Table Of Contents

APEN 2001 International Conference

Toowoomba, 4th-5th October 2001

Report No:


Title of Topic:

Extension as a Business – Communicating our Successes

Name of Leader:

Margaret Cruickshank & Roger Sneath

Names of Participants:

Irene Kernat, Nicole Mclennan, Peter Long, Neale Price, Jeff Lautts?, Graham Wilson, John Reive, Alison Spencer, Wendy McLeish, J. Oneil-Kanya?, Paul O’Hare, Abigail Jenkins, Michelle Hollaway, Noel Ainsworth, Scott Ledger, Linda Harley, Colin Holt, Helen Clarke, Sue Heisswolf, Jane Fisher, Ruth Nettle, Anne Crawford, Graham White

Main points of discussion

  • The main points discussed were of the need and methods of communicating success.
  • To be seen as relevant there is a need for a marketing approach and to address the triple bottom line. It is not enough to be well trained through the REC in facilitation.
  • Communication is vital. The comment was made that we need to know what it is we need to market – define the benefits. One example from the dairy industry was the development of a communication plan, involving stakeholders, and addressing the key issues for the various customers. (including the projects own wants and needs). This plan was used for great benefit for years. Further more stakeholders were invited to hold meetings at the research station that allowed showcasing of work.
  • We need to collect evidence of benefits to communicate.
  • An exercise was mentioned that in Central Qld focus groups were used to collect good quality information to accurately reflect community conditions. This could identify extra opportunities for service provision to community. It was mentioned that QRAA has a great database on businesses.
  • People want to hear results / benefits in terms important to them for instance in a business context addressing the triple bottom line. We need to supply messages in the way people want to hear them.

Some suggestions of communicating success included

  • having clients communicate benefits (worked very well) rather than ourselves
  • use of success “stories” eg Jessica Dart Target 10
  • NHT advertising activities and benefits on TV
  • MLA meat profit days
  • Future Profit, case studies.
  • An example of failure in communication was where wool industry levy payers lost confidence in Woolmark because they didn’t communicate benefits effectively.
  • It was mentioned that an example where progress is being made is collaboration of MLA with CRC and breed societies to have ownership in developing and promoting genetics training.
  • The State Government has a range of industries that need to better market to treasury. Often we need to take soft systems and convert them into a form easily understood, for example impact on jobs. It requires a good reporting system that conveys the full story. Bennett’s hierarchy was mentioned as a possible reporting framework that can be easily used and readily understood.
  • Collaboration across projects was also mentioned.

Major outcomes (what have you achieved from this discussion; how can this make a difference; what else do you need to do?)

The main outcome was an exchange of ideas and the reinforcement that unless we use a planned process to collect, translate and promote the benefits of our work for relevant stakeholders, in the ways they like to best receive it – then we run the risk of being seen as irrelevant by policy makers.

We need to communicate who we are and what we do and our outcomes.

Possible follow up actions include development or enhancement of communication strategies, for example as suggested during the session, as well as gaining further ideas from others who are operating extension as a business.

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