Plant & Equipment

Quarrying an easier sell than most: Advertising guru

What do Coca-Cola and News Limited have in common with the quarry industry? Dan Gregory wasn?t so sure before he spoke to members of the industry at the IQA?s national conference late last year.

In quarrying circles, Gregory is probably best recognised as one of the panellists on the ABC?s Gruen Transfer TV program but he is a household name in the advertising industry, and sought after by some of the world?s largest companies including Coca-Cola, News Ltd, Aussie Home Loans, Unilever, Horticulture Australia, Vodafone and the National Rugby League.

Over his 20 years in the advertising industry, he has been a leader in his field and VCD, the agency he started with George Betsis and Kieran Flanagan, won the coveted Agency of the Year award in 1996. Today, he is the founder and CEO of The Impossible Institute, a company that advises management and sales on the drivers of business ? internal and external drivers. He is also the creative chair for New Republique, a digital content company.

The quarrying industry is not known as a prominent user of advertising outside of its trade publications ? as aggregate is not a consumer product – but Gregory?s talents extend much further than purely designing a fetching ad.

It is the thought processes of any marketing person that can be of real use to the quarrying industry and one who is incisive, astute and entertaining to boot is a welcome addition to any quarrying industry function.

Before attending the conference, Gregory was the first to admit he knew very little about the industry. ?I spoke to Greg Thomson (secretary of the IQA?s Hunter Region sub-branch). It was about getting a really clear distinction about what quarrying is actually about and making that distinction between quarrying and mining, the fact that quarries typically sit in communities and that so much of the resources that are produced are used locally within 50 and 100 kilometres of the quarry,? Gregory explains.

?I had no idea – and I don?t think of myself as a particularly ignorant person. I think that?s probably the perception (of quarrying) in the broader community. So my general perception was that there is a real lack of understanding of what the quarrying industry does ? and that generates fear and ignorance amongst members of the public.?

Fear is a factor that must be overcome or at least disarmed, according to Gregory, and the way to do that is to engage in conversation with communities. It is about acting in a more human, and less corporate, way.

{{image2-a:r-w:300}}One of the questions raised during Gregory?s panel session at the conference was whether the quarry industry should try to educate the broader community about the benefits it brings or whether it should take a more localised approach. He said both.

?The reason I think you need both, the reason I think you need the broader approach is actually to eliminate some of that ignorance,? he says. ?It predisposes people to being open to the conversation if there is an understanding. It?s also important if you?re going to be recruiting people into the industry. If people don?t know what quarrying is, it?s going to be very hard to attract people into the industry.

?The broader campaign creates a better level of understanding that enables you to recruit more effectively, that allows you to have conversations at a higher level and not have people react instinctively out of fear. Then at the local level, I think it?s really about engaging people and personalising your communication at that level.?

Gregory is a great believer in becoming a part of the community because it will lead to more forgiving community responses and views on quarrying can be turned from a negative to a positive. Introducing the human face, with quarry owners and workers mingling with the community, means that everyone is connected and part of the same neighbourhood. It shuts down the ?us? and ?them? mentality so that an industry can actually define the community.

?There is a lot of negatives about the fishing industry,? he says, picking a similar example. ?It stinks, it pollutes, it robs the seas of fish. But when there?s a fishing industry in a coastal village, people define themselves as ?we?re a fishing village?. So the industry actually defines their identity. That?s an example of engaging a community and actually participating, being more than just someone who exists on the fringes.

?You need to be part of that community, as opposed to coming in as an outsider. Basically, the only vision of your corporation that people see is the trucks that thunder by. Putting a human face on a corporation is really important.?

Gregory adds that bucket loads of money will never open up community interaction and that quarry operators should not worry about social networking or fancy websites if they are spending the time and energy interacting with the community and providing something of worth.

Gregory mentions a friend, who is a real estate agent in Balmain that wanted to create a social networking page. Gregory advised his mate that a social networking page was not in his best interest and that given he already had direct access to people, his friend should hold free community talks that explained how members of the public could get the most from their real estate and increase their knowledge. This, he cites, is an example of how it is much easier to engage with small communities than large ones.


Not surprisingly, there will always be individuals or groups that will resist quarrying, despite an operator?s best efforts to win them over. Gregory says that quarry operators can marginalise that influence by making the dissidents appear ?fringe and uneducated? by sharing information with the broader community.

{{image3-a:l-w:250}}?You see elements of that in the carbon tax debate,? Gregory adds. ?The fact that you have pro-carbon tax debaters and anti-carbon tax debaters jostling shows that it is a more complicated issue than just ?yes? or ?no?. Being willing to participate in the conversation and being reasonable with the extremists is where you get to appear that you?re listening and giving them a voice. It reflects better on you,? he advises.

?If I?m calmly letting them have their say and they?re going off and looking irate, then to the outside world, they look uncontrolled, undisciplined and they?re over-reacting. So the more calmly and respectfully you can have that conversation, at some point people see enough of that and they go, ?Actually, maybe they [the quarry] do have a point?.

?And it allows people to be more open-minded. The more open-minded you are and the more willing you are to entertain other possibilities, the more open-minded people will be with you. And that?s true of all communications, whether it?s mass or one on one.?

Selling quarrying to the public is not as hard as you might think, according to Gregory. ?I think there is a lot to be said that is positive of the quarry industry,? he says. ?Quarrying builds communities. Every school, every road, every building you work in, every home ? it?s all made from materials by quarrying. So there?s a reasonable argument to make for quarries if we want to live in a modern world. It would also be much less of a community if we?re living outdoors under trees! There?s give and take. The relationships quarries build with their communities require those communities to give a bit – and requires the quarries to give a bit too.?

Gregory likes the suggestion that the quarry industry should put forward a proposal to ?The Pitch? segment on The Gruen Transfer and challenge two advertising agencies to come up with advertising campaigns to make quarries sexier.

?I think there?s a lot harder things to sell than quarrying,? he laughs. ?I launched bottled water into Australia with Mount Franklin and then Pump, and I remember people saying at the time, ?There?s no way, no way Australians will buy bottled water.? But now we all pay more per litre than we do for petrol for bottled water and we don?t think anything of it.

?So I think that just because people have a particular opinion today doesn?t mean that?s an opinion they will hold forever. And the more open you are and the more willing you are to engage with people, the more open they tend to be.?

Interview by Damian Christie. Text by Mandy Parry-Jones.

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