Does the industry need mascots to refine its message?

Television viewing is a rarity when raising a young family. It’s not simply that you don’t watch TV, your children insist on watching their own programs. My two-year old daughter’s TV viewing has been a mixture of Peppa Pig, Play School and Fireman Sam.

Fireman Sam is an interesting choice on my daughter’s part – the protagonists are mostly male but there is a cast of children who regularly get into spots of bother and need to be rescued. My wife and I suspect our daughter identifies with these characters most, and ‘enjoys’ the anxiety of the kids getting caught in difficult situations.

Her viewing habits have stimulated my thinking. Children’s characters and mascots are good media tools for communication and education, especially around safety issues, environmental and situational awareness and responsible behaviours. Should the Australian quarrying industry invest in its own characters to educate the broader public about the sector’s work, contribution and value?

As part of its community outreach, the US Aggregates Manager (AggMan) magazine has for nearly two decades educated kids about the importance of aggregates through Cubee the AggMan. AggMan has developed resources for primary school aged children that teach them about Cubee’s contribution to homes, schools, offices, roads and other buildings in local communities and across society, as well as basic earth science information.

Perhaps the Australian quarrying industry could benefit from a similar mascot – albeit someone more ‘human’. In fact, given the growing interest and involvement of women in quarrying, it would be prudent to develop relatable male and female characters with back stories, profiles and roles within the extractive environment that make them a credible fit for the industry. They could be important storytelling tools, not only for kids and teenagers but broader community campaigns for greenfield applications and brownfield expansions. The characters and resources could be developed between institutions like the IQA, Cement Concrete Aggregates Australia, and quarrying and aggregate companies. As part of membership/subscription dues, they would be available for quarries to utilise in their community relations initiatives. In addition, the quarrying industry would be showing stakeholders that the industry is as much about people as it is about heavy machinery and rocks, and that it makes meaningful, sustainable contributions to society.

The local industry currently gets a ‘bad rap’ in the mainstream media and on social media. You only have to look at the very ‘black and white’ coverage in the last six years of Boral’s unsuccessful bid for a new quarry site on the Gold Coast. It underlines the struggle the extractive industry has to communicate to the broader public the importance of quarry products. And if the industry can’t impart that intent, then its environmental projects and safety initiatives have zero chance of positive coverage. While some quarry operations engage in community relations programs, they are often doing it solo. Perhaps it’s time that the industry pools resources and takes a more innovative, proactive and cohesive approach to its communication skills and channels.

So what do you think? Would the industry benefit from mascots and a more unified campaign approach to advance its cause? Could these in turn encourage girls and boys to consider quarrying as a viable career choice?

Perhaps the quarrying equivalent of Fireman Sam isn’t as whimsical as it seems!

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