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STRATEGIC USE OF PR YIELDS SUCCESS FOR CARGILL UNIT
Broad media coverage helped fuel the success of CSCO's grower program.
A public relations campaign that targeted canola producers in Western Canada earned Cargill Specialty Canola Oils (CSCO) attention in the field, a notable increase in sales, as well as the Best of Show #151; Public Relations award at the 2004 CAMA awards. CSCO shared the honor with Adculture, its agency and architect of the campaign.

Gary Galbraith, production manager for CSCO, knew he had a product that would add value for canola producers (growers earn a premium by growing this canola, which is a solution to trans fat). "High oleic canola oils offer an unprecedented opportunity to canola producers as a result of the convergence of health trends, end-use demand and the development of viable canola varieties with specific oil traits," Galbraith says.

But while food processors and manufacturers ramped up demand for these oils to support healthier food choices by consumers, CSCO's challenge was to ramp up interest among Western Canada's canola producers to sign production contracts for the high oleic canola harvest, thereby supplying this sought-after oil. To accomplish this, Galbraith enlisted the help of Adculture.

"One of the things we had to do to be successful was to facilitate a shift in grower mindset #151; away from traditional commodity production to a recognition that they now engaged on a much different level with end-users than ever before," offers Dan Muys, director of public relations at Adculture and chief strategist behind CSCO's publicity campaign. "Introducing this new value chain and defining the brand accordingly was a natural fit for public relations."

TWO-PRONGED APPROACH

CSCO and Adculture designed a two-pronged PR campaign to drive the value proposition while also creating the climate where canola producers had sufficient background and confidence for uptake of the messages conveyed in the print ads and direct marketing efforts of the campaign. This integrated approach yielded impressive results.

Adculture organized a launch event that exceeded the scope of the traditional plot tour. The PR event was held consecutively at Cargill's research site and a leading restaurant in Manitoba. Several reporters were invited and the story reached a broad audience, establishing credibility of CSCO's value proposition, right out of the gate.

"The launch was designed to demonstrate CSCO's leadership in all aspects of the value chain #151; from R&D right through to the end-user," Muys explains. A high-profile dietitian, CSCO executives and crop scientists spoke about the science and nutritional value of high oleic canola and underscored the market opportunities for producers. The perspective of an established restaurateur was also used throughout the campaign. A well-executed publicity campaign augmented the public relations impact of the launch.

Throughout the following months, Adculture continued CSCO's publicity campaign. Widespread editorial coverage in Canada's leading farm publications, business magazines and with farm broadcasters was critical in continuing to build credibility. One such example was a front-page article in Western Canada's largest-circulation weekly farm newspaper that linked consumer trends to opportunities for canola producers.

Recognizing that agricultural producers are consumers too, good timing helped magnify the impact. "Our media campaign dovetailed with a spike in consumer media coverage of trans fats and related health issues," Muys says. "So, there was a multiplier effect in terms of the resonance of our messages."

RESULTS

Throughout the fall and winter of 2003/04, the media campaign generated more than 25 individual pieces of print editorial coverage and 28 radio interviews.

The success of the CSCO marketing campaign was measurable. CSCO increased its contracted acres by 50 percent over the previous year. "We were very pleased by the response to both the PR and advertising campaigns," Galbraith says. "We surpassed our expectations and were positioned ahead of our projected schedule for 2004." That strong rate of growth has continued through to the 2005 contracting effort. Galbraith sees the power of public relations as a critical component in CSCO's success since it established the credibility of the messages - a crucial ingredient.

"The role of public relations in building brands is sometimes overlooked," says Muys. "But here's a good example where strategic use of PR set the stage and reaped significant rewards for our client." AM


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