At a time when global demand for forest products is surging, forestry has a communication problem – and if we don’t change, we will lose the resources and products we love forever!
For six months, I was given a unique opportunity to study how the Australian forest industry can better market and communicate to an increasingly urbanised and environmentally conscious audience.
In 2021, I was awarded a Gottstein Fellowship, which, thanks to Covid, became a 2022 Fellowship, “Exploring the Relationship between Forestry Science, Sustainable Forest Management Principles and Perceptions of Local Forestry Among Australian Audiences.”
What began as an Australian project morphed into a global undertaking.
I was fortunate to interview 100 stakeholders in New Zealand, Fiji, Singapore, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the US, Canada, Vietnam, and Australia.
What became clear was that the challenges faced in the Australian context are the same problems faced globally.
Forestry is an industry like no other – for the most part, it lacks the political clout of agriculture and the financial muscle of mining.
Given its complexities, strategies that work in other industries cannot be applied ‘like for like’ and be expected to work in forestry.
The industry has a fantastic opportunity to lead the push to net zero.
To get the mass timber for the next generation of buildings, the woody biomass in renewable fuel sources, the carbon powder in lithium-ion batteries and even the next generation of ‘zero carbon’ plastics, we must harvest forests – and this is the opportunity to seize.
The report established that the Australian industry has strong brand assets, credible eco-labels and science to support its claims.
However, where it fails is in harnessing and in the distribution of the messaging.
As a result, the report calls for a rethink of the industry’s marketing and communication strategies.
It also challenges the industry to embrace tools ENGOs use to amplify and push key themes through multiple platforms.
The second half of the report outlines how the industry can improve its communication quality, infrastructure, public relations and distribution to connect with audiences where they absorb information.
It provides the industry with practical steps to implement change quickly.
Earlier this month, Stollzmow published a social licence report on the importance of understanding information sources.
“The vast majority of respondents struggle to find the information they believe,” Giselle Stollzmow, director of Stollzmow, said.
“Mainstream media often is thought to use emotion over fact. Some will use social media sources, but the majority thought these were the most unreliable of all.”
There has never been a more critical time than the present to change the status quo!