August 2012

So You Think You Know Mining takes off

Social media spurs growth of OMA video competition

By Ernest Hoffman

When it comes to reaching young people, social media is king. It is a lesson the Ontario Mining Association (OMA) has learned well and put to good use.

After attracting around 30 submissions in 2009, the OMA’s latest “So You Think You Know Mining” high school video competition pulled in over 140 videos this year by harnessing the power of blogs and Facebook.

“Our first year, we did a lot of poster advertising, we paid for radio spots and magazine ads, and we got almost no response,” recalls OMA president Chris Hodgson. “Then, very late in the process and almost by accident, we posted something about it on Facebook and it just took off.”

Following this unexpected success, OMA environment and sustainability manager Adrianna Stech began using social media to inspire youth to participate in the competition. This new approach has led thousands of high school students across the province to see the mining industry in a new light.

”We’d talk to young people, and they had a 19th century understanding of mining,” Hodgson recalls. “They thought people were on all fours with a pick in the coal shaft.”

Hodgson realized that while the mining industry was doing a great job of reaching their future employees by recruiting through collegiate and university programs, there was an enormous segment of young people who simply had no idea what modern mining operations looked like. “This was a way to reach future journalists, writers and media people so that they’d also have some understanding of what mining is all about,” he explains.

The contest, open to all Ontario high school students, challenges individuals or teams to produce a two-to-three-minute video using original footage to highlight the benefits mining provides society.

And while the quantity of submissions continues to grow, the quality of the videos has also impressed. “There really are a lot of talented young people out there who clearly have musical and writing talent, and a good sense of humour,” says OMA communications manager Peter McBride. “There’s way more good ones than we have prize categories to hand out.”

This year’s winners provide great examples of the talent and creativity the contest attracts. The award for “Best Overall Video” went to Scott Keyes of London for “The Melodic Miners,” a tightly written and well-directed hip-hop music video about Ontario’s mining sector. “I was astounded at how much information about the mining industry they got into the lyrics,” says McBride.

“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be,” says Keyes. “We had to do a lot of research, and then take all of the information and figure out a way to make it rhyme and make it work rhythmically.”

“Surviving the Storm,” by Brooklyn Vercruyssen of Clinton, won $2,500 for ”First Runner-Up.” Vercruyssen, who was working as a lifeguard near Goderich on August 21, 2011, when the town was struck by a powerful tornado, shot the storm as it passed over her lifeguard shack, using just her cell phone camera.

In the four years that they have held the competition, McBride says they have never seen such dramatic live video. “This was better than any footage you would have found on any newscast when that tornado hit.”

The tornado did extensive damage to Goderich, and to the nearby Sifto salts mine. “It affected our mine hugely,” says Vercruyssen, whose video showed both the devastation and the recovery. “The whole community was incredibly devastated. So many people work there; the mine provides so many jobs.”

Hodgson is thrilled with the support the industry has shown. “After the first year, some companies sent us cheques without us even approaching them,” he explains. “It’s been no trouble at all getting the industry to support the contest.”

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