The Exposure Disclosure

For all the talk about social media’s utility, its champions’ chatter on the proven role of selective exposure in public affairs appears muted. As far as public affairs advocates are concerned, a campaign full of social-media tactics will inevitably win over the hearts and minds of some of those on the other side of most any issue,…or so they tell their clients.

Numerous studies1,2 have established that web surfers actually tend to selectively expose themselves to information that reaffirms their beliefs and, in fact, avert information that opposes them.

What does this mean to public affairs professionals? Well, besides the fact that they should stop doling out b.s. on the mind-changing efficacy of social media,  it might mean that, instead of fully investing in an oft-heralded, oft-digital we are our own media organization philosophy, PA professionals should reinvest in traditional media relations, where the presumed objectivity of the press might temper information seeking tendencies. It might also mean that PA professionals should focus their social-media efforts on mobilizing constituents who agree with their clients’ stances rather than trying to convince those who might never substantially process their pleas.

Whatever it means, it’s high time we disclose selective exposure, in public affairs literature and practice, so that we can come to terms with social media’s actual utility and perhaps find ways of overcoming –or exploiting- this phenomenon.

–  Jude C.

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