Agriculture / Rural Work Examples

Westland Milk Products

Convergence commenced work with Westland in mid 2012 and since that time we have helped develop a comprehensive communications strategy, written and/or edited segments of the company’s annual report, written for and edited the company’s in-house newsletter, promoted the 75th Jubilee celebrations to media, and advised on numerous media opportunities and marketing initiatives.

In our first year working with Westland we were influential in bringing about a significant increase in proactive media coverage and establishing the company as an independent voice in the dairy industry that had worthwhile things to say. In particular, uptake by credible business and industry sector media has increased substantially.

Convergence has played a key role in Westland’s incident response team, lending communications expertise and support to several weather-related business continuity challenges during the past two years.

Westland was a finalist in the prestigious New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Export Awards for 2013 with Convergence assisting in preparing the entry. We also helped produce a promotional video that will be used to highlight Westland’s substantial commitment to environmental and sustainability standards within a profitable and progressive business model.

We continue to work with senior managers on stakeholder relationships and marketing initiatives.

“The Convergence team understand very well the need to tailor tone and style to the rural audience and this is reflected in their written work for us which has included media releases, internal newsletter articles, annual report content and feature articles.

“One of the most important things Convergence has done for our company has been to advise, assist and support our team in engaging with the media. This included coaching our team on best practice, fostering better relationship with the media representatives, and supporting our messaging and interactions with the media.

“While it can be a challenge with a multi-site organisation, the Convergence team has also developed important relationships at the most senior level in our organisation and is now the go-to team for advice, particularly on external communications matters.”
– Charlotte Sullivan, Marketing Manager, Westland Milk Products

Lincoln University Foundation Farmer of the Year

In 2009, the Lincoln University Foundation’s South Island Farmer of the Year Competition was experiencing difficulties. With few entrants, little media coverage and minimal sponsor support, the event was cancelled.
Convergence won a competitive pitch to revamp and manage the competition in 2010. Successful outcomes meant Convergence was retained. It has handled communications and assisted with events management for the competition since.

The competition is now regarded as a premiere event showcasing the South Island’s agricultural excellence and innovation. It has received record numbers of entries, secured generous sponsorship, and enjoys substantial media coverage.

With the trustees we developed the following objectives for Convergence to meet:

  • position the South Island Farmer of the Year as the South Island’s premier farming event
  • attract more sponsorship
  • lift the number of quality entries
  • increase media coverage
  • double attendance at the final’s presentation and at the field day
  • transfer knowledge of innovative farm practices to other farmers

All objectives have been met.

Media coverage has increased exponentially. Each year the competition has attracted a record level of media coverage with nearly 100 separate new items published or broadcast.

Numerous sponsors now support the competition, including key media partners.

With increased publicity, a shift to allowing nominations, and a dedicated resource appointed by the Foundation to encourage those farmers nominated to actually enter, award entries are now at a record and increasing each year.
Attendances at the finals day and awards dinner have averaged around the 100 mark, and field day attendances have reached several hundreds. Convergence works closely with the Foundation secretariat and Lincoln University to coordinate all events focusing especially on promotion, liaison with finalists, media liaison and photography.

The website has been completely revamped to be more user-friendly and easier to update, generating a steady improvement in traffic.

“The input from Convergence especially in the areas of sponsorship and media has been a big part of the recent success of the Lincoln University South Island Farmer of the Year.”
– Ben Todhunter, Lincoln University Foundation Chair, South Island Farmer of the Year

Skellerup

Since 2006 Convergence has undertaken a variety of communications projects for Skellerup including its regular staff newsletter, ad hoc media releases and conducted a comprehensive internal communications audit.

In 2008 we assisted the company to mark the 50th anniversary of its ‘Red Band’ gumboots, generating extensive new media profile. Convergence also delivered a promotional strategy to support Skellerup’s launch of its new Quatro gumboot and developed a comprehensive document on the company’s pump technology for the international market. This year Convergence is again promoting the classic red rubber boots as the iconic Red Band brand turns 60.

Ravensdown

As Ravensdown’s external communication partner, Convergence was involved in crisis communications planning and management associated with traces of DCD being found in milk.
The farmer co-operative had developed a product, Eco-N, which significantly reduced the amount of nitrate potentially leaching from dairy paddocks into waterways. Although the active ingredient in this product was 10 times safer than table salt, it was not described on the international list of acceptable residues in food. This meant any trace in milk, however infinitesimal, could trigger a food trade issue. When traces at parts per million were detected in a handful of New Zealand dairy companies’ products, overseas consumer concern in countries such as China and Sri Lanka became intense.

When the crisis occurred, Convergence was immediately brought in to assist management and the board with the media response. We worked closely with the company to uncover all the facts associated with the matter, assemble them in a form that could be used internally and externally to explain what the issues were and implemented a media communications programme. We developed media releases and Q & As, directly briefed key rural and business media and responded to their queries. Because of experience and reputation within rural media (two of our rural media specialists had more than 50 years’ experience in the sector between them), we were able to leverage our credibility with journalists to ensure Ravensdown’s position was accurately communicated and the facts of the issue were made available.

We were also able to use our contacts with Government departments, in this case mainly the Ministry for Primary Industries, to co-operate with their communications people to ensure co-ordinated release of information. We utilised our strong relations with communications professionals in other affected companies to support the consistency of the information being releases to the public.

Ravensdown initiated the withdrawal of Eco-N while regulatory issues are resolved. Despite losing the revenue from this profitable product, the strong and effective communications management by the co-operative with the support of Convergence protected a much more valuable asset; its brand.

“Since late 2012 Convergence has assisted Ravensdown with a range of corporate communications requirements – from managing high profile media issues to proactive engagement with media designed to promote Ravensdown products and initiatives. They’ve also undertaken a strategic review of sponsorship activity, and assisted with media liaison programmes around our annual results and the appointment of our new CEO. We’ve found Convergence responsive and capable of working with managers throughout the organisation to help meet our communications objectives.”
– Gareth Richards, Group Communications Manager, Ravensdown