Public Relations Case Study

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Good Neighbours Campaign, 1999
Client: Australian Cotton Industry
PR Company: Cox Inall Communication

Cotton production is a significant primary industry in Australia, with a record harvest of more than 583,000 hectares being planted in 2011/12. Cotton is one of Australia’s largest rural export earners, which continually supports the viability of more than 50 rural communities across the country. With more than two and a half times the world’s average yields, Australia’s cotton industry is now considered the most water efficient in the world. Cox Inall Communications produced the Good Neighbours Campaign in 1999 for the Australian Cotton Industry in order to implement the Best Management Practices (BMP) for cotton growers. It has educated farmers and changed practices and perceptions towards cotton production for the benefit of the environment and the cotton industry. In the late 1990s, Australian cotton growers were subject to continuing criticism due to the impacts cotton production has on immediate neighbours and neighbouring communities. Many concerns were raised regarding the environmental performance of the Australian cotton industry, such as pesticide residue detected in beef cattle (due to consuming cotton trash, or pasture). A high level of agrochemical residue was also found in surrounding rivers, which has been linked to fish deaths and other harm to animal and plant species. The health of communities where cotton is grown was also raised, due to spray drift and the high noise level of aerial spraying. Other issues included soil erosion, transfer of pesticides on soil particles, and insufficient storage and handling procedures of pesticides on farms. The Australian Cotton Industry saw a need for a change in cotton growing operations. The Best Management Practices (BMP) was developed in 1997 to help farmers “identify and manage risks, create a safe workplace for staff, design cotton farms that minimise environmental impact, use pesticides in a safe and responsible manner, use all available options to control pests, minimise usage and recycle water, and store and handle chemicals safely” (Cotton Australia – Best Management Practices, n.d.). To implement these strategies, Cox Inall Communication was employed to promote the Good Neighbours communication campaign in 1999, in order to educate cotton farmers on the BMP manual, both as “an information source and as a mechanism to ensure adoption of recommended practices” (Chia J., & Synnott G pg 114). The main basis of the campaign was to improve the public image of the industry by adopting these strategies and demonstrating a new level of openness and cooperation within the cotton industry. Particular focus was given to minimising the impacts of pesticides on the local water networks, on communities and on farm products (including pesticides in beef products). In this communication campaign, the stakeholder view plays a crucial role in generating a positive outcome. In order to change the views of the stakeholders towards the cotton industry, Cox Inall Communications needed to implement strategies that would appeal to all associated groups and individuals. The following were stakeholders in this campaign: Australian cotton growers, cotton communities in NSW & QLD, cotton neighbours (other farm industries), Australian Cotton Industry Council Member (12 organisations), farm consultants & agronomists, aerial operators, environmental organisations (local & national), Commonwealth, State & Local Government and Government regulatory bodies. Research conducted by Cotton Australia, Singleton Advertising Research (1997) and Stollznow Research (1995, 1997, 1998) found the “key to influencing public perceptions of cotton growing” (Good Neighbours Campaign, 2013) was to communicate and promote the campaign to the 100,000 people living in communities that grew cotton. This information showed that the most effective way to disperse information would be...
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