Deer industry leadership: design thinking for communication and engagement.

Executive Summary

The deer industry in New Zealand is renowned in the primary sector for its innovation and passion. Deer Industry New Zealand and the New Zealand Deer Farmers Association provide leadership and initiatives to grow the deer industry on behalf of their stakeholders. A vital facet of industry leadership is building capability through fostering a culture of continuous improvement. It is this spirit of striving for continuous improvement, coupled with the acknowledgement that the ability of an organisation to communicate effectively with stakeholders affects the achievement of business objectives, that inspired this project.

The aims of this project were to learn about the world of communications, discover what can be learned from other primary sector organisations, find out what farmers’ and other end users’ preferences are for communications from their industry organisation, and to provide a set of recommendations arising from this research.

The key learnings from this project are:

  • Communications both underpins and is overarching of an organisation’s strategic objectives.
  • To get the most benefit, communications needs to be a role within the organisation which sits at a high level and is performed by a professional with specific skillsets and specialist knowledge.
  • Content consumption habits and preferences of farmers are diverse and rapidly changing.
  •  The level of connectedness and engagement amongst the farming population should not be underestimated.
  • It is necessary to provide a suite of platforms for communications to provide choice to the diverse demographic of farmers/stakeholders, but start with a ‘digital first’ mentality, as this is, and will increasingly be, the dominant preference for content consumption.
  • Engagement is not the end goal of communication, but a live, ongoing relationship that needs to be nurtured, with effective communication being the enabler for this.
  • More than ever before, organisations need to understand social stresses and demands on farmers and other stakeholders, and place that forefront of mind, using a design-thinking approach to communications.

Summary and recommendations: Industry-good organisations such as Deer Industry New Zealand need to adopt communication strategies that are designed with the end user in mind. The content consumption habits of farmers and the way they prefer to receive information should be driving the way the deer industry communicates. Commissioning an independent audit of an organisation’s communications is valuable, especially for smaller organisations with a limited budget. In a world experiencing an exponential rate of change, how individuals communicate and consume content is changing rapidly. Focussed attention is needed to ensure organisations stay relevant to their stakeholders and communicate effectively in the future.

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