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Kiwifruit recruitment strategy wins gold award

Gavin Stagg at Toi Ohomai

A kiwifruit labour attraction strategy implemented by New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. (NZKGI) and Wright Communications received a gold prize at the 2020 Public Relations Institute of New Zealand (PRINZ) Awards.

The strategy received top recognition at the virtual awards ceremony last night, coming first place in the 2020 Special Project or Short-term Campaign Award category. It was also shortlisted for the coveted Supreme Award, being recognised as an outstanding and impactful project by communications industry body PRINZ.

Presented with the challenge of communicating with job seekers to support the seasonal kiwifruit harvest, NZKGI and Wright Communications implemented a labour attraction and recruitment strategy to avoid a worker shortage and correct existing misconceptions around the industry.

NZKGI Communications Manager Mike Murphy says the need to attract and retain people has become a critical area of focus for NZKGI as volumes of kiwifruit to be harvested increase to meet consumer demand.

“Kiwifruit is New Zealand’s largest horticulture export, supporting the economy with almost $2 billion returned to New Zealand’s growing regions last year. It is great news that NZKGI and Wright Communications have been recognised for the campaign on attracting seasonal workers to the kiwifruit industry. We are extremely pleased to work with Wright Communications and hope this award recognises the high standard that NZKGI works to as a levy funded organisation for New Zealand’s kiwifruit growers.”

The aim of the labour attraction strategy was to get the best information out to potential workers, correcting any false perceptions about the work and pay, using every channel available, to tell people about the kiwifruit jobs and encourage them to support the industry.

As a result of communication actions from the campaign, a possible labour shortage of 3,500 workers was avoided in 2019, though the industry and Government did take the precaution of opening up kiwifruit work to visitors to New Zealand who didn’t have a work visa, which enabled the industry to recruit an additional 477 workers.

Wright Communications Senior Account Director Ron Murray said the PRINZ Award was “the icing on the cake” for the agency.

“For us, the bottom line was: Did the strategy work? And the answer was ‘yes’ – a critical labour shortage didn’t eventuate, which was very satisfying. Much of the kudos for this achievement should also go to the team at NZKGI, however; they were integral to the development of an effective strategy and its implementation, showing great leadership for the industry and responding quickly and well to the changing communications needs before, during and after harvest. They were fantastic to work with.”

An integral part of the campaign was identifying a communications strategy that could benefit the kiwifruit industry long-term. For the 2020 harvest, both NZKGI and Wright Communications have continued to progress the strategy using various channels, particularly social media. The recruitment-focused Facebook page Kiwifruit Jobs NZ has grown to have over 6,900 followers since being created in 2019. It is used to communicate key campaign messaging and connect job seekers with employers. Both the kiwifruit workers guide The Little Green and Gold Book and campaign video were also repurposed this season.

In support of the communications strategy, NZKGI continues to work hard to try to lessen some of the barriers to working in the industry, such as pressure on accommodation and transport challenges. NZKGI is also focused on ensuring that seasonal employees are treated properly and recommend potential workers choose their employer carefully from their list of approved contractors available on its website and social media pages.

More details on the 2020 PRINZ Awards can be found here.

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