In crisis communications, insights, online advertising, search advertising

Have you ever caught a fish without bait in the water?

Neither have I.  It’s just plain difficult to get their attention without a lure beneath the surface.

Now extend that analogy to Japan’s nuclear crisis.  In the weeks after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, a jittery U.S. public pounced on search engines to learn about nuclear power and reassess its role in America’s energy future.

Did nuclear power advocates use this spike in online searches to reassure the public with search ads? It doesn’t appear so. They never took their bait out of the tackle box. Take a look:

Here’s the trend in Google searches for the phrase nuclear Japan in the weeks following the crisis.

Here’s the trend for the phrase “U.S. nuclear”…

…and the trend for “nuclear energy”…

You get the idea.

America hungered for information about nuclear and turned to search engines to be fed.  Yet advocates for nuclear never employed search ads to feed them.  A two-week search ad education campaign – coinciding with the spike in public interest — could have helped reassure the American people about nuclear’s economic and environmental promise at a critical time. It could also help reel searchers in to, say, the Nuclear Energy Institute‘s website as opposed to the websites of anti-nuclear advocates.

Search ads can instantaneously deliver a strategic message, reassure a confused public and help mitigate even your toughest critics.  The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, for instance, deploys an aggressive search advertising campaign designed to refute its critics and reinforce its public policy goals.  ExxonMobil does the same to build support for domestic natural gas exploration.

When a crisis sends your audience to search engines, meet them there with a targeted ad campaign to reinforce your position quickly and cost-effectively.  You can’t set the hook without a lure in the water.