It comes as no surprise to read AP’s Kelly Olsen’s piece from yesterday which points out how the media in Korea has influenced the hostile public perception regarding the import of US beef. In fact, trust in media from opinion leaders in Korea (60%) is at three-year high (length of study) according to Edelman’s 2008 Trust Barometer, more trusted than NGOs (59%), Religious Bodies (45%), Business (43%) and Government (40%). Olsen wrote:
“Fears have been fanned largely by a sensational television report last month and Internet chatter about the meat, which both governments have repeatedly said poses no health risk.”
The influence of the Internet blogosphere should not be under-estimated in Korea. You only need to look at how the ‘Group that Loves Roh’ web campaign (a longer explaination on this is featured in Edelman Korea’s CSR paper) critically leapfrogged the virtually unknown presidential candidate to a sensational victory in 2002 to understand that online influence is not just a new thing in Korea. It’s a reality any organization communicating must try to manage and engage in.
It’s not about controlling the debate. By engaging, and often directing traffic and the debate to a forum that you have more control over, however, organizations can begin to see positive communciations outcomes. Edelman in Korea has learnt that steering a debate back to an organization’s own online forum can help balance the communications, especially in time of crisis.
I’d like to see this debate addressed in a more innovative way, as the facts on US beef’s safety are pretty clear in my opinion.