How can we combat “omega-3 fatigue” in the media?
GOED’s recently-commissioned meta analysis linking omega-3 intake to a reduction in blood pressure was very exciting for us and for our members. Lead author Dominik Alexander, principal epidemiologist at Exponent, said that it’s rare to see such a large body of research (70 studies) with such a consistent result. Additionally, the message that consuming omega-3s can help reduce blood pressure as much as other common lifestyle changes like reducing sodium or alcohol intake and increasing physical activity is an easy one for consumers to understand.
Yet the media has not been overly interested in reporting on this study. Our new consumer p.r. agency hit the ground running promoting the study and reached out to many of the heavy hitters in top tier consumer media. The reaction was lukewarm at best. Some media outlets declined coverage because the meta analysis was funded by GOED, despite the fact that none of the 70 studies included in it were. One reporter told our agency that after reading this study, she did not see a compelling reason to recommend omega-3s to her readers. Wow.
More than a year ago when we started researching our consumer education campaign, I had a similar discussion with a marketing executive at one of our member companies. She, too, said consumer media was tired of hearing another story about omega-3s, “It works, it doesn’t work; they’re sick of hearing about it,” was her quote. Couple this with the fact that negative media has far outweighed positive in the last year (chart) and we have a disinterested audience with a shortage of positive news in the first place.
Are we a victim of our own success? Certainly the industry has enjoyed years of double digit growth and faces challenges a maturing industry deals with. But in the face of negative media a la the prostate cancer study, just accepting that these are “maturing industry issues” is not good enough. An approved health claim for omega-3s in the U.S. or the announcement that EPA and DHA will be the next nutrients reviewed for a DRI would certainly help. Barring that, what should we do?
One answer is a multi-angled approach. Continue to talk to the major media outlets, pitch positive stories about omega-3s and build reporter relationships with GOED and our stable of scientific experts. At the same time, we need to work on placing “lifestyle” stories in influential consumer magazines and online outlets, focus on the health practitioner community and update the information RD’s and doctors know about omega-3s. We can also rely on social media to add another layer of messaging and leveraging member connections is equally important.
The challenge is, in an impatient world, slow and steady wins the race here. We all believe in the importance of omega-3s for public health so we are all eager to see a quick turnaround. However we are building the blocks of a foundation that will take some time to strengthen. Let’s keep building.