 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, NUVI for social media monitoring, and Sprinklr to track influencer engagement and dialogue, the team overlays the data from both applications to create a clear picture of how an issue is playing out in the external environment.
Each quarter, the team reviews traditional media coverage and small sampling of social media coverage to determine the level of attention that an issue receives. From April 2016 through June 2016 more than 950 traditional media stories and 1,020,681 social media mentions of the beef industry were analyzed as part of the quarterly monitoring report through Lexis Nexis and Nuvi. The one million social media mentions resulted in more than 1.3 billion social media impressions during the same period, many of which were generated in response to a report from Clear Labs which analyzed burger samples for various forms of DNA. Other issues that were widely covered included a sustainability report from the World Research Institute and the presence of antibiotic resistant bacteria in the United States. The focus of this article will center on the media surrounding the Clear Labs report and the proactive media management leading up to, and including, Earth Day.
As an issue breaks onto the news horizon, it is imperative to listen and analyze the media landscape in order to understand how a topic is being interpreted by the consumer and portrayed by the media. Careful analysis of both traditional and social media can provide significant, impactful insights that are critical in helping manage and respond to an issue in a timely and effective manner.
On May 10th, Clear Labs, a biotech start up in Menlo Park, CA, released a case study called The Hamburger Report. The report share the results of a genetic analysis of more than 250 burger patties representing 79 brands and 22 retailers. The patties ranged from regular hamburger patties to veggie patties, although the report did not specify which patties were sourced from which retailers. Select results of the report showed:
  • Beef DNA in 1 sample of ground lamb, 1 sample of ground bison and 1 sample of ground chicken patties. The report also found trace amounts of beef DNA in 2 vegetarian burger products.
  • Pork DNA in 1 sample of beef patties and in 1 sample of ground beef.
  • Chicken DNA in 1 sample of ground fresh pork, 1 sample of a turkey burger and 2 samples of beef burger products.
  • Rat DNA in 3 samples: 1 fast food burger, 1 vegetarian burger, and 1 ground meat sample.
  • Human DNA in 1 frozen vegetarian burger.
The report attempted to clarify that “While unpleasant, it's important to note that it is unlikely that human DNA or rat DNA is harmful to consumer health. What many consumers don't know is that some amounts of human and rat DNA may fall within an acceptable regulatory range. The amounts we detected in our research most likely fell within the acceptable regulatory range as we understand them.”
As you can see in the figure below, initial media coverage when the report was first covered by Gizmodo was very strong. Gizmodo, Vox, Fortune and Business Insider all published articles in the first 24-hour news cycle that drew attention to the report. A second wave of coverage on May 11 caused another spike in online conversations that spiked initially but then decreased throughout the week.
Figure 1. Social media impressions during the first 40 hours of media coverage

The second wave of coverage saw media stories that implicated beef specifically and highlighted the presence of rat DNA in some burger products, whereas the first round of coverage shared fairly benign headlines.
Recognizing that these confusing results and headlines may prompt consumers to ask questions about the safety of their beef supply, the team immediately started drafting a media statement to be distributed to media. Additionally, Dr. Mandy Carr Johnson was interviewed and quoted in the widely shared CNBC article, Do You Really Want to Know What’s in Your Burger? Dr. Carr Johnson’s quote provided clarity for consumers who may have been alarmed at the results of the study. The CNBC story said:
"I don't think this report is helpful for a consumer to know if the food that they are choosing is safe or not," Mandy Carr, the senior executive director of science and product solutions for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, told CNBC.
She raised concerns as to when the DNA discovered on the products was added, noting that the samples could have been contaminated in the lab it was tested in. Carr also noted that the study did not delve into whether the pathogens found in the meat were alive or benign, something that could have been tested.
"Unfortunately, this particular report I don't find very helpful in helping us improve safety," Carr said. "And, frankly, I am concerned that it would cause consumer confusion."
Carr later said that the low number of pathogens found in the meat products was "a good sign" that the beef industry's safety measures were working.
While the Clear Labs report received a lot of attention initially, within a few days of publication traditional and social media conversations around this subject declined after the first 48 hours of coverage.
Figure 2. Snapshot of coverage from the initial report release to the end of the week (May 10-May 13).

Issues and reputation management isn’t always reacting to studies or stories of the day – sometimes it’s anticipating the possible story angles and being proactive. In anticipation of Earth Day, when there is typically an increase in environmental and sustainability stories, the team worked to identify third-party content written by Masters of Beef Advocacy alumna Terryn Drieling. Drieling, a rancher, mom and beef advocate from Lakeside, Nebraska, authored a post on her personal blog, called “Sustainability: What Does That Even Mean?” The blog post discussed how she and her family strive every day to produce safe, wholesome beef using as few resources as possible in order to continuously improve their environmental footprint.
In order to ensure that Drieling’s strong content reached more people, and taking advantage of Earth Day, the team worked to digitally amplify this blog post to consumers who often talk or read about topics such as sustainability and food production. This paid digital amplification helped ensure that more people on Twitter saw this blog post. The post was also served up as “suggested reading” on key consumer websites, such as Everyday Health (see below). This campaign was also timely, given that the World Resources Institute issued a report during Earth Week, suggesting that people cut their meat intake for more sustainable diets. While the campaign was not orchestrated in direct response to the WRI report, it was still timely and allowed readers to see how farmers and ranchers are more sustainable today than they have been in the past. 
Figures 3 and 4 – Screenshot of Taboola and Twitter content amplified through strategic audience targeting.


The outcome of this paid amplification exceeded industry averages for similar promotions. Between the two outlets, the promoted content received more than 2,800 link clicks and more than 2 million impressions or views.
This case study is just one of many examples of how the team utilizes many tools and resources to tell a positive beef story.
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 response efforts on a daily basis.
The ability to serve-up a message, 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, Summer 2016

June 21, 2016