Fighting back, on the Web
Viral marketing is today's equivalent of word of mouth. While it's typically employed by Web-savvy PR types to build brand awareness, the National Fisheries Institute is capitalizing on its effectiveness to counter misinformation about seafood reported by the mainstream media.
Is it working? Back in December, Jeremy Piven blamed his abrupt departure of the Broadway show "Speed-the-Plow" on mercury toxicity, resulting, he claimed, from years of regular sushi consumption. A month later, the actor defended his mysterious illness on ABC's Good Morning America.
So NFI posted Piven's four-minute interview on the popular Web site YouTube, and every time he made a misleading or inaccurate statement about seafood and mercury toxicity, NFI paused the clip and set the record straight with a one- or two-sentence rebuttal. Based on the number of views, the effort was a success - the clip has received nearly 11,000 views, and more than a dozen Web sites from the Los Angeles Times to Gawker.com reported on it.
Last week, misinformation about seafood and mercury surfaced again. This time, KPIX-TV consumer reporter Sue Kwon of San Francisco devoured 20 5-ounce cans of albacore tuna over a 20-day period and had her blood mercury level measured by a physician, none other than anti-seafood activist Dr. Jane Hightower. Though Kwon's blood mercury level was well below what the Environmental Protection Agency deems hazardous, her report was alarmist. So NFI reran the five-plus-minute clip on YouTube with a series of rebuttals.
"It's very effective," says NFI spokesman Gavin Gibbons. "It's about basic journalistic integrity. If [NFI] can demonstrate where a reporter is inaccurate or erroneous, [viral marketing] is a powerful tool."
The days of cumbersome press releases transmitted via e-mail or fax are fading fast. In today's time-pressed, Web savvy world, countering misinformation about seafood requires an immediate, direct, easy-to-understand response. And by capitalizing on the popularity of YouTube, NFI is doing just that.
Editor's Note: SeafoodSource.com is now on Twitter. For updates on the site, the International Boston Seafood Show and European Seafood Exposition, follow us at http://twitter.com/seafoodsource.