These were the companies that saw the most media and public interest in their political funding pauses

January 25, 2021

Written by Benedict Nicholson

The storming of the Capitol by pro-Trump agitators was an event that shook American politics to its core, with the media and the public watching on in horror as members of Congress had to flee for their lives after rioters broke through the Capitol police defenses. 

Beyond the political implications, which have been discussed elsewhere at length, one thing that became obvious in the aftermath is that companies can no longer sit on the sidelines and simply watch politics happen. We’ve written before about the fact that the companies that do corporate social responsibility the most successfully do something tangible to go alongside their words, and that truism played out once again here.

A number of companies criticized politicians involved in fomenting the conditions that caused the riot, and several suspended campaign contributions either to specific individuals or groups, or chose to stop donations altogether until the process had been reviewed internally. 

That’s what we’re going to talk about here. 

Media and public interest in companies pulling funding for politicians 

Public and media interest in companies making the decision to pull funding from politicians peaked on the day after the narrative began, on January 11th, as the graph below shows. 

However, most of the articles that actually sparked the discussion were published the day before, on January 10th, and continued to accrue engagement for the next few days. 

Screenshot showing media and public interest in campaign finance in January 2021

The number of stories being written per day hit its peak on January 11th as shown, with some 1,200 stories published on the matter that day, while there were around 780k engagements to content about campaign finance contributions being halted. 

Public interest went down steadily from here, but media interest went up again on the 13th after having originally dipped on the 12th. 

All in all, in the ten-day period we examined here, there were 4,500 articles written, with almost 3 million engagements to the topic. 

But what did those stories look like, and where were they being written? 

The top articles about halted campaign finance contributions

Below are the articles that have generated the most engagement about companies pausing their donations to politicians.

Chart showing the top articles about campaign finance in January 2021

Forbes had the top piece, with more than half a million engagements to its report of major companies suspending donations to the specific Republicans involved in challenging Biden’s electoral victory. 

Interestingly, none of the three top articles actually mention the companies involved in their headline. The most engaged piece that had a reference to a specific company in the headline was from Reuters, who wrote about Marriott International and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. We’ll come back to the most referenced companies in this context later in the piece, but first let’s look at the publishers that drove the conversation online.

The top websites were unsurprisingly very reflected in the top articles, with a number of the same ones appearing in the same order due to having one highly successful article.

Chart showing the top websites writing about campaign finance

Forbes had the most engagement about its content on the subject of financial donations, with Bloomberg and Reuters ranking as the next most engaged on the matter. 

Judd Legum’s newsletter Popular Information, which helped kick off public conversation on the topic, was among the five most engaged websites when it came to talking about campaign finance last week, with more than 170,000 engagements – more than a number of major publishers including CNBC, the Washington post, and the New York Times. 

But which companies were the most talked about? 

Companies most frequently mentioned in the 100 most engaged stories

As we mentioned when we looked at the top articles, not every piece directly referenced companies in the headline of the story, with some writing generic headlines about company decisions. Sometimes these stories went on to mention specific companies in the opening paragraphs of their pieces, though sometimes the description remained general.

In order to see who was being mentioned most often, we exported the top 100 stories from our dashboard (which NewsWhip users can access here), and analyzed which companies were mentioned in either the headline or the summary of a piece. 

For reference here, 67 of the top stories mentioned at least one company, 30 mentioned two or more, 17 mentioned three, and 6 mentioned four different companies in their piece. 

The graph below shows how often different companies were specifically cited amongst the top 100 stories for the action they took. This was not distinct, meaning that an article could count multiple times in the analysis if it mentioned several different companies.

Chart showing the number of times different companies were mentioned in the top 100 campaign finance stories

Marriott was by far the most written about company, appearing nearly twice as often in the top articles as any other company, with 20 direct mentions. Blue Cross Blue Shield was the next most mentioned with 11, while Citigroup and Walmart were both written about on nine occasions. 

We then went a step further and looked at the number of engagements that articles about specific companies received.

Chart showing the engagement levels to companies who paused their political donations in the wake of the Capitol siege

It quickly becomes obvious that there were a handful of companies that people really paid attention to in this matter, while many others were mentioned frequently but less engaged with as a rule. 

Marriott and Blue Cross Blue Shield once again found themselves in the top three, with nearly a million engagements to their actions, though this time they were divided by Citigroup. Banks were generally highly engaged as a whole, with Commerce Bancshares, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs all appearing in this list.

Interestingly, although Walmart was mentioned with the same frequency in the top 100 stories as Citigroup, its actions were far less engaged, averaging fewer than 8,000 engagements per story referencing the company compared to around 94,000 engagements per story for Citigroup.

This data shows the impact that companies’ decisions can have in the modern age, and that it is not only the personal that is political, but the corporate too.

If you’d like to do this kind of analysis for yourself, check out the NewsWhip product suite.

Benedict Nicholson

Benedict Nicholson

In addition to leading the NewsWhip Research Center in New York, Benedict Nicholson manages partnerships with internationally recognized media outlets furthering data journalism, which includes NewsWhip’s Data for Democracy program. Benedict also facilitates consultations with communicators from the top 10 public relations agencies across America and Europe and with Fortune 500 brands [to discuss consumer engagement trends and effective media monitoring]. Email Benedict via benedict.nicholson@newswhip.com.

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