The Australian Government's Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry is a national Awards programme hosted by the Bureau of Rural Sciences on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. The Awards encourage people between the ages of 18 and 35 years to use science, technology and innovation to advance the future of agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food and natural resource management industries. Since the establishment of the Awards in 2001, more than 80 young people from around Australia have received up to $10,000 in funding to turn their innovative ideas into fruition. The 2005 Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry campaign was the most successful campaign in the programmes five year history.
Each year Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) are invited to sponsor an industry based award category. A winner is selected from each State and Territory as well as industry specific awards selected by the sponsoring RDCs. In 2005 seventeen awards were offered, one from each State and Territory and nine industry based awards. In 2005 the nine sponsoring RDCs were Grape and Wine RDC, Fisheries RDC, Grains RDC, Forest and Wood Products RDC, Sugar RDC, Rural Industries RDC, Land & Water Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia and Australian Wool Innovation.
The Awards have consistently received strong interest from young people in a diverse range of agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries. The quality of applications has always been high, according to the comments of sponsoring RDCs and judges. However, in 2005 a concerted effort was made to reinvigorate the Awards programme by implementing a new communications strategy designed to increase industry and government stakeholder awareness and the quantity and quality of applications received.
Through extensive research of the Award’s target publics, the development of a detailed communication strategy and the effective implementation of public relations tactics the, 2005 campaign was an overall success.
The Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry gives young people grants of up to $10,000 to carry out scientific projects to enhance Australia’s rural industries. Applicants submit a written proposal to undertake a project on an innovative or emerging scientific issue specifically related to an agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food or natural resource management industry, such as further study, a study trip, industry visits or a research project.
The Awards recognise and celebrate the innovative thinking of young Australian’s working to benefit our rural industries. Not only do they deliver long-term benefits to the recipients, but also the industries and communities they represent.
The Awards have consistently received strong interest from young people in a diverse range of agricultural, fisheries and forestry industries. The quality of applications has always been high, according to the comments of sponsoring Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) and judges.
From 2002-2004 the Awards had plateaued in terms of media coverage, quantity and quality of applications, and government and industry stakeholder awareness. In 2005 a concerted effort was made to reinvigorate the Awards programme by implementing a new communications strategy.
As an Australian Government initiative it is imperative that the value of the Awards is demonstrated to government and industry stakeholders to ensure the programme continues to receive wide ranging support and funding.
RDCs are an important target public for the Awards. Each year all RDCs are invited to sponsor an industry based award category. Their engagement maximises the number of awards available, and also provides an opportunity to tap into their extensive industry networks for promotional activities.
The promotional budget for the Awards is limited to direct the maximum amount of funding to winners. Public relations tactics presented a highly effective means for gaining promotional mileage within the limited budget. They also provided an opportunity to reach a large number of potential applications, rural and urban, without embarking on a costly promotional
campaign. The campaign relied heavily on the timed and targeted distribution of media releases and articles.
The campaign was highly successful, achieving its primary objectives of increasing media coverage, raising government and industry stakeholder awareness and dramatically raising the quality and quantity of applications. The Awards culminated in a prestigious gala presentation night hosted by The Hon. Peter McGauran, Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister at Parliament House.
The Awards programme was launched in 2001 and over the first four years there was little change or evolution in the promotional material generated and the communication tactics executed. In 2005 there was a concerted effort to reinvigorate the Awards programme by employing a new design theme and communications strategy.
The 2004 campaign was analysed for its successful and unsuccessful media strategies. Print advertising had been utilised as the dominant method of promotion in all previous Award campaigns. Survey research conducted in 2004 determined that advertising in newspapers and other print mediums did not reach target audiences and therefore was not cost-efficient. The 2005 communication strategy did not utilise print advertising, and focused on public relations activities to promote the Awards.
New methods and areas in which to promote the Awards were investigated thoroughly. The demographics of previous applicants were analysed. In 2004 the vast majority of people who applied were university students from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales. Northern Territory, Western Australia and Tasmania had a noticeably lower number of applicants, which suggests that the communication campaign did not effectively reach those States. New ways of communicating with these States were explored, which resulted in the establishment of new organisational and individual contacts in areas that had not been previously communicated with.
To be eligible for the Awards applicants must be between 18 and 35 years, Australian citizens or permanent residents and studying or working in an agriculture, fisheries, forestry or food related industry. Potential applicants were a primary target public for the campaign, as they boosting their careers represents the purpose of the programme. When many people apply for the Awards it illustrates the relevance and need of the programme to Australia’s rural industries. The primary potential applicants comprised two separate yet equally important groups, university students and people working in rural industries.
A significant challenge for the campaign was successfully targeting eligible young people living in rural Australia as well as those based in urban areas to maximise and diversify the application pool. The promotional brochure and poster were re-designed to update the image of the Awards so it appealed to a younger and broader audience.
The sponsoring RDCs are also an important target public, investing $14,000 to be an award sponsor. An industry award is created for each sponsoring RDC. The sponsorship arrangement covers funding of their award winner’s project, travel and accommodation for the presentation and award plaque. In return, RDCs are promoted through acknowledgment on all promotional material and recognition at the presentation night.
There were several secondary publics of the campaign. These were Australian Government agencies, State and local Governments, metropolitan and rural media, rural and regional communities, rural and regional community groups, agricultural industry organisations and lobby groups and educational institutions including universities and TAFES.
The 2005 campaign heralded a new and revitalised communication strategy that was based on the results of primary research conducted in previous years. There was a specific focus on building a more comprehensive strategy that incorporated new methods of communicating the Awards to target publics.
A staged release media campaign was developed to increase the awareness of key target audiences and to encourage a wider range of applicants. The use of media releases prompted media to promote the Awards at key stages of the campaign - when the Awards were launched, at one month to go until applications closed, at one week to go until applications closed and after the presentation night announcing the winners and encouraging applications for next year.
The communication strategy outlined new groups of people to communicate with. The email distribution list was increased and diversified to include contacts from universities all over Australia, with specific contacts in the science and technology departments, Cooperative Research Centres, farming associations and environmental government agencies. BRS also targeted relevant conferences such as the Women Farmers Conference, the Country Women’s Association Conference and field days in April through to May to obtain greater coverage for the Awards.
The Awards were also publicised through rural and regional media and universities. A range of media articles about the Awards were developed, focussing on the achievements of past winners and the contributions their projects are making to industries.
Through developing a new communications strategy BRS seized the opportunity to raise stakeholder awareness of the Awards. The 2005 campaign aimed to highlight the prestige of the Awards and the achievements of past winners. For the first time the award money funded by DAFF and the sponsoring RDCs was raised from $8,000 to $10,000, presenting the opportunity to attract a larger number of applicants and higher quality applications.
The campaign was divided into four stages and the objective was to increase the overall media coverage. The first phase of the campaign was the lead up and launch of the Awards, phase two was the push to eligible young people, phase three was the presentation night and the fourth phase was the post-presentation and wrap-up stage of the campaign.
There was a considerable pre-launch interest in the Awards. Industry organisations and individuals listed on the 2004 database were contacted and recruited to promote the 2005 Awards to their contacts. A university contact list was developed with over 50 lecturers from universities all around Australia. There was great exposure and word of mouth dissemination of the Awards by previous winners and positive results started to come through from projects that were completed in 2003 and updated results for 2004. The Awards were then launched by ministerial media release by The Hon. Warren Truss, then Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, in the form of a media release.
During phase two a comprehensive public relations campaign was implemented. Promotion was sought through a range of mediums including print, radio, visual media, the Internet and word-of-mouth. Websites for rural organisations were heavily targeted to provide free publicity for the Awards. Websites whose audiences consisted of farmers and rural industry workers were recruited to advertise the Awards to their audiences. Related government agencies were also utilised as a publicity forum for the Awards. The targeted communication activities utilised were state-by-state media releases, mail-outs, posters and brochures, radio interviews and e-newsletter and special interest magazine articles. For the first time an opening soon poster was distributed six weeks prior to the launch of the Awards to generate interest. BRS sought to maximise on the opportunity to promote the Awards to potential sponsoring organisations by highlighting the achievements of past winners. Several past winners provided media interviews on themselves, their project and how their award had benefited them.
The campaign culminated in phase three, a prestigious gala presentation night at Parliament House. The attendance at the presentation night greatly increased, as there was a large amount of interest from high level stakeholders. At the presentation night a media kit was distributed to sponsors and the media. The kit compiled of media releases, backgrounders and the relevant profiles of previous year’s award winners and their projects. The presentation night was a highly publicised event that gained extensive media attention: with over 120 industry leaders in attendance. The event was attended by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry The Hon. Peter McGauran, the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, The Hon. Ian MacDonald, Parliamentary Secretary, the Hon. Richard Colbeck and DAFF Secretary Joanna Hewitt.
Phase Four was the follow-up promotion and evaluation of the campaign. The follow-up promotion after the presentation night involved a story in Contours, DAFF's Ebulletin, the Department's intenal electronic newsletter. Sponsors ran stories on their winners in both internal newsletters and in paid advertising in external sources. Various newspapers and magazines also published articles on the Awards and the winners. The purpose of these articles was to announce the winners and their projects, however, there was also a focus on portraying the honour and prestige of the Awards and promoting the Awards for next year.
The campaign achieved many positive results that surpassed the set objectives. There was a considerable increase in the number of pre-launch enquiries on the Awards from many industry sectors. The phase one media release announcing the launch of the Awards generated a large amount of media coverage. This media release also highlighted previous winners and many were contacted for follow-up interviews. The launch of the 2004 Awards resulted in nearly 20 media mentions in both newspapers and websites. The 2005 launch resulted in more than 50 newspaper and online articles, doubling the 2004 campaign’s result. The media release that was distributed announcing that there was one month to go until applications closed also attracted media attention in particular it resonated with university press. The final phase involved the distribution of a national media release highlighting the award winners and the gala presentation night. Individual media releases were also developed for each of the award winners. These were distributed to their home State. This resulted in approximately 30 media mentions across print and radio with many award winners interviewed, see Appendix A.
The quality applications received in 2005 was also higher. The 2005 judging panel was impressed with the quality of applications and stated that the projects were of a much higher standard than the previous year resulting in a much more competitive field. The number of applications received rose by just over 5%, from 54 in 2004 to 57 in 2005.
The campaign also resulted in other important improvements. In 2004 80 people attended the presentation night. In 2005 there was a significant increase with 130 people attending the event. There was also a larger number of high level stakeholders who attended. The success of the presentation night resulted in The Hon. Peter McGauran, Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, highlighting the Awards as a keynote event for 2006.
A thorough evaluation of the campaign was carried out after the presentation night. The results were then measured against the target objectives. All three of the primary objectives were achieved - media attention increased as well as the quality and quantity of applications.
The new communication techniques reached a wider audience. The communication strategy’s focus on diversifying industry contacts and increasing the email list was a thoroughly effective strategy, as email groups ended up being a dominant means of communication. The application form asked where applicants had heard about the Awards. The vast majority of applicants stated that they received information from an email group or list server that they were a part of. These included university email systems, government email systems, RDC internal emails, rural industry external email lists and op-in grants and funding email lists.
Throughout the campaign effective communication with stakeholders was a primary focus. BRS worked at maintaining an open dialogue with stakeholders by engaging in two-way communication to keep them informed and maximise their participation and engagement.
The other aspects of the campaign that were evaluated were the communication techniques used to promote the Awards, the media pickup that resulted, the quality of the applications, the presentation night and the sponsors opinion of the value of being associated with the Awards.
The campaign effectively achieved its target goals of raising the profile of the Awards programme with key industry and government stakeholders and increasing the quality of applications received. These goals were achieved through the specific and measurable objectives that were set as well as efficient planning and budgeting.