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Dear mining industry, we need to talk…

An open letter looking at why the mining industry needs to engage more with the mainstream media and the general public

Dear mining industry,

I love you but… we need to talk.

About communication. Or rather, the lack of it.

It’s not communication within the industry that bothers me. There’s plenty of that going on. There are some brilliant B2B and B2C publications, newsletters etc and, I have to say, you’re doing a great job of telling your story there.

I like reading about you, but you don’t seem keen to talk about your work in the wider media.

Why is that?

I know it’s a touchy subject, but I have to mention the tailings furore from earlier this year.

When the national news agencies, the papers and the television crews came knocking to ask about tailings storage, where were you? They wrote some controversial and, in some cases, ill-informed things about you, and you didn’t defend yourself.

It hurt me to see that.

Yes mistakes were made, but we both know that you do lots of positive work too; around environmental conservation, community support, healthcare etc.

Remember, the general public don’t read B2B publications about mining. How will they hear the good stuff if you don’t make the effort to tell them?

OK, I know you don’t like talking about that so let’s change tack.

You talk all the time about how hard it is to find new high-grade deposits. How you’ve got to process more and more rock to produce the same amount of metal. How expensive that is and how hard it is to find new investors.

If you want to find new investors then you need to promote yourself more widely. There’s no point in only selling yourself to your peers or to your current investors.

Truth is, you’ve received some negative coverage in the mainstream media recently and you need to speak out and change people’s opinions, or risk being shunned in favour of other, seemingly safer, investment opportunities.

Mackenzie’s got the right idea. See how he spoke about BHP’s climate change efforts in the FT last month? That was well received.

The same goes for recruitment. You’ll never attract sufficient talent to replace the brain drain that’s currently happening if you don’t sell yourself as an employer to those outside of the mining industry.

There are lots of things you can do to kick start change. Mainly around PR.

For example, be proactive when it comes to editorial opportunities: contact journalists and national media outlets you respect. Offer them interviews and case studies on topics that you feel are important. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

Take them on site visits so they can see firsthand the good work that you are doing.

Ask what their audiences would like to read about and craft opinion pieces for them explaining the role you can play in those instances.

We’re talking about communication again aren’t we?

The long and the short of it is that you’re facing some pretty existential challenges going forward. How will you address them without greater transparency?

I’ve asked my (mining) friends what they think, and they agree. It’s a problem.

Yes, you’ve had your fingers burnt in the past…

But please, tell me you’re willing to try again?

Carly x

p.s. I’ve written this because I really do want to open up a conversation on this topic. Do you think the mining industry could do more to promote itself? If so, tell me how. Maybe you think it’s doing a good job…? All thoughts and opinions welcome below

2 comments on “Dear mining industry, we need to talk…

  1. I agree. The problem is “who” and “how”. Your suggestions are great. But many mining companies and miners do them. The question is how do we get these messages to a wider audience, and who is going to do that? My age old question, that no one seems to have an answer to: “how do we get the average person in Detroit to understand the great things we do about mining, and who is going to pay for that effort?”.

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    • Good point Tim. I think the ‘who’ and ‘how’ are key here, and that’s why I’ve written this piece because, if one person stands up and speaks once or twice it will have very little impact. Collectively, as an industry, we need to make a concerted effort to be more transparent. And we need to sustain that effort. The only way we will change opinions and future proof our industry is if we make it a more visible part of peoples day to day lives (it’s already there, they just don’ know it), and explain the role we can play in the future of society.

      At the moment, mining companies seem to be focused on promoting themselves to investors and to companies that buy raw metals to produce phones, jewellery, cars etc. Those buyers are consumers of a sort but often they are not the end users. The demand for their products comes from the general public and without that the companies that miners sell to would not be there. End users are starting to demand more transparency and make more informed choices when it comes to their purchases and we need to put steps in place now to ensure that we can provide that and to communicate our message to them directly.

      Like

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