Fish & Game are top of my popularity poll

Finding out what people think and feel when they see a logo or brand is always an interesting exercise.

If the organisation has been around for many years, possibly even re-branded a time or two, it becomes a fascinating insight into both the organisation and the public's view of it.

When I was asked to speak at the recent Fish & Game staff conference I decided that just waxing lyrical about the great work they do wasn't enough. I needed a decent-sized data set to prove it. My friends and social media contacts are ostensibly made up of journalists and educated, urban liberals.

Given that I wanted to compare three brands that I know farmers have strong views about, who better to ask than people who have no vested interest either way?

The question. What instantly comes to mind when you see the respective logos of Forest & Bird, Federated Farmers and Fish & Game?

They could mention more than one thought but needed to rank them in the order they popped into their head.

Working with those responses this is what I came up with.

Forest & Bird: Elderly, sandals and sock wearers, bird-watchers.

Apart from those messages there wasn't much else of any note. Yes, the consensus was that they do noble work and one person did mention their fight to save the Denniston Plateau but, other than that it was all fairly bland.

What about Federated Farmers? Well, this is where it got a bit uglier.

Conor English, their departing CEO and brother of Bill, was first to mind and not in a good way. This was followed quickly by: anti-environment, unintelligent, doublespeak on water quality, their dealings with the media is amateurish, and they're climate change deniers of convenience. The line recently trotted out by vice-president William Rolleston that "methane was a political construct" was mentioned by some. The other noteworthy comment was about their membership numbers being "fake" and that the likely figure was realistically more like 10,000 - not the 30,000 they claim.

The one positive was a single mention about palm kernel expeller (PKE) and how Feds have worked hard to ensure that there are no contaminates within when it arrives on these shores.

Of course, I would argue we shouldn't be importing PKE full stop, but at least they got that one little accolade.

Fish & Game. I was optimistic that the educated public would share my feelings about them.

The No 1 thought was the "dirty dairying" campaign and how successful that had been. It was pointed out that the term was now used widely in the media to describe all manner of dairy farm practices and had effectively taken on a life of its own.

This was followed by the sentiment that Fish & Game are the "real" environmentalists on water quality issues. Much mention was made here of the Department of Conservation abdicating from its advocacy duties under the current Government's solely economic focus. Also, they're "winners". Their successful policy work on the Horizon's One Plan and the Ruataniwha dam meant that they were viewed as using robust science and policy, "punching above their weight", and that they were not afraid to take on the "big boys".

It was really nice for me to be able to pass on such positive feedback to a roomful of dedicated Fish & Game staff.

Now, I'm not going to sit here and pretend that my "survey" was deeply scientific, or that I haven't influenced at least some of the thoughts my work colleagues and social media friends hold. That's the power of the media right there.

Clearly, Forest & Bird have an outdated image problem and need to work harder on that - lack of funds and resources notwithstanding.

Federated Farmers have an even deeper problem in that they obviously appeal to their paying membership but that's as far as it goes. Yet, if they want to win the hearts and minds of the general public - and I would argue that's essential for their particular growth agenda - then they are failing miserably. They are knee deep in laughing stock territory.

Fish & Game, on the other hand, are capturing the imagination of the public in a way that organisations can only dream of.

As I was telling the staff the good news I could see many field officers looking quizzically at me.

Later, I was asked if I was embellishing the feedback just a wee bit. From where some of them sat, they believed they were often seen as the devil incarnate. Once we established that they were referring to the many dairy farmers they liaise with on the job, I better understood their suspicion. The rest of us thank them on behalf of New Zealand's waterways and the aquatic life within them.

Taranaki Daily News