ANDERSON, Calif. — When it comes to improving the image of timber and other agricultural industries, the key is in the words you use.
So asserts Rocky Slaughter, a 25-year-old marketing guru whose experience includes two years developing the online messaging for the award-winning Kendall-Jackson winery in Sonoma County, Calif.
Slaughter’s young business, Sugar Pine Media, has already gained national attention for turning a surveillance video of a would-be thief’s unsuccessful break-in at a Redding, Calif. sandwich shop into a TV commercial.
“My biggest passion is to get people interested in the unknown,” Slaughter told about 200 forestry professionals and businesspeople Feb. 6 at a kickoff breakfast for the Sierra Cascade Logging Conference. “For most of the public, the logging industry … is an unknown.”
Slaughter has spent the last four months researching the timber industry, about which he says many Americans are “shamefully uninformed.” He notes that woodsmen built the ships that brought the Pilgrims to North America and made the muskets and other weapons used in the Revolutionary War.
“Everyone at this time regarded loggers as heroes,” Slaughter said, recalling the legend of Paul Bunyan. “The truth is, you’re as noble now as you were then. In fact you’re more noble because you’re responsible for more products.”
Slaughter suggests, however, that folks in the industry focus on using terms like forestry and wood products rather than logging to communicate to others what they do. He said timber professionals should refer to the industry as a “green business.”
As an example, he points to ranchers, whose message centers around beef rather than the slaughter of animals.
“Focus on the result and not the process,” he told conference attendees.
A Redding native who attended Northeastern University in Boston, Slaughter wound up at the Fulton, Calif.-based Jackson Family Wines after graduation by entering a YouTube contest.
“I learned everything about marketing and public relations” at the winery, Slaughter said in an interview. Among the key points is to “tell your truth,” he said.
From there, Slaughter came home and co-founded Sugar Pine Media, which specializes in marketing businesses using TV commercial production, media buying and web design, according to its website. Slaughter’s business cards have the scent of pine.
Last year, when a closed-circuit TV camera caught a burglar who tried and failed to break a sandwich shop’s window and then tripped as he ran away, Slaughter set it to music and made a commercial for the business, Kent’s Meats in Redding. The commercial was featured on CNN and other national networks.
Slaughter raised some eyebrows at the conference when he suggested the industry downplay logging. “Some of us are pretty proud to call ourselves loggers,” one attendee interjected.
Still, Slaughter’s emphasis on the use of words might resonate with pork producers, whose industry was thrown into turmoil several years ago when many media outlets referred to an outbreak of the H1N1 virus as “swine flu.” And beef producers recall the hundreds of jobs that were lost in 2012 after network news programs referred to lean, finely textured beef as “pink slime.”
Slaughter points to the work of Ducks Unlimited, whose members enhanced the image of duck hunters by advocating for wetlands preservation. In the same way, the public should know about the timber industry’s conservation efforts, including reforestation and removal of dangerous forest fuels, he said.
“When they discover who you are, when you put your best foot forward, people are going to love you,” he said.
Occupation: Co-founder and CEO, Sugar Pine Media
Residence: Redding, Calif.
Family: Parents Todd and Cheryl Slaughter, brother Cruz Slaughter, sister Andi Slaughter