If you were slightly obsessed with politics or hard news like I am, you’d know how influential the media could be, particularly during elections, high-profile cases or crisis. If you are not careful, media reports can turn you into a political fanatic or a self appointed judge of a case (the media being your jury). Considering that most of hard news coverage is accompanied by facts and figures, it’s easier for public opinion to be influenced by media reports, whether they are factual or mere propaganda intended to change the public opinion on something.
One good example is how the media drove the U.S election campaign. Throughout the campaign and even prior (when the now President-elect Donald Trump declared interest to run for presidency) media reports on this pompous Republican candidate were very much focused on his controversial and witty statements.
On the other hand, his Democratic counterpart, Hillary Clinton was lucky enough to be portrayed as the more serious candidate of the two and most likely to win the elections. Many people, including the candidate herself believed the hype.
The same applied to last year’s general elections in Tanzania; as in media reports implied that the opposition was certainly going to win the elections.
When it comes to court cases, especially high profile cases, the media can make a guilty person seem innocent and vice versa. In other words, media reporting can influence the turn of events of a case.
For instance, the OJ Simpson case. The court had to let go of the original jury of this case after establishing that their adjudication was influenced by media reports. Another good example is the Amanda Knox case; she was subjected to ‘media trial’ from the beginning. Both her conviction and exoneration were prompted by media reports.
These are just a few scenarios that show how influential the media can be in selling a concept. The funny fact is it’s not always intended.
The line between media propaganda and actual events is very thin. Even with years of experience in the industry some media professionals still find themselves blinded by media’s agenda setting and framing techniques to the extent that they too buy into what they are selling.
In his book ‘Mass Communication Theory’ (5th Edition), Dennis McQuill says; “it is assumed that the more the media attention given to a topic, the greater is the importance attributed to it by the news audience. The media influence is not on the direction of opinion but only on what people think about.”
So why am I sharing this on an ad agency blog? Doesn’t seem relevant does it?….
Well, first off, we too are in the business of selling concepts, hence we too strategize to set agendas (we don’t use that word though). This is with regards to how our clients are perceived (PR). So for instance, regardless of the extent of ‘character assassination’ our clients might encounter, with great PR approach whilst applying this agenda setting technique, we can give them a whole new look.
Lastly, as an advertising agency, one of the many things we do is selling ‘concepts’ to the public. Meaning, whatever message we put out there on behalf of our clients is the concept that we want the public to ‘buy’. As long as we are using the media to get our concepts out there, then agenda setting could also be very much applicable.
The key point being…. say it like you mean it, stick up for it and keep the message on repeat mode… until it sticks.