The resource sector will certainly look back on 2011 as one of the most challenging years in recent policy history. It is accepted knowledge that the wealth of the mining industry has insulated the Australian economy from much of the effects of the global financial crisis.
For the mining industry, this means that it’s hard to be one of the most profitable sectors amid economic instability – and this ultimately means tax.
The implementation of the Gillard Government’s policy agenda began in February with the announcement of the carbon tax. This was followed by announcements that we would also see a mining tax and an inquiry into Fly In Fly Out /Drive In Drive Out workforce practices (yet to conclude). Other issues that were elevated to the forefront of the media and political agenda included coal seam gas and uranium mining and exports.
Amid this, everyone became familiar with the phrases: two-speed economy and sovereign risk.
In every case, the government’s language, and agenda, was very much directed towards the mining industry.
It is not only the current state of global economics that have served as a background for such incredible analysis of the mining industry. There has been a change of government in NSW, change of Premier in South Australia and a changeover in the Senate with Labor and the Greens now holding control – with all of these stakeholders weighing into the debate about how best the profits of the mining industry should be spent.
In the face of all of this public debate, the mining industry has not idly sat back.
There have been campaigns by industry associations such as the Australian Minerals Exploration Council, the Australian Coal Association, Minerals Council of Australia, NSW Minerals Council, Australian Petroleum and Production Exploration Association and the Australian Steel Institute all designed to influence the outcomes of public policy processes.
The standout campaign for 2011 was the Minerals Council of Australia’s, This is our Story, which has been well received. This positive outcome was largely the result of the campaign’s sensible approach of not preaching to the audience but factually creating the narrative of how the industry is assisting communities.
It also sensibly understood that it needed credible third parties to talk about the industry. It is not what you say about you but what your friend’s do that is important.
There have also been some less-than-spectacular examples of industry campaigns this year that failed to resonate with either the community or policy makers – demonstrating that a good story still has to be told well, rather than just hoping that it speaks for itself.
The smarter observers of the industry are already acknowledging the wider public relations challenge for 2012 will be to move away from the heavily advertising-focused campaigns to those that are more engaging for their audiences and involve greater two-way communications.
The industry certainly did a lot of talking during 2011. Perhaps this year it is the time to turn off the adverts and do a bit of listening?
This change of tack has already started on the east coast, with the NSW Minerals Council actively engaging in social media and other communications with key stakeholders and the wider public.
In doing so, this peak body is paving the path for other industry groups and showing that it is more effective to get out and engage with the full spectrum of opinion, not just those that agree with them.
Below are some of the resource campaigns of 2011.
Minerals Council of Australia
Chevron – We agree
NSW Minerals Council
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