The Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry (the Awards) 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 18 and 35 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, 100 young Australians have received up to $10,000 to implement their innovative ideas.
The 2006 campaign achieved its objective to continue raising the profile and stakeholder awareness of the Awards. Increased media coverage led to a dramatic rise in both the quantity and quality of applications.
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 2006 the Awards programme was reinvigorated with a new communications strategy and promotional tools designed to increase industry and government stakeholder awareness and the quantity and quality of applications received.
In 2006, twenty awards were awarded, one from each State and Territory and 12 industry based awards. In 2006 there were eleven sponsoring RDCs.
The Awards give young Australians 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 agriculture, fisheries, forestry, food or natural resource management industry, such as further study, a study trip, industry visits or a research project.
The function of the Awards is to recognise and celebrate the innovative thinking of young Australians working to benefit rural industries. Its ultimate purpose is to strengthen Australia’s rural industries and contribute to the sustainability of natural resources. Not only do they deliver long-term benefits to the recipients, but also the industries and communities they represent.
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.
In 2006 this strategy was improved again through implementation of a new design for all promotional material and the introduction of an on-line application tool, an electronic promotional tool and a web banner.
As an Australian Government initiative it is imperative that the value of the Awards is demonstrated to both 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. In 2006 Australian Pork Limited sponsored for the first time and Cotton Research and Development Corporation sponsored again after previously sponsoring in 2002.
The promotional budget for the Awards is managed 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 applicants, rural and urban, without embarking on a costly promotional campaign.
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 and Senator the Hon Eric Abetz, Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation 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. It also backed up previous survey research conducted in 2004 that had determined that advertising in newspapers and other print mediums did not reach target audiences and therefore was not cost-efficient. The success of the reinvigorated Awards programme meant that the aim of the 2006 strategy was to continue to develop and enhance the tactics that were adopted.
All existing promotional material: the opening soon flyer, brochure, poster, winners booklet and website, were redesigned, and additional items such as a flash promotion and electronic advertising banner, were used for the first time. Promotional activities were enhanced with continued promotion through industry groups, RDCs, universities and new opportunities sourced through conferences, field days, shows and stockyards.
New methods and areas in which to promote the Awards were investigated thoroughly. The demographics of previous applicants were analysed. In 2005 the vast majority of people who applied were university students from Victoria, Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia. Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory 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.
The promotional brochure and poster were re-designed to update the image of the Awards so it appealed to a younger and broader audience. New areas for distributing the promotional tools so they would be available to young people in rural areas were also investigated.
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.
Additional target publics of the Awards included 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 2006 campaign continued improving the 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 target groups for promotion. The email distribution list was increased and diversified to include contacts from universities all over Australia, Cooperative Research Centres, farming associations and environmental government agencies. BRS also targeted relevant conferences and field days.
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.
The 2006 campaign aimed to highlight the prestige of the Awards and the achievements of past winners. 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.
Industry organisations and individuals listed on the 2005 database were contacted and recruited to promote the 2006 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 2004 and updated results for 2005. The Awards were then launched by ministerial media release by The Hon. Peter McGauran, 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. An opening soon poster was distributed six weeks prior to the launch of the Awards to generate interest. Several past winners provided media interviews on themselves, their project and how their award had benefited them. A flash animated e-card was also developed to promote the Awards, and appeal to a young audience.
The campaign culminated in phase three, a prestigious gala presentation night at Parliament House. At the presentation night a media kit compiled of media releases, backgrounders and relevant profiles of the Award winners was distributed to sponsors and the media. The presentation night was a highly publicised event which 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 and the Minister for Fisheries, Forestry and Conservation, Eric Abetz.
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 external magazine, an article in BRS’ external e-newsletter and an article in DAFF’s eBulletin, the Department’s internal 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.
For the first time a questionnaire was distributed to all previous winners asking for detailed feedback on the Awards. Responses indicated 100 per cent of previous applicants would encourage eligible friends and colleagues to apply for the Awards. Results indicated that more than 95 per cent benefited from the Award and would apply again.
The campaign achieved positive results that surpassed the set objectives. The most significant of which was more young Australians putting in applications with an average of 60 applications in previous years increasing to 97 applications in 2006.
There was also 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.
Media coverage for the 2006 campaign, compared with the previous year, increased by over 23 per cent. Website hits doubled from previous years indicating that promotional material was successful in directing target publics to the Awards’ webpage. 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.
The quality of applications received in 2006 was also higher. The 2006 judging panel was impressed with the quality of applications and stated that the projects were of a much higher standard than previous years resulting in a much more competitive field. The number of applications received rose by 70 per cent, from 57 in 2005 to 97 in 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 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.
According to results from the questionnaire 2006 award winners completed over 97 per cent said they would apply for the award again if they had their time over.