Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
Finally we have hard, scientific, proof that media coverage can change behaviour.
It's the holy grail communicators around the globe have been searching for, and Sydney University researchers discovered it - by accident.
A major research project published this week shows at least 2.6 per cent of a population changed long term, rusted on, behaviour after a single screening of a two part Catalyst program questioned a drug's efficacy.
And that behaviour looks permanent, with 14,000 fewer prescriptions dispensed every week in the eight months following the program's screening. And that's from a pool of only 191,000 people who have been prescribed the medication.
Professor Emily Banks and a team of researchers analysed seven years of prescribing data for a family of drugs and also a control drug. The research can conclusively point to the Catalyst program as the sole factor in changing behaviour.
Even if the information is wrong - and it was a controversial episode of Catalyst - these findings show that when it comes from a credible source, media reporting drives behaviour.
So my three takeouts?
1. Engage, don't hide: "No comment" is the most dangerous thing you can say. The story will air with or without you, and your stakeholders will be influenced and will change their behaviour;
2. Respond early and often: The best time to have your views heard is while people are forming their opinions. It's better to help inform people than try to change views once they're set in concrete;
3. Deliver: To be heard you have to express your ideas in media friendly language. Know what ideas to share, what evidence you need and how to say it. Otherwise you'll be ignored. Or worse.