........Comment by Bill Moore

...The forest around us

Public relations –
but not too much

....In and about – every so often – maybe once a week – I hear someone refer in some manner to the forest industry’s public relations or lack of same. It’s an intriguing subject, one that quite a few dollars are spent on and gives employment to quite a few people.
....I see and hear the subject of public relations criticized far more than I see it praised. Looking back I feel that most public relations people have been given a job of “patching up” industry faux-pas instead of creating a truer and better picture of what the industry and her people are really like. It is one thing to attempt to explain away pollutants or escaping gasses to today’s wiser public – but it is another thing to be believed. Credibility is such a difficult commodity to come by, it takes so long to build up and can be shattered so easily.
....The forest industry, being so large, is vulnerable to attack. The media has often used the industry as a whipping boy when they need a good story. Likewise the industry at times commits such idiotic miss-cues that it deserves the criticism it gets. One thing is certain, because of the vastness of the industry it is going to take a lot of self discipline in a lot of places, by a lot of people, before the industry’s credibility is relied upon by the public.
....There are many really valid reasons for the public feeling toward the forest industry.. First.. would. .be.. the. .old


wounds still remembered by many from the hard fought battles of union and management in the ‘30s and ‘40s. This would apply to other industries too, but the forest industry barons of yester-year were a tough lot and they left their mark on many oldster’s minds.
....The environmental battles of recent times have not created friends for the industry. The natural resistance by industry to get rid of smokes and dirty waters and smells has also left ill feelings, regardless of the fact that in-dustry is slowly cleaning up its act.
....There is also another element that has caused the public “turn off” on the industry. And that was the ‘50s and ‘60s bargaining table wars between manage-ment and union. There were “heavies” on either side who broadcast loud and clear that – “Take it or leave it, we won’t give another nickel.” Or, “No contract, no work.” Well, there was always another nickel, and eventually everyone worked. But the public became confused by these very serious adult games and didn’t know who to believe. The spokesmen for the industry in those years – on both sides – made tough statements that are very much remembered today. And, not pleasantly remembered.
....The terribly serious problem of fatals and high accident rates in the forest industry have not left a good impression on the public. True, carelessness is at the bottom of nearly all accidents, but the intelligent public wants to know

why this industry doesn’t train its people better in proper accident prevention. With all the care of a good Workers compensation Board, and some truly dedicated safety organizers, the ranks of the teachers are still far too thin to seriously bring those fatals and accident records down.
....The public sees a dangerous industry – and a rich industry. There is another controversy.
....The announcements over the past few years about shutdowns of mills, laying off of loggers, overseas com-petition and government and industry insect spraying programs have been handled – to be kind – in a very poor manner. When you are big you should be consistent. But to announce a great shutdown, and then reverse it, or to announce a mass lay-off in what would be a near normal lay-off anyway, is to ask for the public’s indignation.
....The recent forest insect spray programs across the country got out of hand because industry and government people weren’t tuned in to the public and that public’s awareness of the mystique of all spray programs. This is not the public of the ‘30s or ‘40s or ‘50s that did not strike back. This public is better educated, more worldly wise and the media feeds them well. They will not be tampered with.
The large companies that are a part of this forest industry all have public rela-tions programs of one kind or another. The impression in the public’s mind of
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British Columbia Lumberman, November, 1978

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this industry is pretty well determined by what these companies do or don’t do in the line of public information. And that information is generally the balance sheet announcements at the annual meeting. The profits may not be large some years – by the companies’ stan-dards – but they are very large by the public’s standards. And I don’t think the public cares anymore how much a log loader costs or how much it is to build a new sawmill.
....The public sees a rich industry, a dangerous industry and an industry that is not shy about confusing the public. Why should they care?
....There have been some good public relations programs by some com-panies. The camper parks that have been set up in various tree farm areas are the type of relationship that the public can appreciate. Where they are done with good upkeep and super-vision, they are a success. Without this they are liable to deteriorate and be a burden on public relations. More good camper parks are needed in many areas. They can provide the company with an excellent podium to tell the using public about their company.
....I am convinced that the large forest companies have been passing up one of the finest avenues of good public relations available to them. And that is Loggers Sports. I have preached this before and will continue to do so because I know of no better way to describe the skills and personalities of this industry than through Loggers Sports.
....Loggers sports shows are shown on a commercial basis in about 30 or 40 major cities in North America as of this summer. The strange thing is that at none of these major shows is any kind of backing or promotion or prize money provided by the obvious backer, the forest companies.
....Federal governments, provincial governments and suppliers to the industry all provide backing and prizes for Loggers Sports – but the forest com-panies, for some strange reason, do not. Several top people in the industry have told me that they feel Loggers Sports is too commercial, or that it represents old time things (spar climbing, birling) and does not show the modern logger.
....Well my only answer to the above people is that you are not tuned in to your own employees. In the past 10 years, in spite of the apathy of head
offices, Loggers Sports have been enjoyed by loggers, their families and a good many millions of people across Canada, the U.S.A., Australia and northern Europe. And this is not an area to get your message to the public?? It’s too commercial? It’s not modern? Shame on you.
....The forest industry has never bowed to change too easily. There was a time when it didn’t like to fall snags, even though they were dangerous to rigging crews. It didn’t exactly embrace close utilization until it was forced to. Its resistance to the environmentalists is noted. The indus-try never had to reach out to the public

and explain what it was doing. It ran pretty well as it saw fit.
....Not anymore. Its critics are vocal. The forest laws are changing and could be subject to more change. Much more time and effort is going to have to be spent on a better flow of information to the public. There are ways it can be done, but they require a new look at the situation by the industry.
....Could we be so lucky that we could all benefit from a better informed public? I think so.

Keep out of the bight,
Bill Moore

British Columbia Lumberman, November, 1978  
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