The mining-tax scare website is an excellent case study

June 15, 2010

The Minerals Council of Australia is running a scare-campaign in opposition to the Federal Government’s proposed resources super-profits tax. The Federal Government is quite rightly proposing to introduce a profits tax on exceptionally high profits to ensure that Australians get a greater share of the profits made by mining companies made from Australia’s non-renewable resources.

The Minerals Council’s well-resourced (and misleading) scare-campaign is being run with television and newspaper ads, both from the Council itself and from individual members (such as BHP and Rio Tinto, and others), as well as a scare-website: Keep Mining Strong.

This website (and the campaign more broadly) is a good case study for campaigners to look at. This is for several reasons: strong key messages, clear calls to action, consistent branding, good mix of media (including social media), and personalisation.

Of course, the entire campaign is an astro-turf campaign – paid for by the millions of dollars of the Minerals Council and its members. Few progressive campaigns could conjur such a campaign from the thin air like the Minerals Council has – but there are still some useful aspects of what they are doing to learn from.

Simple key message

The Minerals Council’s proposition is clear and simple: the mining tax will hurt every Australian worker.

Weaken mining, and you weaken Australia. But that is exactly what the proposed super tax will do. Who will be hurt by the tax on mining? Everyone.

This message underpins every piece of communication the Mineral Council broadcasts, and is put front and centre on the Keep Mining Strong site.

Strong call to action

The 1-2-3 approach is widely used, and in this case, the Minerals Council has made it very clear what they want each and every visitor to their site to do. Become informed and take action.

Campaign sites should make it clear what they want visitors to do. Too many campaign sites (not just unions) don’t make this clear. Or they fill the site up with news and updates that aren’t central to the purpose of the site.

Blog, Twitter, Email, Downloads

There is a good level of integration by the campaign site of interactivity above and beyond thethree main calls to action.

The campaign has an active Twitter account, with around 350 followers. The Twitter account is being used to link to blog posts, news articles and also offers to answer people’s questions.

The blog offers similar fair – with the blog linking to the free service called Posterous – which would allow the campaign to easily update the blog via email or plugins to their browser. Using Posterous is a good move (and I discuss Posterous here) and the Minerals Council has a range of content from quotes, videos, links to articles and so on.

While its position demonstrates the relatively low priority the Minerals Council has placed on email, the campaign clearly is seeking to harvest supporters emails. The placement of this function shows that the Keep Mining Strong campaign is an astro-turf campaign, with no real goal of building broadbased support in the community. They don’t want to create a movement or build a group – the entire campaign is a shock and awe campaign against the Government.

Finally, they have linked to their YouTube channel, putting all of their television ads in an easy to find location.

Media, Contacts, About

I’ve written before about the importance of campaign sites having a good media kit. The Keep Mining Strong campaign has a relatively good one, with all a page containing all of the articles, links, quotes and reports that a reporter could ever need. Unfortunately, this page doesn’t have the details of the media contact, which are instead on the “Contact Us” page. Nevertheless, this and the “Our Ads” page is an invaluable resource for the media.

Conclusion: Astroturf

The more I see of the Minerals Council campaign, the more I’m convinced the entire thing is designed to demonstrate to the Government that the mining industry has a massive war chest. A literal scare campaign.

Most of the newspaper ads are terrible – and really just show that the mining companies can continue to afford to place full page ads in every paper in Australia, every day, every week until election day.

The 30 second television ad is far more effective, as it really rams home the key message.

Ultimately, as we have seen with the few public rallies that have occured, the campaign is pure astro-turf. There is no ground swell of people clamouring to support the massive profits of mining companies. Rather, it’s a highly professional, exceptionally resourced corporate scare campaign.

And as far as their website goes, it’s a good case study. You don’t need millions of dollars to do what they are doing (paid advertising aside).


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