Bringing Sexy back to Mining

I was browsing through a daily newspaper today looking for mining stories. There was nothing. Actually that’s not true. There was something on page 28 of the H section, written almost completely in jargon by some guy who looked like a kumquat.
People, we have to start doing better than this!

Not many will admit they’re interested in mining. I´m guilty of that. When I do tell people I write about mining their eyes glaze over and they wander away, except for a handful who try to convince me I’m doing something wrong. In my case the shame is even greater because I come from a mining family: My grandfather and uncle were prospectors who made an economic copper discovery in British Columbia in the 1950s and founded Bethlehem Copper, which traded on the old Vancouver Stock Exchange until the mid 1990s.

During my infrequent visits with my uncle he would always try and get me to go up north. “Helluva lot of fun,” he said in that rapid speak that promoters use. “Helluva bunch of fellas too, great fellas, all of ‘em.” I liked the idea but was never keen on northern Canada, so I went south instead but that’s another story.

When you think about it, there are lots of fascinating angles to mining. Exploration geology, travel, geopolitics, risk and reward, etc. I think a mineralized hanging wall is very sexy, all that glittering metal winking at you. But how do you get the non initiated to go down the rabbit hole? As I boarded a plane recently I wondered if the people in first class would be interested in reading about a hole in the ground with a billion dollars worth of minerals at the end. Most of the decision makers in the world fly, and they all read the inflight magazines. That airline in particular has a publication with annual distribution of one million. I did a little more research and came across about 127 daily and weekly newspapers in the U.K. and North America and Australia with combined circulation of 50 million.

Here’s the thing: Nobody in the industry ever reaches out to the general public. The industry almost always speaks to itself. So you’ve got everybody trying to sell to the same bunch of tired, beaten up investors. Is this a good IR strategy during the current era of buyer exhaustion? Well sure, but I think we should also be reaching out to new investors, even people who don’t invest, and especially those who hate us.

I’m very interested in non investors because I know they can be turned. I get letters of interest from them whenever oil or gold or base metals prices peak. I eagerly return their letters, even (and especially) those of my critics.

Modern marketing holds that you need the internet to find exactly the people you want to reach. The inverse of that is finding people you don’t want to reach and turning them into believers. This kind of reverse marketing is not my own idea, nor is it new. I got it from the banks, who reasoned (correctly as it turned out), that if they presented the right offer they could sell mortages to all the huddled masses of working poor who don’t qualify.

Ok, maybe the banks didn’t quite think that one through. But here’s a better example. Hal Prince, the famous Broadway producer, calculated that the majority of people don’t go to the theater. However, almost all of those would attend one show a year if you brought it them and packaged it correctly. It’s why these touring broadway productions like Cats and Evita do so well out in the sticks.
Couldn’t we do the same thing with mining? Aren´t non investors at least capable of buying one mineral stock per year?

Some of you know I’m using non traditional channels – including snail mail – to build my readership. Of course the reason for that is self serving but I have another, more altruistic reason: I want to clean up the industry’s image and present it to the general public in a bright, readable format, especially for the benefit of those who call us dirty. I’ve never understood why we stand idly by and let a few misguided people with green hair and an internet connection whip the tar out of us. So we’re supposed to dismantle the mining industry? Fine. But isn’t that a bit like telling kids they should abstain from sex to prevent unwanted pregnancies and the spread of STDs? Kids won’t stop having sex and people won’t stop mining. If we ban it they’ll just go back to using archaic recovery techniques like mercury (Mmmm mercury … !). Nobody ever challenges their logic.

Actually I have to take some of that back. Industry groups like the B.C. & Yukon Chamber of Mines have been proactive in the past, and I’ve seen some crisp copy from a handful of IR firms. But my point is they don’t go far enough. They’re still preaching to the already converted. They’re reactive, not proactive.

So this is day one of my one man outreach campaign, designed to bring sexy back to mining. Anyone who wants to lend a hand is welcome to drop me a line.

Be careful out there.

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