Asking the hard questions


Last Thursday I attended my second Blueprint for Australian Agriculture Forum.

The Blueprint for Australian Agriculture is about finding a new voice and building a coherent, collaborative plan to make significant and sustainable progress.

The attendees had been tasked with determining the actions for ‘KEEPING THE BLUEPRINT ON TRACK’

There was a lot of talk in the room about agriculture’s inability to celebrate success and pivotal need to balance the hard luck stories with the good news which was too often exacerbated by the culture of some of cutting down those who dare tell a positive story

The morning commenced with an address by well-known and thought provoking CRAIG DAVIS who challenged us by saying

There’s a massive gap between the perception and the reality of Australian agribusiness. We think the world is thinking of us in the first place. We think the perception is better than it is. We think we’re a player.  C’mon people, humility.

But the opportunities for Australian agribusiness are enormous.  For all our misguided perceptions, the reality can and should be far stronger than most of us imagine.

Craig’s address was titled the HARD QUESTIONS AGRICULTURE NEEDS TO ANSWER and began with

When you’re born in Australia you’ve already won the lottery. We live in one of the most naturally
abundant places on earth. But are we smart enough and prepared to work hard enough to grow
our good fortune? Or will we squander it like so many lazy lottery winners? These are some of the
hard questions for Australian agribusiness to answer and the NFF Blueprint is designed to
help. But if we are prepared to take on these (and many other) challenges, there’s no room for
complacency. Like it or not, we live in a world of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.
And we’ll need a clever, coherent and compelling Brand Australia to help us realise our potential.

Craig gave the attendees some very sage advice when he said

Australian agribusiness needs to do a much better job of building engagement and relationships with customers and consumers.  Strong relationships are built on a shared purpose, values, experiences and the stories that exemplify and reinforce them. So it is with strong brands.

So what makes this such a challenge for Australian agribusiness?

Two things.

First, brand ‘Australia’ has a mixed reputation for relationships in the region.

In consultations leading up to the Asian Century Whitepaper comments were made about Australia’s apathy and lack of knowledge towards Asia. Our role as a ‘seller of things’ to Asia influences the view of us – we’ll have a price negotiation on everything. We’re seen more as ‘wheeler dealers’ than relationship builders.

(You may have seen some commentary in The Land recently to back this up).

By contrast, the Canadian beef industry has been working with China for many years. Their approach has been holistic and includes partnering on genetics, live cattle, meat and production technologies.

And Fonterra’s deep and abiding partnership with China has served them nicely through thick and thin.

According to opinions canvassed through Advance, Australia’s community of professional expats, “there is a perception that Australians see things through Australian and English eyes, that we look to Washington for political approval and even resent travelling on business to Asia.”

These are not helpful characterizations for relationship building in the region.

The second reason all this matters is that the relationship model is more about purpose, meaning and values than image and communication.

  A great deal of what Craig had to say resonated with me and the background behind Art4Agriculture’s raison d’etre. You can imagine I pumped my fist in the air when he said

I suggest to you that the future of Australian agriculture has a lot to do with rebuilding direct consumer and customer engagement.  And there’s nothing quite like a customer focus to inform, simplify and clarify strategic planning and priorities.

What truly resonated with me was the importance of agriculture sharing the “HOW and WHY” when we tell our story.  

People are overloaded and overwhelmed with information. We’re up against increasingly distracted minds. These people don’t want more communication, they want to feel connected.

The antidote to distraction is more meaning not more messaging. As Simon Sinek says, ”people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do what you do.”

…….. Clean, green and safe is what we do, not how or why we do it.

You can read this very compelling presentation on Craig’s blog here.



Craig Davis has been at the forefront of the global advertising business for 20 years, with high level roles in Saatchi & Saatchi and J Walter Thompson working with many of the world’s biggest brands including Coca-Cola, P&G, Nestle, HSBC, Unilever, Shell, Sony, Bank of China, Toyota, Kraft, Ford and Diageo. He has judged at every major international advertising festival and delivered countless keynote addresses around the world.

Author: Lynne Strong

I am a 6th generation farmer who loves surrounding myself with optimistic, courageous people who believe in inclusion, diversity and equality and embrace the power of collaboration. I am the founder of Picture You in Agriculture. Our team design and deliver programs that inspire pride in Australian agriculture and support young people to thrive in business and life

%d bloggers like this: