(Don’t forget to read part 1 first and continue to part 3 in the series.) In case you missed out on Monday… I took a quick trip to Petit Jean Mountain last week to visit with other Arkansas Young Cattlemen about becoming better leaders in our community. Daren Williams from NCBA came down and shared a bit about the MBA program and gave tips on media and consumer relations.
As members of the beef community we have been facing controversy for quite some time, from several angles. Consumers want to know more about us, our practices, and that we are working to address their concerns. If consumers have a question, it is a topic of concern. Grassroots advocacy is one of our best methods to approach these concerns; meaning each individual needs to share their story.
Story telling always has been, is, and always will be our most effective method of communication. And consumers view individual farmers as a trusted source for information. This is why blogging and community outreach are some of our most important tools when it comes to advocacy.
It all starts with knowing what message we have to share. Consumers want to know the what and the how – What do we care about and how are we capable of addressing these things. Consumers are not with us 24/7, so unless we share our story they will not learn more about us.
We need to let consumers know that we care about the safety of our food supply. In doing this we need to drop the us vs them mind-frame. We’re not 2% producing food for 98%. Rather, we are 2% producing for 100%. Let our audience know we are consumers too. We produce food for ourselves and our families and care just as much about food safety as them.
We need to let consumers know we care about animal welfare. Not only is animal care not an option in food safety, but we see it as an obligation. This food ends up in our freezer, our work impacts not only our bottom line, but animal health as well. We set standards for ourselves and must follow these standards better before someone else steps in and sets them for us.
We need to let consumers know we care about our environment. Our environment is not only our livelihood, but future generations will also be dependent upon these same resources. Cattle producers are sustainable. Farms that have been operating on the same ground for more than a century are proof of that. But we’re not defending the status quo here. We are making constant progress to reduce our impact on the land and we need to lead by example in these efforts. Each year we are producing more with less.
We need to let consumers know we care about our health. Our health is influenced by what we eat, just like every other consumer out there. Only difference between us and most, is that we are producing the beef. So naturally we have a vested interest in our work. Beef is a part of healthy diet and we need to familiar with this information so we can sell our product when the conversation comes.
If you even made it to this point in the post, you may be asking how you’ll ever use this information. It’s not all about knowing the facts (actually let’s avoid spouting facts or bragging about our work), but more about knowing what topics are relevant and will resonate with consumers. These topics just brush the surface of the stories we have to share with consumers, but I hope they’ll give you an idea of where to start. I gave you the “what” now you need to give your own “how” and that’s where sharing your own story comes into play.
Challenge: Create a 30-second elevator speech for an encounter with a consumer. Make it an introduction to your work in food production, steer clear of agriculture lingo, and maybe introduce something that will inspire interest from the audience. Share your elevator speech in the comments below and any circumstance where you may have used one before.
I have at least one more part to this short-series from my time with Daren Williams. In the next post I’ll share a bit about how to communicate our story and tips on sharing with the media.