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Angus Productions Inc.
Copyright © 2009
Angus Productions Inc.

Producers Need to Share Ag's Story

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Jan. 28, 2009) — Consumers need to hear ag’s story, and they need to hear it directly from beef producers. That was the message emphasized in the Cattlemen’s College session presented Wednesday by Jill Spiekerman of the Minneapolis-based advertising agency Martin-Williams and Darren Williams, executive director of communications with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA).

Cattlemen’s College is conducted annually to kick off the Cattle Industry Convention and is sponsored by Pfizer Animal Health.

Given the misperceptions that many consumers have about agriculture, Spiekerman emphasized that “the time is now” for connecting with consumers and telling the real stories about agriculture — how beef producers care for their land and livestock. And she shared that there is no better, more credible source than farmers and ranchers themselves.

Consumer surveys have consistently shown that farmers and ranchers are viewed as highly credible sources, ranking near the top of the list along with doctors, veterinarians and clergy, Spiekerman said.

Additionally, NCBA’s Williams pointed out how animal activists are often very passionate about swaying consumers not to be supportive of animal agriculture. To combat that, Williams says the beef industry also must become passionate in telling their stories. As a guideline, he suggested when producers share their stories they remember the two C’s: We care. We’re capable.

“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” he said, emphasizing that to resonate with consumers, producers simply need to share their everyday stories.

“The stories of how you care for your livestock are powerful,” he said, and added that personal stories are a way to connect with consumers on an emotional level. Then, once you’ve connected with consumers, it is important to educate them by backing up your story with science.

As an example, Williams used the topic of beef safety. Share the message that you care by telling consumers that the beef you raise on your farm is the beef you feed your own family, he said. Then, to illustrate that the industry is capable of delivering a safe product, point out that through the beef checkoff millions of dollars have been invested in beef safety research and development.

Both Spiekerman and Williams said a producer’s own community is a great place to begin sharing their stories about the beef industry.

“Simply explain what you do on your farm or ranch. … Opportunities exist at schools, church, and community/civic organizations,” Spiekerman said. “This begins to create a trust bank in your community. A trust bank means you have credibility in the community. So in the event something bad is said about farmers/ranchers or the beef industry, others would stick up for you/your industry. Or, they’ll seek you out as a credible source for clarification or more information.”

Williams also suggested that creating a web site or blog to help educate others about your farm or ranch or commenting online to news stories and blogs is a way to share real stories and factual information about the beef industry. Participating in media interviews can also be an important way to make sure real information from farms and ranches is portrayed in the news media.

Lastly, Williams emphasized that one-on-one opportunities to share ag’s story with consumers should not be overlooked. This too can be a powerful opportunity to inform and educate others about what farmers and ranchers do.

To aid in the effort of sharing ag’s story with the public, NCBA — through funding from the beef checkoff — is launching the Masters of Beef Advocacy program, a six-week, self-directed online educational course to help individuals become better spokespeople for the industry. The course covers beef nutrition, environmental issues and much more.

Williams said the bottom line for beef producers is: “We’ve got to be able to sell our product to consumers and be a good advocate for our business.”

For more information about the new Masters of Beef Advocacy program contact Williams at MBA@beef.org.


Editor’s Note: This article was written under contract or by staff of Angus Productions Inc. (API), which claims copyright to this article. It may not be published or distributed without the express permission of Angus Productions Inc. To request reprint permission and guidelines, contact Shauna Rose Hermel, editor, at (816) 383-5270.