The CMO Show:
Ashley Killeen on brand storytelling...

Ashley Killeen, Head of Impact at OzHarvest, sits down with host Mark Jones to discuss authentic brand storytelling, spreading messages of hope, and driving supporter engagement during COVID-19.

COVID-19 has forced us to confront disruption and find fast solutions to a variety of issues impacting all industries – a public health crisis, how we work and socialise when we can’t congregate, and how we maintain wellbeing while isolated – just to name a few.

How can charities continue to stay connected and engaged with their supporters, and make strides towards achieving their mission in this ‘new normal’?

Ashley Killeen, Head of Impact at Australia’s leading food rescue charity OzHarvest, believes that it is critical for social impact organisations to continue communicating their message during times of disruption, and show supporters how their donations are being used to contribute to society in a meaningful way.

OzHarvest’s solution to this challenge came in the form of their recent #HereForHope campaign that not only sought to provide food to millions of Australians going hungry during COVID-19, but also spread a powerful message of hope to those who need it most. 

“We have a campaign that’s live at the moment… that was born out of the idea that people needed something to look forward to in a time when there was a lot of uncertainty,” Ashley says. 

“Over five million Australians suffer from food insecurity and rely on food relief. The threat of COVID-19 has blown this number out of the water so we are working to get food to people faster and as efficiently as possible, and spread the message of hope and assurance when nothing else is assured,” she says. 

Without funding, and donations from the Australian community – OzHarvest is unable to feed all those who rely on its services. In times of immense and unforeseen disruption, such as COVID-19, Ashley encourages marketers to be transparent with their audience, and continue to share the authentic stories of community impact. 

“People will always look to protect their own families before they go out to help the wider community. But interestingly, when we started our COVID appeal two weeks ago asking the public for help, around 90% of people that donated to the appeal were new donors. These people may have seen friends or family affected by the situation, and are contributing to society by supporting charities,” Ashley says. 

“We are able to tell the stories from the drivers that are delivering the food, and share the response from some of those recipients on the impact that this has on their lives. That’s stuff you can’t make up, it’s authentic, it touches your heart, and instills in you that this is a charity making a real impact.” 

Tune into this episode of The CMO Show to find out how OzHarvest are using the power of authentic storytelling to communicate a message of hope during COVID-19. 


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The CMO Show production team

Producer – Charlotte Goodwin & Stephanie Woo

Audio Engineers – Daniel MarrTom Henderson & Jonny McNee

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Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Ashley Killeen

Mark Jones: Thought leadership in the business and marketing category in particular has for years spruiked the idea of ‘the future of work’ and ‘the workplace of tomorrow’. And now, quite abruptly, the future has caught up with us! Most of us marketers are now working from home, we’re balancing long-term strategy with short terms wins and adjusting to the new normal, as it were.

Well, COVID-19 has forced all of us to confront the issue of disruption, now not later. But thankfully, from a marketing perspective, disruption happens to be a storyteller’s playhouse. It gives us new challenges to confront, new questions to interrogate and new narratives to weave. So my question to you is how are you adapting your marketing practice, your storytelling craft to this new normal? What activities are you pivoting on, what concessions are you having to make and what is the one thing you just won’t compromise on?

Well, hello everybody, Mark Jones here. Great to have you with us on the CMO Show, as always. My team and I are delighted to bring a very important conversations from the front lines of real need in our community, in this episode. I’m joined by Ashley Killeen. She’s Head of Impact at OzHarvest, Australian’s leading food rescue organisation and OzHarvest have responded to the COVID-19 crisis fast. They’ve been forced to innovate and change their logistics operations and on the marketing on the comms side they’ve been really quick to market a new campaign to get out this idea that we have to engage in the acute needs facing our community.

So the big question I was curious about is how do you encourage people to give at a time when we’re just focused on making sure our household is safe and secure first. Well, let’s hear what Ashley Killeen has to say about brand storytelling during a time of very intense disruption.

Mark Jones: Ashley Killeen, she’s Head of Impact at OzHarvest and it’s my pleasure to have you on the show. Thanks for joining us.

Ashley Killeen:  Thanks for having me.

Mark Jones: I think by way of setup, you know, this is Australia’s leading food rescue organization, it’s been running since 2004. I hope I’m right and, um, what I like about your story is how you take this food waste, which is actually high quality food which due to food regulations is, uh, not always available to be sold or it’s the end of the day, and so forth and it’s taken from supermarkets, hotels, airports, and so on, and then distributed to people in need.

And so it’s a great story, it’s a great cause. as I said one that I’ve been, uh, a supporter of for, for many years now. what’s it like right now though [laughs]? Isn’t this an interesting time to be talking about a cause, when quite clearly there’s another cause, that’s really distracting a lot of us.

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, I think it’s interesting for charities everywhere right now and OzHarvest is deemed a critical service. We are at the frontline of relief. We are unfortunately needed now more than ever. I’d say now more than in the last 16 years of OzHarvest operating and that’s purely because, as you said, at the crux of what we do we take food that would otherwise go to waste and we get it to people that need it and before COVID there was around 5 million people a year who would suffer from food insecurity, so that’s technically someone who can’t feed themselves or their families.

And now that we’re seeing upwards of a million people once COVID, and the threat of COVID continues needing food, and, and relying on that type of welfare, we’re expecting to see those numbers just keeping increasing and we saw the need for food rising after the bushfires obviously and impact upon the production of food and how it was getting to people, but COVID has just blown it out of the water.

So yeah, in terms of OzHarvest, it’s really looking at the way that we operate, it’s streamlining everything that we do so that we can get the food to people faster and we can be as efficient as possible, but as a charity and as many other charities it is, it’s more difficult than ever to tell the story and to appeal to people’s sense of empathy when everyone is also struggling on a personal level, whether that be financially or emotionally.

Mark Jones: So we have this situation where most of us really are thinking about our own-

 company, our own business, our own situation and how can be safe, but I, I guess that’s kind of Maslow’s hierarchy of need isn’t it, become, gotta have that basic food security dealt with at a personal level, which of course then contrasts if you like, intention with this, you know, growing need in the community that you’re facing and so, um, you know at the time when you need donors and people to be supporting you even more is the time perhaps when they’re really struggling to have even the mindset to do so. Is that right? How are you, how are you bridging that, uh, that gap?

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, it’s, you’ve hit the nail on the head. I mean people will always look to protect their own families really before they go out and help the wider community, but interestingly what we’ve seen is… so we, we started off a campaign, would have been about two weeks ago now asking the public for help, so we set up a, a COVID specific appeal and 90% of the people that have donated to that specific appeal are new donors, they’re not from the existing donor pool.

So with OzHarvest feeding people in it, being that basic human right that everyone should have access to food. I think that those people who may have seen friends or family be affected or go onto Job Keeper or Job Seeker and them still have the means to be able to feed themselves and their families in a situation which can feel out of control and scary, for some people contributing to society is by supporting charities. So there is that silver lining to it.

I don’t think that it will continuing because we really don’t know how the piece of string is, but I do think that contributing to society in a meaningful way when you can’t actually touch and feel and engage in conversations, some people are finding that through donating and it opens up new opportunities for us as well. Obviously we now have a, a completely new pool of generous people that have supported us, so how do we engage with them and foster and nurture that is, is the next thing that we need to look at now.

Mark Jones: Okay, yeah, that’s a really point. I think there’s the, the short term and then the longterm, uh, and maybe before we get to that I wanted to actually we’ve obviously come off the bushfire crisis when, your, also I know that’s seen in your messaging, you, you did quite a bit of work, to support that. So are you concerned that as a community we’re kinda getting, you know, uh, I, I’m gonna say crisis fatigue, and what impact is that having on charities like your own?

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, we called it, well, at its most basic donor fatigue for a while.

 And it wasn’t just us. We, we work quite closely with other charities in the sector. We provide one level of service, but there are, you know, other food rescue organizations that we, we work with as well and we saw it across the board, and yeah, there was a lot of donor fatigue. I think there was a little bit of a distrust as well with some people wondering whether their dollar was actually going to get to the end point, what they’d invested it in.

Look, I would say that the public can only do so much, and the amount of funding that charities like OzHarvest would get from appeals is incredible and completely needed, absolutely a lot of that time that funding is untied, which means that we can use it to plug crucial holes that need to be filled in order for us to keep operating. That could be petrol in our vans for example, or making sure our drivers can still get on the road. but there is still a very big space for government to be playing and to recognize that a lot of charities have been rendered critical services in absence of the government actually providing that service. So when you’ve got something like OzHarvest having existed successfully for 16 years, it’s really because there’s no official replacement coming in to do what OzHarvest does. So it is those moments where we do look to government. Prior to COVID, last financial year, only 3% of our funding actually came from government, but in a position where the people that we would usually rely on for funding be that corporate partners or in our instance, the hospitality industry, you also need to respect that their businesses are being impacting by this.

So I think a lot of charities will start to look towards how they can work with the government to provide solutions and potentially the call to actions won’t be asking people necessarily to open their wallets, but it might be to sign a petition or write to their local member and help to get more support for their particular cause.

Mark Jones: So, and I was looking, going back to your campaign, looking at some of the messages you’ve been putting out there. One of them seems to suggest that you’re not getting the level of support you need from these economic stimulus packages that relates to your own organization. Is that right, and, what impact, are you facing?

Ashley Killeen: So prior to COVID, yeah, we, we weren’t seeing, a lot of federal funding coming into the sector.  There was a lot of need off the back of the bushfires and obviously the government was working through that need and we do work quite closely with federal and state government and also city. Since COVID started and just the nature of the work of OzHarvest being providing meals to people in need there has been some more money given to the particular food rescue sector as well, which is incredible, but the thing is that that is for a limited amount of time. It’s not for forever and it won’t actually even touch the sides in a lot of instances. So we can continue to take the funding, for a limited amount of time to service the 1300 charities that OzHarvest delivers to, so that’s just us- not even any of the other food organizations, but that will last three months, and then after three months what’s the solution then? So, that’s when you start to get into conversations about how do we actually take another step back and look at where we’re in positions where people are relying so heavily on services such COVID has obviously blown that out of the water.

Mark Jones: So I, I’m interested to understand how you as a professional in, in the marketing comms and impact space. How do you think about this ’cause it, it’s interesting as you reflect on this conversation, through that sort of traditional marketing lens we now have a very clear picture of the problem that we’re facing. You’ve analyzed the situation, you know what the need is, you know what the funding gaps are, and you’ve started to put together a marketing campaign, as you said, you’re sort of going to market. How are you analyzing, you know the strategy, if you like, the, the impact of your strategy ’cause you, you put it into place now. What’s going through your mind, uh, as the head of Impact? Are you just thinking short term, are you thinking you know this is a longterm thing that we’ve got to commit to? What’s going on?

Ashley Killeen: Well it’s been a little bit of a, a strange process, I’ll be honest with you because COVID was something that landed on our laps, on everyone’s lap and we didn’t really have the ability to do a, a nice two, three month strategy, but having said that OzHarvest is quite agile and nimble as, uh, Ronni likes to say, so we do do things quite quickly and on a budget.

When we first launched the campaigns… We got a campaign that’s live at the moment, which is called HereForHope and that really was born from the idea that people needed something to look forward to in a time when there was a lot of uncertainty and schools weren’t closed then. We didn’t know what was happening, but what we did know was that when we are the ones providing this food and where the, the front line and wes- you know making sure that families and elderly people, etc are being fed, we’re also providing them some type of hope and assurance when nothing else is assured.

So we really took that and it’s been quite positive because it’s also allowed us to bring our corporate partners along with us in sharing that message of hope. It’s a tool that they’re able to give to their staff as well, something that’s a little bit more energizing I guess. And now we’re looking at the phase two and the phase three in retrospect. So now we’re actually saying, okay, we, we’re getting an element of funding which is to these particular programs, or will feed these particular people, so the next phase for us is to be extremely transparent about where that funding is going so that we can still continue to share the impact with those that are supporting us, but also highlight the gaps of people that still might not be getting the food as well and asking people to continue helping us doing that into the months to come.

 So, we’re taking learnings from what we saw post bushfires, we’re taking learnings through a potential donor fatigue and I think a lot of the people have that, that sort of dissolved responsibility where they, they see that you know, “Oh, you’ve hit a certain amount of money or you’ve got government giving you a certain amount of money. That’s fine. I don’t need to help anymore,” and whilst it is wonderful that we’ve got some funding which will allow us to operate say over the next four weeks, it’s not forever, it’s a stop gap solution.

So it’s finding the right ways to communicate that message in a very open and transparent way and that’s just what charities need to do. Constitutionally we can’t take one donor dollar without that money going to exactly what we said that it would and being as transparent about that is probably the best tool we have in our kit right now.

Mark Jones: It’s interesting that, um, like many charities and not-for-profits you do have a broader mission,  and a movement that you’ve created,  Fight Food Waste is the, is the one that I’m familiar with. 

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, it’s, it’s interesting and it’s sort of where we were sitting in terms of a little bit of a brand disparity pre COVID.

 The story behind Fight Food Waste and I like to summarize it in a way that when I first started working at OzHarvest Ronni said to me that she wants to put us all out of business, so she wants to eventually for no OzHarvest or anything else like it to have to exist, but a big part of that is also the, the f- the amount of waste that happens in Australia.

So there are two elements to the OzHarvest brand. One of them is the yellow vans on the road which rescues that food and gets it to people in need.

 That’s our core mission, it’s where we were from 16 years ago and obviously that is our focus right now during the COVID period. But the other side to it is closely aligned to that bigger environmental mission, which is making sure food isn’t going to waste in the first place. It has a huge impact upon the environment. And when the United Nations announced their sustainable development goals we closely aligned to one, which is 12.3, which is halving the amount of food waste to landfill by 2030. So a lot of the work that we do, in the sustainability space is around reducing food to landfill and then the other stuff we do is making sure that our impact is still getting food to people that need it.

Mark Jones: So, yeah, I, I obviously the, the getting food to people right now is, quite clearly the, the main focus and you know just interested because your role is head of Impact, people would say, “Well, what does that mean?” [laughing] and you know ’cause you used to be head marketing in comms.

 So, um, so, so there’s a, there’s a structural, uh, and if you like, government regulation type of aspect to that, that you’ve just been talking about. There’s the, the longterm game to really affect lasting change. My, my question is, when people are engaging with an organization like yours, how important is that, cause, that underlying mission or if you like that, you know, it, it’s almost like having a, a that reason for being, I can sign up to a movement ’cause Aussies actually kind of like movements, we like signing up to stuff. How important is it to have a clearly articulated longterm, um, manifesto and vision, um, for people to connect to? Is that, wo- would you say that’s a sort of a f- a foundational thing that you’ve really got to make sure you get right?

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, I would say, um… Look, in the instance of food waste it’s an- it’s quite an interesting topic to tackle. It’s very, very interesting one to try and market or make sexy or make people interested in really [laughing]. it’s a universal truth though, everyone knows that food shouldn’t go to waste and everyone knows or has a memory of being a child and their mom or their dad telling them that there is someone starving intrinsically you know that throwing away f- good food that could be eaten doesn’t always feel good, but food has lost its value in its, its economical value but also the, the social role that it plays. It’s not really that connector anymore or you know yo- we, we don’t… Well actually, I say we don’t, but now my Instagram is flooded with people making banana bread and sourdough from scratch, so we might see a resurgence in the value of food thanks to COVID, um-

Mark Jones: Yeah, right.

Ashley Killeen:  But there’s a lot of, people and you know looking at the fast and quick ways that they can get food, so the value has been completely lost. So whilst I do think it is absolutely important to take people along the journey and to communicate while, why this is important, food waste is a very interesting topic because first of all, not a lot of people care about it, and secondly, because it’s not ranked very highly in terms of an environmental topic or people don’t associate them wasting half a plate of food with a carbon footprint, it’s very, very hard to take people on that journey.

So we’ve done some work with behavioral scientists. We’ve done a lot of,  ethnographic study and, and tried to really understand what the silver bullet is that will help people to stop throwing out food and the reality is there isn’t one. It doesn’t come down to demographic or age, it really comes down to your personal values around food and that could change if you’re an eco warrior, but then you have young children and all of a sudden there’s no way that you’re using disposable nappies because you’re just trying to survive and there’s, you know, if the food ends up in the bin or it gets to the dog that’s fine. So it’s finding different points of intervention where people can make these decisions to not waste food that is supported externally as well and that people around them are also reinforcing. So it’s a, it’s a really, really tricky one to market. 

Mark Jones: Yeah, um, you’re, you’re talking about longterm behavior change at a very personal level, and you know there’s a broader movement of course around all of that in terms of  waste and recycling and you know we’ve seen lots of stuff in this space. Thinking about it through the lens of, of marketers and, and CMOs i- it’s, it’s fascinating, to think about the stories that organisations have to tell in order to engage the different target audiences and, and it, it strikes me that in your story, um, you have to constantly keep reengaging, doing the research, staying as close to, the zeitgeist uh, to adjust your approach.

Uh, I, I’m just sort of wondering how do you approach that sense of ongoing iteration with, with, with your story and your messaging? It sounds like you know you can never really completely kind of take your, your foot off the, the messaging accelerator as it were.

Ashley Killeen: Yeah [laughing]. Yeah, and your, your exactly right. In addition to that there’s the uniqueness of the OzHarvest brand where, where we are going out there and we’re telling stories in which we’re remaining relevant and understanding how we can inject messaging into, um, content or channels which people are interested in.

 So for example, you know, uh, celebrity chefs creating something made from scratch or showing tips and tricks on how to reduce food waste. So yes, that is going to deliver a certain message at a certain point in time, but then we also have this really interesting balance in telling the stories of how OzHarvest is impacting the vulnerable community as well. And so there’s a very fine balance between how we deliver both of those messages. Um, and also give value back to people in using the food waste pieces as a way to show value to those that support us and that’s actually in strange way why I have a very weird title. I’ll agree with you, I don’t really know [laughing]

Mark Jones: I didn’t say it was weird.

Ashley Killeen: It’s an interesting one. But we, structurally OzHarvest used to have a fundraising team and then we had a marketing and communications team and the way that we were operating and the natural tensions that were coming through the team, in a positive productive way, we all love each other, but you could see that we needed to be giving value to the corporate partners that were supporting us and we needed to be talking about one particular message and at the same time we needed to remain true to who we were as a brand and, and very, very specific about a longterm mission. So bringing the two together in a way that was seamless that we were e- bringing people on the mission with us in telling those stories, just made sense to bring it all under one pillar, and it’s worked really well so far.

Mark Jones: Yeah, that’s great. when you think about the stories that have worked well for you, like for example, I know that, uh, earned media has been traditionally quite successful in terms of covering things like CEO cook-off. What have been the channels to perform best for your organization and I’m, I’m thinking what can we learn, right, what can we learn from your experience with, with trying all these different things over time?

Ashley Killeen: Earned media, yes, absolutely. Activating our socials wherever we can, trying to bring people into those stories. For example, right now we’re seeing some really, really beautiful engagement in being able to tell the stories from the drivers that are delivering the food and having some of those recipients share exactly what that impact means to them. Aand that, that’s stuff you can’t make up, it’s, it’s authentic, it’s, touches your heart, it, it both instills in you that this is a charity that is actually spending my money the way that I intended, but that is also making real impact a well and, and the reality is, is that if someone can see themselves or a family member or a friend in that person that’s receiving the food, then it’s more likely to have a longterm impact on them and then we’re more likely to get their support right now. So, sharing those stories and keeping people involved is not only a way to say thank you to those that are helping us, but it’s also the key way that we’re attracting additional support.

Mark Jones: Innovation is one of the pillars at OzHarvest and I wanted to know what’s the one thing that you’re doing differently now, during COVID-19?

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, so innovation… Look, it is, it’s a, I know it’s a buzzword. It’s one of those broad brush things. We always joke that, um, and Ronni jokes as well that innovation is there as a pillar so that we can do, um, cool exciting things and the board has to sign it off [laughing]. Um, but look, it’s, it really is part of the OzHarvest DNA and I think one of the reasons that Ronni has built up a, a successful charity is because in order for us to be continuing to stay relevant and deliver the mission, we need to be agile and we need to act very, very quickly and respond to a changing situation. So there is 16 years worth or experience of this business being able to deliver that and countless examples of how there’s been a gap or a need and it’s been filled very, very, quickly. So in the, in the sense of COVID in the first couple of days really, when… or even before we knew that things were going into a lockdown and we could see an increased volume in request for food and need coming through to us the business changed immediately. And from an operational structural perspective, that was looking at things like seconding people into temporary roles to support other parts of the business. it was sharing the information as much as possible with every single stakeholder no matter who they were with complete respect to the fact that they’re the people that allow us to deliver this mission every single day and it was inviting them to be a part of this as we went through it as well. So the operational side of the business is full throttle, it’s full steam ahead, uh, but it has allowed us to look at things like opening up food hubs, for example, quite quickly and that’s a good example of the OzHarvest innovation. and I guess of the benefit of having a CEO or founder who isn’t afraid, who’s quite bold- in a sense, we… I think it was about two years ago, we opened up the world’s first free supermarket in Kensington-

Mark Jones: Yes, I saw that. Yeah.

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, and I remember when we first discussed that, um, my initial response being wearing the hat of PR marketing comms is like, “Oh no,” and they’re like, “How do we control that? What if someone comes along and they completely, you know, just take everything off the shelves and do we have some sort of process where we see- if the people need the food or don’t need the food?” And, and it was very clear to me from Ronni that if people need the food they will be there and we need to trial this because we needed to look at different ways to connect people with food that weren’t coming through traditional channels like, charities or, or soup kitchen type models – and it’s just been an incredible success and it was done with absolute faith in people and in the fact that let’s try something differently ’cause no one else is and it couldn’t have worked better, really and it still stands there today.

Mark Jones: Yeah, and you’ve spoken to two things, which is speed, so the ability to iterate on the fly then take a risk.

 So with, with that example is what’s the corporate appetite, as it were, for risk, so really fascinating insights.  Now, uh, the first question we’ve got here is working for an organisation that is fundamentally striving for social good must be a motivating and fulfilling experience. As a marketing leader what’s the one piece of work that you’re most proud of?

Ashley Killeen: Definitely at OzHarvest I think it is, it’s an incredible sense to be involved in what we do and this is something that I say to my team constantly, we’re the ones at our desks, we’re behind screens, we don’t always get, to the, the front line, I guess we’ll use that buzz term at the moment to be seeing the impact that we’re delivering. So I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s one campaign or it’s one appeal or it’s one piece of comms. I mean the, the market that I just mentioned was absolutely incredible, but it’s when we all take a day and we go out in the van or we spend a weekend or for example, um, last year myself and a couple of other members of my team did Christmas Day, feeding people and it’s the stuff that we do outside of our traditional marketing roles where you get to have a moment and see the impact you’re actually contributing to. And at the end of the day, the, the core role of the impact team is to help bring in the revenue in order for us to continue doing this and it really is getting in front of that need and speaking to those people and understanding that we are contributing to this- which is those moments of pride and yes, definitely a key motivator when there are campaigns that need to be turned around with no budget in 24 hours [laughing].

Mark Jones: Yeah, I, I’ve, I, and I gotta say it sounds like you move from, intellectually knowing that you’re doing good to feeling it, right?

 Uh, “It’s a great point that your mission and impact of two different messages that brought together, um, you brought together seamlessly. Was it a difficult process to get the balance between mission and impact?”

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, it is a difficult balance and it’s ongoing. I think the most simplest way to, to cut it down the middle is by looking at the value that we can give to the supporters. So, traditionally when you look at a charity a lot of the time they are asking for support and they’re doing that via the need or images of need or examples of need and that in itself can be quite fatiguing at times. What we decided to do was to introduce the Fight Food Waste into the content in a way that was giving value back to people and what we saw from that was that engagement of that content was so high, people actually started to recognize the brand organically in a new way and another outcome of that was we started to attract more of a younger audience too, which we could then look at converting over to potential financial donate- donors of the impact of feeding people.

So it has been quite organic, but also strategic in the sense that we look at the different ways that we can communicate our need, but also give back value through really, pragmatic tips and tricks and things around food waste- which especially with a younger audience, um, and off the back of things like the fires and climate change and a lot of the conversation around that, is definitely giving OzHarvest a different standing in another way. And I’d also add to that that if, if Ronni, my boss, our CEO is ever in the media a lot of time that is around the environmental impact of food waste.   So without that actual platform we wouldn’t have  as much of a voice out there, as much of a brand presence if it wasn’t because of food waste and then when we can track back financial donators for feeding people maybe eight tam- times out of 10 they’re saying it’s because they saw Ronni in the media. So they’re working quite nicely hand in hand at the moment.

Mark Jones: That’s great to hear. How have you managed or developed messaging and planning around food waste with the current COVID-19 hoarding situation in supermarkets?” ’cause now that’s an interesting question, isn’t it?

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, and the reality is we did see a significant decrease in the amount of food that we could rescue from channels such as supermarkets because of hoarding and the sad thing is that a lot of that food would have gone to waste with people hoarding fresh fruit and couldn’t eat it within a specific amount of time. I’m not really sure what their plan was [laughing].

Um, but what we, what we are also seeing is more of an appreciation of the food that people do have. I mentioned before that the rise in people making banana bread is just through the roof. I don’t know what it is about COVID that has inspired people to make banana bread, but what [crosstalk 00:39:16]

Mark Jones: Well, I think that’s where the extra bananas went to be honest [laughs].

Ashley Killeen: Yeah, exactly, and you know, uh, sharing, um, sourdough starters and things like that. So the content that we’ve been able to come into has been more around what to do with the fruit and veg that you’re buying, how to make it last longer, how to be innovative and use the tops to tails, etc. and that content is, is actually getting a lot of response at the moment, which is really great.

But yeah, the reality is the whole hoarding situation was looking quite dire for all food rescue organizations to the point where about 50% of, of regular rescue food wasn’t there when the guys were going to collect it. So that has turned around as people are calming down a little bit and we’re working with our partners like Woolworths to try and supplement any categories where we’re still not getting as much food as usual.

Mark Jones: Well, it’s, it’s, it’s quite clearly a very dynamic environment that you’re working in, uh, at a logistical level as well, right? So, I do wish you all the best, fighting the good fight in that regard. Um, just you know as we think about, where we go to from here, it’s pretty early to ask this question, but what’s one thing you wish you had done differently?

Ashley Killeen: In terms of COVID, what we would have done differently, I think, um, I think and not t- not to toot our own horn, but I think it’s more from an operational perspective. I think that the speed at which we responded to the actual need was incredible. Um, from a marketing perspective, I always want to get those stories straight away.

 I always am thinking, “Oh god, that’s such a great story. That’s su- that, that’s our impact, smack, bang when I hear about the incredible things that people are doing, um, especially from the operational side of the business. So definitely, um, being on the front foot and saying, “Okay what are we doing and how can we communicate that?” I think as everyone did there was a process to try to catch up to the new normal really, really quickly. So there was probably a lot of great content and evidence of how we were responding so quickly and stories to be told which can’t really be told now, it’s a little bit of catch-up game.

 So it’s making sure, especially in a business like OzHarvest, i- it’s not, you know, it’s a charity obviously and we are essentially a logistics company, so it’s not like you have that direct line from sales into marketing or product into sales, whatever it is that’s traditional. For us it is operational and the people that we have in those operational roles are there to make sure people get fed and they’re not always thinking about how that can be PR’d or how that can convert to a donor dollar. So for us it’s working closely with them and trying to, trying to understand where we can come in and get those stories faster.

Mark Jones: Yeah, that’s a really great point. How quickly you can, uh, really go real time with your storytelling, and, uh, and do it in a way that’s consistent with your brand and has the right impact, so-

Ashley Killeen: Teaching our drivers to use portrait mode on the [crosstalk 00:42:39]

Mark Jones: Right [laughs]. Right, all that stuff.

 Yeah. maybe that’s where you’re going with all of this. Well, I have got so much out of this conversation. Thank you, Ashley, for sharing your experience, uh, and your honesty. And, um, look, it is a difficult time but it’s also encouraging to see the commitment and the energy that is quite clearly evident through, um, the work that you’re doing and so, so thank you for that and for all that you’ve brought to this show. All the best for the future. Thank you very much and likewise. Stay safe.

Mark Jones: Will do.

Ashley Killeen: Wash your hands [laughing].

Mark Jones: That’s my next thing to do, right?

Mark Jones: Well there was our conversation with Ashley Killeen. I really hope you enjoyed it. And as I’ve been reflecting on it, honestly, um, I’ve just been really challenged by this question of how fast can you change. It’s one of the, the biggest lessons. How fast can you change your organization, your systems and your processes that you use every day, suddenly they get thrown into chaos. And this is a challenge that all organizations have.

You know we have these big picture plans, longterm strategies and brand storytelling activities that need to get out there, all these stories that have to get told. Well, when a crisis happens you must find a balance between this longterm thinking, these longterm considerations that we all have and, uh, in parallel, adapt and move so that your messaging can be relevant in the moment and in the short term.

So, uh, what activities, I want to know are you having to pivot during this time, uh, this challenging time? What concessions are you having to make and what’s the one thing that you won’t compromise on for the sake of your content quality or your brand integrity? We’d love to hear from you, how you’re navigating these times. You can send us an email at or over at the socials you can find all the links at the Also, make sure that you subscribe to us on all your favorite podcasting apps if you haven’t already, and thank you so much for joining us once again. Until next time, stay safe.

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