Paid corporate issue advertising used by Qantas during their massive industrial dispute raises again the question of how organizations should communicate about issues and crises.
Sadly, the evidence suggests a lot of advertising is a waste of money, and issue advertising is probably the least effective of all.
As reported in an earlier post, a British study showed only 5 per cent of consumers surveyed trusted advertising and only 8 per cent believed “what the company says about itself.”
Now a report from Pew Research Center has more bad news for communicators who rely on the traditional news media. Negative opinions in the United States about the news media were equal to or worse than the all-time worst on nine of 12 core measures the Center has been tracking since 1985.
The Pew study found:
• Only 25% of respondents think news organizations get the facts straight
• 66% say news stories often are inaccurate
• 77% think news organizations tend to favour one side
• 80% say news organizations are often influenced by powerful people and organizations
At the same time fresh research from Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication raises further questions regarding how to communicate about social issues. The research showed that, despite the growing popularity of social media as means of engaging with causes, nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) say word of mouth communication with family and friends is the way they are typically informed of causes and social issues in which others want them to be involved.
Even among generations Y (ages 18 to 29) and X (ages 30 to 45), who are significantly more likely than older generations to report being sent messages or invitations via social media or text messaging, more than half (56% and 59%, respectively) report this face-to-face engagement. In fact, social media users or not, study findings across all generations pointed to the potential for online cause overload. More than 7 in 10 reported that emails about causes sometimes felt like spam.
So if the public don’t believe advertising, and don’t trust newspapers, and don’t believe corporate messaging, and prefer face to face communication to hear about issues, what’s the lesson for Qantas and other organizations which are tempted to use full page advertising in the midst of a high profile crisis or public issue?
There are rare occasions when an organization simply can’t get the mainstream media to publish its statements. However, most often corporate issue advertising might make a brief news impact and might make the company feel a little bit better, but it doesn’t change minds or sway entrenched opinions.