|Expressing your opinion on major industry issues is a powerful way to build a profile as a leader in the industry and enhance your credibility.
While longer and more subtle than product stories, opinion pieces are no less persuasive.
In the example below, Firefly wrote a piece published in Packaging News for Australian food container manufacturer, Confoil, with the objective of highlighting the company's solid environmental credentials.
Support the Covenant or face big brother on environment: Confoil
Packaging manufacturers must act now to support the National Packaging Covenant (NPC) or face restrictive government legislation, writes Lynda Rogers of Confoil Australia.
In April 2005, the National Packaging Covenant is due to expire. Whether or not you place a high priority on the environment, even the most hard-nosed members of the packaging industry have a lot at stake in the outcome.
The NPC has endured a great deal of criticism. According to NPC chief executive officer, Edward Cordner, surveys found the covenant lacking in terms of transparency, measurable outcomes and enforcement.
On the other hand, the covenant has been spectacularly successful in placing the environment on industry's agenda. The proof is in the numbers: it is estimated that covenant signatories represent more than 90% of packaging manufactured in Australia and around 80% of retail brands sold in Australia.
There are now more than 600 signatories and many, like Confoil, signed up at the first opportunity but Edward Cordner says the majority came on board in the last two years as the NPC's profile developed and state governments and other signatories began to actively encourage participation.
The state governments have a very important role to play in how the packaging industry responds to environmental pressures. While legislation is state-based, most are in alignment and have the power to impose substantial penalties. To date, those stringent regulations have not been widely enforced but in the absence of a co-regulatory scheme like the covenant, the state governments are expected to take a more aggressive stance.
As a packaging manufacturer, Confoil considers it preferable for the packaging industry and brand owners to set appropriate targets than have arbitrary measures covering entire sectors dictated by bureaucrats. That means supporting the National Packaging Covenant. And the time to do it is now, not after April 2005.
While industry speculation about the covenant's future has been rife over the past few months, Cordner is quick to remind signatories of their continuing obligation to submit their action plans and annual reports.
"Of course we're not taking the extension of the covenant for granted," he said, "but there's another six months guaranteed and we need to keep our eye on the ball right up until April to avoid being found flat-footed."
October saw the release of a new draft proposal for the strengthening and continuation of the National Packaging Covenant through to 2010. Edward Cordner says it aims to address the criticisms levelled at the NPC by stakeholders such as local government and environmental organisations by being more transparent, more measurable and more rigorously enforced.
"The covenant is not about regulatory enforcement - it's a voluntary program - but we need to show that signatories are meeting quantifiable targets because if we don't do it ourselves, it will be taken out of our hands," he said.
Cordner believes the NPC's strengthened membership over the last two years stands it in good stead for the ministerial review, which begins in December, but says the NPC's continuation is certainly not assured.
"I am reasonably confident of success, but there is still a way to go" he said.
"In the main, local government in Australia remains opposed to the covenant because it feels not enough is being done to address the cost of kerbside recycling and the covenant process is biased towards industry.
"Secondly, we haven't really had enough time to demonstrate the value of the covenant since the changes have mostly been cultural so far and we don't have a definitive measure of now versus then."
In fact, the success of the covenant depends on the input of individual packaging companies and brand owners, Confoil included, which won a silver award in 2003 from the Packaging Council of Australia for its 2002/2004 National Packaging Plan. This time, after such a good result last year reducing waste, an impressive range of targets was more difficult to achieve.
Edward Cordner is reassuring and says companies are not expected to come up with revolutionary new initiatives with each plan, but work on a plan of continuous improvement. He also believes that if the covenant is extended to 2010, the focus will shift from a decrease in packaging use and waste to include improving consumer education and developing secondary markets for recycled material.
"I don't think there's going to be much of a decrease in the amount of packaging on the retail shelf - it plays a vital role in shelf life, food safety and convenience that consumers are unlikely to want to sacrifice," Cordner said.
"But even though it has been estimated that packaging contributes around 12 to 15% of the overall waste stream, it's exposed to the consumer and has a much higher profile than its contribution might suggest.
"Everyone will be watching the progress of the National Packaging Covenant very closely."