Home' National Farmers Federation : Annual Report 2009-2010 Full Issue Contents 44 NATIONAL FARMERS' FEDERATION ANNUAL REVIEW 2009-10
Backed by in-depth qualitative and quantitative
market research, consultation with members,
and feedback from key stakeholders, the NFF's
Public A airs program has held up remarkably
well since its launch in March 2006.
What makes NFF communications 'strategic',
as opposed to a series of ad hoc activities,
is its 'constant drip' approach, whereby key
messages are delivered and regularly backed-
up via various layered communications tools to
ensure messages are received, reinforced and
The philosophy driving NFF Public A airs bases
modern farm messages on market research
triggers, marries these with independent
data demonstrating farming's value to the
community and injects these into the leading
issues of the day.
This strategy is underpinned by the principles
and desired outcomes of social marketing,
1. Proactively RAISE the positive pro le of
farming issues and the innovative practices
involved in modern, dynamic, competitive
and sustainable farming practices;
2. In doing so, BUILD awareness of farming, its
role, contribution and value to the broader
community and stakeholder groups;
3. Thereby, ESTABLISH con dence, trust
and credibility in the information, services,
expertise and endeavours of the farming
community -- bringing the broader
community and stakeholder groups
along on relevant issues -- and focusing
community and stakeholder attention
accordingly; and ultimately
4. INFLUENCE community and stakeholder
attitudes, behaviours, decisions and choices.
After four years of pushing positive perceptions
of farming while wearing down ingrained
negative perceptions, it's worth recapping on
what has been done before looking at where
the NFF is headed from here.
Where we were
In 2003 the NFF engaged CrosbyITextor to
undertake qualitative and quantitative market
research, which uncovered strengths and
weaknesses. Key ndings included so-called
positives, where farmers were perceived as:
"the backbone of Australia".
"salt of the earth".
But were these actually positive perceptions? In
developing the NFF communications strategy
we have argued 'not so much'.
The research also threw up inherent negative
attitudes. Farmers were seen as:
"antiquated" and "relics of a by-gone era".
"way of life dead or dying".
"reliant on hand-outs" and "always
"irrelevant to modern Australia".
These fuelled common misnomers with
92% of people describing farmers as "raping
the environment" and "can't be trusted as
responsible land managers".
It was clear that the so-called traditional
positives the sector clung to, in fact, reinforced
the negatives... that farmers had not kept pace
with contemporary values, had failed to adapt
and were being left behind -- hence their lack
In city minds, farmers were still trudging in the
paddock with a Clydesdale, which also created
resentment that taxpayers were forever bailing
out an unviable farm sector. The sympathy well
had been dipped into too often and people
where sick of farmers complaining they had it
In 2006 the NFF set to work getting on the
front foot. Pivotal was engendering informed
support (not sympathy) for the sector's modern
contribution... a story that had not been told
for some time.
The rst thing the NFF needed to do was tackle
the perceived lack of relevance of the farm
sector and, simultaneously, turn around the
sector 's biggest Achilles heel, the environment.
Core messages had to be founded on credible
independent data. It's not good enough
that the NFF says farmers are relevant, that's
expected, it needs to be proven. For example:
• Farmers are a vital part of Australia's
economy -- over $137 billion a year in
economic activity, representing 12% of GDP,
over 317,000 direct jobs, with around 1.6
million jobs throughout the economy, and
$32 billion a year in exports.
• Farmers are frontline environmentalists
-- custodians of 54% of the landscape,
spend $3 biilion a year on natural resource
management, 94% of farmers actively
prevent and/or manage environmental
issues, farmers plant over 20 million trees a
year for conservation purposes, and have
reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 40%
• Modern farming is a modern business --
state of the art technology to be globally
competitive (including just 4% income
support from government) in producing
high quality food and bre for Australians
and the world.
Here we took entrenched negatives and turned
them into positives. Over 2002 through to mid-
2006 you couldn't pick up a major newspaper
in this country without reading how farmers
are the cause of environmental degradation.
Since pulling the trigger on the
communications strategy we've engaged
with metropolitan media in a proactive
push, demonstrating agriculture's modern
contribution and have been overwhelmingly
successful in getting our messages up by
injecting agriculture into the leading issues of
the day through a 'constant drip' strategy.
BY now members are well versed in the National Farmers' Federation's (NFF's)
multi-award winning communications strategy, which has won peer recognition six
times under the Public Relations Institute of Australia's (PRIA's) annual state and
national Awards since 2007.
Public Affairs WITH BRETT HEFFERNAN
"Why a 'constant drip' approach? When you're trying to affect
attitudinal change at a societal level people do not respond to the
'in your face approach' -- telling them they've got it wrong and
should appreciate farmers only gets their collective back up"
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