(Photo Credit: c1smallgroups.com)

This week I had the priviledge to guest blog for the guys over at Just Farmers blog. They asked me to share a few thoughts on cultivating relationships with media which are proactive instead of reactive and the need for this within in the Agriculture community. I hope you check out their blog and share your thoughts on this topic. Enjoy!

Pink slime. Animal welfare. Food Safety. Industrial Food. If you’re like me, you are tired of hearing these headlines and want to rid the airwaves of a few reporters. There’s an easier way to face the sometimes-biased reporting of news journalists. Build a proactive relationship so you can be a contact for the reactive story.

Last year in Arkansas and many Southern states, drought took hold of the region, water supplies dried up, forages disappeared, and livestock started hitting the road. It was a national story and local journalists were looking for an angle close to home.

Little Rock television stations often ask for story ideas through their social media profiles. I shared a link to a national story on the drought and how it was affecting local farmers. The page administrator replied back and I suggested the state Cattlemen’s association as an information source. I’ll never know if it was my suggestion that prompted the story headline, but soon all affiliates in the market picked up a story on how cattle producers were affected by the drought (story here).

The point being, the Arkansas Cattlemen’s group has done a great job of building a relationship with state-wide journalists. They’re always there as an information source for food and agriculture headlines and help the journalists report a local angle on the story. As a result, those guys can often be seen on local television sharing Agriculture’s side of the story.

Everyone is looking to catch the journalists attention when that BIG story breaks, but it’s those who have previous relationships with the journalists trust who will get first stab at sharing the information.

Be a proactive contact – Don’t wait until a dangerous headline breaks, build a relationship with local journalists before they’ll need you. Invite them out to the farm or let them know you’re there as a reliable contact.

Everyone’s vying for a piece of the pie – Don’t be discouraged when a journalist leaves your offer or story idea sitting on the curb. Building relationships takes time. Shoot for the stars, but don’t be afraid to build your way up. Start with local, smaller media source. Reach out to the local radio and newspaper writers first. Then, work your way up to television markets.

Respond to story requests – Many media outlets use their social media profiles as feelers for local story ideas. Post a national story and lead them to how it is affecting local audiences. Don’t hound them with messages, but at least let them know you’ll be there.

Treat journalists like a customer – Journalists have daily/weekly deadlines. It’s their job to capture the story and get it in on time. They’re looking for someone who can give them what they want, when they need it.

Next time your local news reports a unfriendly headline to Agriculture, don’t shun them, rather reach out and offer to tell the “rest of the story” as Paul Harvey would say.

Have you cultivated relationships with any local media that have resulted in positive news coverage?