BC Salmon Farmers continue to engage and respond…

Over this last week, there has been quite a jump in visitors to this blog — it appears largely due to my comments on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website established by the BC Salmon Farmers Association, and a few of the companies involved in this conflict-ridden, hot button industry.

Folks visiting this blog, may or may not follow the comments section. This week there have been comments from a few sides of the issue, including engagement from companies involved in the PR campaign.

It’s certainly an interesting process, discussion, conversation — and some pretty good examples of cognitive dissonance from all sides. As Wikipedia defines it:

Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable feeling caused by holding conflicting ideas simultaneously. The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational drive to reduce dissonance. They do this by changing their attitudes, beliefs, and actions. Dissonance is also reduced by justifying, blaming, and denying. It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social psychology.

There’s certainly no shortage of blaming and denying when it comes to the salmon farm debate on the BC coast… there’s also a certain amount of justifying. Well… in fact… it seems the entire bcsalmonfacts.ca PR-campaign is about justifying how great this particular industry is. If you are involved in the industry, it probably looks like roses — if you are an individual who holds the believe that salmon farms may be responsible for reducing wild salmon runs or polluting local clam beds… well, then, it probably smells like a steaming brown pile.

I’m certainly curious to hear the results of this PR-spin campaign and whether it is successful in changing any attitudes, beliefs, and/or actions — and thus, reducing cognitive dissonance… and dissonance (lack of agreement, consistency, or harmony; conflict) in general on this issue.

I would have to imagine that this is the intention of the campaign — otherwise why spend the money?

This is not ‘marketing’ per se… as marketing is suggested to be: “the action or business of promoting and selling products or services.”

I’m not so sure this is about selling, as reading the material on the website and otherwise — the industry supplies “fresh salmon” to all sorts of customers. It doesn’t seem to have a problem with securing customers for its product.

And, as suggested in various related material, this is simply about ‘getting the real story out’ and about ‘dispelling myths and expounding facts’.

So let’s slow down for a second here… if marketing is suggested to be about selling products; what is public relations?

Well… public relations (PR) is:

1. the actions of a corporation, store, government, individual, etc., in promoting goodwill between itself and the public, the community, employees, customers, etc.
2. the art, technique, or profession of promoting such goodwill.

Curious that. Because as I understand it, “goodwill” is also something that can be sold as part of a company’s balance sheet:

An intangible asset which provides a competitive advantage, such as a strong brand, reputation, or high employee morale. In an acquisition, goodwill appears on the balance sheet of the acquirer in the amount by which the purchase price exceeds the net tangible assets of the acquired company.

I’m not so sure this is what bcsalmonfacts.ca PR spin campaign is up to — although it wouldn’t hurt, would it?

This PR campaign is about securing goodwill from the public, community, and politicians.

This is somewhat evident in some of the comments coming from industry — including on this site. One salmon farm rep (of which it’s been a respectful discussion) pointed out that if moved out of natural waterways (e.g. to closed containment systems on land) the industry would suffer a calamitous collapse (I’m paraphrasing).

I don’t quite buy this story… and I haven’t yet seen the financial analysis on the bcsalmonfacts.ca website or otherwise that shows the cold, hard numbers on this (e.g. the “facts”). I have though, seen financial analysis on the potential to move to closed containment systems, and it appears profitable.

_ _ _ _ _

And so, what is this really about.

This is about the BC salmon farming industry pooping their pants, and potentially recognizing a little too late that their PR work to date has not been very good, and that they may very well be in danger of getting kicked out the natural waterways; or having their exponential BC growth seriously curtailed, or even shrunk.

That’s not good press for shareholders; and that’s not good press for marketing campaigns.

Growth is marketing; marketing is growth. Good PR helps fuel growth, and good growth is good marketing…

As some of their own team have pointed out in various commentary: ‘this is about fighting back’, ‘this is about correcting misinformation’, and so on, and so on.

I’m not sure I have ever seen or heard of anyone ‘securing goodwill’ by “fighting”. Or by simply employing the same tactics that got them into this particular position in the first place. (Look what happened to the BC coastal logging industry when it was hit by well-run, well-thought out PR and marketplace campaigns… not to necessarily suggest they were ‘right’, simply well run, focused.)

And, thus, strictly from a strategy and tone perspective… I’m not so sure this is the most well thought out campaign. With respect to those that planned it and are implementing it. Simply trying to flip the argument back at say — those nasty NGO misinformation campaigns — is akin to shouting: “no, you’re stupid”… “no, you’re stupid” on the schoolyard.

But then maybe I’m completely wrong on this one… but then a comment that came in while I was typing this post, highlights similar thinking as mine:

You cant blame the fish farm industry for finally adopting PR techniques like the enviros have been using for years….But, this doesnt really help any ‘neutral’ person really make informed decisions.

I want more frankness and openness from fish farmers. Show me the bottom underneath a fish farm on video and prove it is not a dead zone of fish fecal matter etc. Prove, as best you can, that the densities of lice around your farms do not overload juvenile salmon.
And to be precautionary, voluntarily shut down operations during smolt outmigrations or sensitive times.
In other words be more proactive, but not with PR spin which this debate is overloaded with.  The old ‘actions speak louder than words’ type thing.

So, overall for this discussion fish farmers employing the same spin tactics as enviros leaves alot to be desired. If farming isnt bad…prove it openly and clearly. If certain facets of farming are doing some harm admit it and find ways to fix it….then maybe joe average can have some faith in what is said on websites.

For better or worse, any industry will always be looked at skeptically when it comes to its environmental record… It’s basic human nature to think corners will be cut when it comes down to the bottom line vs nature.
This extra burden of proof required to come clean has hit the fish farming really hard… and you are nowhere close to satisfying the public’s belief threshold right now that you are what you claim you are.

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