Media profiles of the nation’s thought leaders revealed

Union memberships might be in a state of long-term decline, but Australia’s peak union body - the ACTU - is still the nation’s most high-profile organisation of influence.

That’s according to a new study of ‘Influencers and Institutes’ conducted by Streem realtime media monitoring.

Innes Willox, Sally McManus and Jennifer Westacott

Three high profile leaders: Innes Willox, Sally McManus and Jennifer Westacott

Streem examined the 2019 media profiles of 36 organisations, ranging from lobby groups and peak bodies to institutes and thinktanks, in the nation’s leading newspapers and news websites.

The ACTU had the largest profile overall, as did its secretary Sally McManus when compared to the leaders of other organisations.

Also present in the top 10 organisations were two business lobby groups, four policy institutes, the Australian Medical Association and activist groups GetUp! and Extinction Rebellion.

Federal election looms large

The federal election in May had a pronounced effect on media coverage for many organisations.

GetUp!, for example, had more media coverage in April and May than the rest of the year combined.

The ACTU also experienced a sharp spike in May, as well as in June when Ms McManus called for the resignation of John Setka, the Victorian state secretary of the Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union.

Business groups, by contrast, tended to have a steady number of mentions throughout the year.

Extinction Rebellion, meanwhile, had virtually no profile at the start of the year, but rapidly shot to prominence in October via a series of protests that disrupted commuters in the nation’s biggest capitals.

October was also a big month for the Lowy Institute, who welcomed both Prime Minister Scott Morrison and ABC chair Ita Buttrose to deliver prominent speeches.

New wave

The sizeable profiles of GetUp! and Extinction Rebellion (XR) in 2019 showed how quickly a new wave of activist groups has emerged, with a media presence exceeding more established organisations such as Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF).

Both GetUp! and XR employed controversial tactics, which helped feed their media cycle. Not all coverage was positive - far from it - but they did succeed in cutting through.

In the case of XR, this was done with no figurehead leader to drive coverage.

While activist groups and institutes tended to put less emphasis on their leaders’ profiles, business groups were the opposite. Five of the 10 most high-profile leaders were from business groups.

Farming, retail and small business groups were particularly reliant on their leaders for media coverage, with the leaders mentioned in about eight of every 10 stories about their organisations.

Meanwhile, many other leaders were mentioned in fewer than one in 10 stories about an organisation.

Prominence

There were noticeable differences, too, in the relative prominence of the stories mentioning each group.

Nearly half of stories about the ACF (49%) appeared in either the front 10 pages of the newspapers monitored or the top 10 articles on key web homepages. By comparison, only 26 per cent of stories featuring the Climate Council gained such prominence.

To learn more about the Influencers and Institutes study, contact Conal Hanna.

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