The digital era has brought changes in marketing and communication strategies, and palm oil commodities are also impacted by the open information flows.
How should palm oil producers carry out their communication strategies in this digital era?
“NGOs are smarter in carrying out communication activities than palm oil producers,” said communication expert Ong Hock Chuan, who explained further that non-governmental organizations usually knew more about how to attack the image of large oil palm producers.
According to Ong, in this digital era, if we search the word “kelapa sawit” through Google, what we will get is good information related to this industry. Interestingly, if we change the search keyword to “palm oil”, then we will get a lot of negative information about this commodity.
This is because the image of palm oil in the international world is worse than the situation in Indonesia. That, however, does not mean that the image in Indonesia is much better or free from criticism.
The media plays an important role in this matter. Ong said that young journalists at this time found it hard to change their views of the palm oil industry’s negative image as it has already been embedded in their minds.
“The characteristics of news writing by the media are also not balanced. The first three paragraphs are usually NGOs’ opinions, while the highlight on the producers is put at the eighth or ninth or last paragraph,” Ong explained.
Ong stressed the importance of communication strategies in the digital era. “The absence of a communication strategy will make you have to pay dearly in the future,”
Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) Researcher Herry Yogaswara confirmed the negative perception of the palm oil industry is something that was caused by the attitude of the palm oil producers themselves.
“There is a mutual disbelief among the stakeholders because it is difficult to get public information from producers,” he said.
Yogaswara added that this situation is detrimental to the wider community because it can lead to the dissemination of wrong information. “What is the danger? We are looking for secondary data or from third parties who are not credible. “
Then, what is the image of oil palm for the millennial generation at the moment?
Michelle Victoria Alriani, Miss Earth 2017, believes that the issue of palm oil commodities is not a hot topic among the younger generation in Indonesia. “Many young people do not know about palm oil commodities. Here, the media and NGOs play a big role to change the negative perception,” he said.
Innovation is needed to introduce the importance of the role of palm oil commodities for the young generation so that the palm oil industry gains a better perception in the future. “Many do not know that the palm products are everywhere, including cosmetics. To attract the attention of young people, we must disseminate this kind of information,” Michelle said enthusiastically.
Moreover, according to Michelle, the industry can start engaging the young generation by creating a competition with the environmentally-friendly palm oil theme. Michelle admitted to being impressed with RSPO which has been putting an effort to introduce sustainable palm oil production through video competitions for young people.
“Young people can become pillars of catalyst to promote palm oil commodities,” Michelle concluded.