Washington Forest Protection Association – Turning the Tide of Public Opinion
One of our greatest success stories is that of the Washington Forest Protection Association. Twenty years ago, the forest products industry’s image was suffering, due in large part to a wide information gap between public perception and reality. The public’s only frame of reference about forest practices was what they actually saw going on in the forests. The forest products industry was not “telling its story.” Through thoughtful research design and a consistent public communications effort, public opinion about the forest products industry in Washington State has improved dramatically.
The late 80s was a tough climate for the forest products industry, in terms of public opinion. Neither the general public nor forest products industry employees were impressed with what they were seeing in the forests – the general belief was that the industry was careless in its timber harvest methods, not taking steps to ensure future supply of trees and harming fish and wildlife habitat. In October 1990, the Washington Forest Protection Association (an association of major private forest landowners in Washington State) launched a public information campaign, with the goal of improving the forest products industry’s image in the state. Built upon a comprehensive foundation of opinion research, this campaign has affected significant change in public opinion regarding the forest products industry and forestry-related issues in Washington State.
In October 1990, just 37% of Washington State’s voters approved of forest products companies’ actions, while 51% disapproved. Our data revealed the public’s negative reaction was due, in large part, to companies not communicating their story. Our research helped craft messaging and develop a targeted, robust public communications campaign (TV and newspaper advertising), resulting in a shift in public opinion. By 1994, approval of forest products companies’ actions reached 50% and disapproval had dropped to 30%. Regular, lower weight advertising has continued each year, with approval of forest products companies’ actions generally in the low 50s and disapproval dropping into the low 20s.
Moore Information and the WFPA continue to regularly monitor public opinion on key tracking measurements, as well as engage in proactive research aimed at identifying and understanding emerging attitudes and perceptions about the forest products industry and forestry-related issues in the state.