National Farmers' Federation

NFF wins third consecutive Gold Award for Public Affairs

ON FRIDAY night the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) completed a rare hat-trick by taking its third consecutive Gold Award in Public Affairs under the ACT Public Relations Institute of Australia’s (PRIA’s) annual State Awards for Excellence at a gala ceremony at The Deck Regatta Point in Canberra.
The ‘Pacific Solution to Labour Shortages on Australian Farms’ campaign was the NFF’s successful 2008 bid to gain third-party, public and political backing for its Workforce from Abroad Employment Scheme. The scheme recruits Pacific Islander employees on temporary visas, under a Federal Government-regulated program, to fill chronic labour shortages on Australian horticultural farms.
Before co-launching the pilot with Federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke in August last year, the NFF’s five-month campaign overcame a failed attempt to get the scheme up just three years earlier. In 2005, the scheme faltered amidst fatal opposition from unions and the media, fuelling community misgivings and manifesting in political resistance.
The NFF’s 2008 campaign laid comprehensive evidence-based foundations for the scheme, enshrined protections for employees and demonstrated mutual benefits, allowing the NFF to decisively address previous doubts, gain influential support and dramatically alter perceptions in favour of the scheme.
This necessitated rigorous data demonstrating labour needs and establishing alliances to support the scheme. The NFF’s Public Affairs strategy formed synergies between the organisation’s core functions of media, political, membership and stakeholder engagement:
* Media: achieved prominent, positive coverage of messages, nullifying previous negatives and building community and stakeholder support in light of quantified labour shortages in regional Australia and the economic and training opportunities for Pacific Islanders.
* Political: Government and key Coalition MPs took up and publicly reinforced NFF messages as both a practical solution and Pacific Island aid-based initiative.
* Membership: coordinated and maintained a concerted network, arming and mobilising farmers on-the-ground in telling their personal stories.
* Third-Parties: secured highly-effective alliances to win public endorsement of NFF objectives, displaying unity of purpose and proliferating NFF messages in a persuasive coalition of support.
Overcoming 2005’s negative media coverage, between March and August 2008 the NFF generated 2,204 metropolitan and major regional media hits carrying its positive messages for the scheme. Overwhelmingly, coverage was prominent (i.e. 75% of print in the first 15-pages) and ‘on message’ (84% of print, 91% of radio and 93% of television). The NFF’s high ‘on message’ rating, combined with ‘prominence’ and ‘volume’, ensured resonance among target audiences.
Individually, each aspect of the campaign achieved its objective. However, when combined they formed a powerful and highly-influential Public Affairs campaign that secured media traction, community and third-party support, and manifested in ‘political will’ to pilot the scheme.
The NFF’s ‘Pacific Solution to Labour Shortages on Australian Farms’ campaign is now a finalist in PRIA’s national 2009 Golden Target Awards to be presented in Brisbane on 26 October 2009.

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