As reported in this column last February, IFT enjoyed unsurpassed audience impressions eclipsing 200 million during 2006 as news coverage was driven in great part by foodborne illnesses caused by fresh produce and peanut butter contamination. IFT’s well-established resource of food safety experts among its Food Science Communicators provided exhaustive scientific input to these news stories, resulting in more than 60-million impressions during September alone.
Now one year later, confirmed audience impressions during September 2007 dropped substantially but are significant nonetheless. More than 16 million audience impressions were recorded in September 2007, and the exposure is noteworthy.
In the September 5 issue of the Chicago Tribune newspaper, a brief overview of the recently concluded IFT Annual Meeting & Food ExpoSM brought word of IFT’s near record-breaking convention to the 600,000 daily readers of the flagship daily paper of one of the most powerful communications companies in the United States.
About two weeks later, in the Sunday edition of the Chicago Tribune published September 23, nearly one million readers were introduced to the science behind the booming bottled water market. In the article Bottled elixirs vs. tap, penned by Tribune Co. health and fitness columnist Julie Deardorff, IFT spokesperson Roger Clemens addressed the tradeoff between health and hyperbole. “As a nutritionist, I may not support [functional water], but as a public-health servant, I do,” Clemens said. “Our goal is to provide the best possible nutrition for 300 million people in the country. In this case, it may be it takes us looking at fortified water to do that.”
Addressing the difference between hype and health is nothing new to Clemens. As a scientist who’s blasted detoxifying diets within these pages of Food Technology, on CBS-TV’s 60 Minutes II, and elsewhere, Clemens has actively worked to persuade people infatuated with the latest diet crazes to remain grounded in logic.
In the September 25 story by KABC-TV in Los Angeles, he took the offensive yet again.
“There isn’t any clinical evidence to support or even to suggest that these types of cleansings are of any clinical or physiological benefit,” Clemens told KABC. “I’ve contacted a number of these companies. ‘Show me the data!’” he demanded. “None has come forth to show me data whatsoever,” Clemens reported.
In media relations the bottom line is this: Have you left your audience with a clear, key message? The final word of this report reveals Clemens did just that. “A good version of a detox diet is a no-detox diet,” the story concluded. KABC-TV regularly draws upwards of 400,000 viewers to its nightly broadcasts. An online version of this story is accessible via its Web site at www.abclocal.go.com/kabc.
Finally, during the last days of September, the popular 24-hour news channel CNN aired a special one-hour report entitled America’s Killer Diet. It was a lengthy look at CNN’s perspective on the American diet, Americans’ dietary challenges, and the battle against obesity. It drew upon IFT’s resources—specifically the aforementioned 2007 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo and IFT spokesperson Clemens—to reveal in microcosm why the nation is wrestling to identify a solution to this disease.
In the opening segment of the program, the Food Expo floor was shown, a full screen graphic featuring data attributed to this magazine appeared, and the business of healthy food was specifically targeted. “Today, it’s a bigger business than ever,” said show host Sanjay Gupta, “The Institute of Food Technologists drew [more than 20,000] people to its annual meeting in Chicago. And IFT spokesman Roger Clemens points out: While the public is demanding healthier products, it doesn’t always buy them.”
“Food companies want to provide those foods that are lower in saturated fats, lower in cholesterol, lower in sodium—all these attributes that we’ve come to accept by various scientific bodies,” Clemens described. “At the same time, the behaviors of our public have not changed.”
CNN aired this program twice on September 22 and twice again on September 23. It was received by an estimated audience totaling 1.6 million viewers. The cable network pared down the length of the program and its contents into 90-second and 2-minute stories aired six times the following weekend, gaining an estimated audience of an additional 2.7 million viewers.
So while the pace of IFT-related food news coverage in national news outlets is off from the record-setting pace of 2006, it’s far from an afterthought.
by James N. Klapthor,
Media Relations Manager