Leave It On the Internet!
Oct 06, 2010
A cattle feeder friend recently helped me with a small video project to get a program kick-started. I assured him it would be placed on the Internet only with his permission. Well, the best of intentions seldom make for perfection.
For one reason or another, security slipped and he received an email from a friend that read, "Look, you’re on the Internet!"
Imagine his surprise when he looked and boom! There he was – smack dab in the middle of a well-known website. Imagine his further surprise when on that same website were videos of top feedlots in his community, but the narration was negative and from an activist perspective. Imagine my surprise when I read the accumulation of these emails and the related responses – at 5:30 a.m. pre-coffee.
Fearing that I was about to stare down the barrel of a shotgun, I quickly phoned to sort things out. I was prepared for the proverbial tail-chewing one can get when things like this go awry. After a few minutes of quiet discussion, the feeder said firmly, "You know. I’m proud of what I do. Leave it on the Internet!"
What follows is still history in the making, but this one instance drove home the importance of taking control of your business’ image. It’s also driven a number of area ag professionals to come together to be proactive about communicating what they contribute to their community. In this specific county where agriculture is the top industry and livestock contributes about $400 million a year in value, it’s astounding production agriculture is misunderstood by residents and visitors alike.
This feeder and his neighbors are no different than those anywhere in the country. They work all day, every day. Yet, they still find time to serve on water boards, business groups, help with church activities, clean livestock show stalls until 2:00 a.m. and get the kids to school on time. People know them – important people, too. And, despite the fact that these feedyards and farms have been in the community for generations, few of their neighbors know their businesses. That can be trouble or opportunity, depending on your outlook. This group has chosen the latter.
Open Your Gates
Agricultural and its practices are being questioned more and more by media of all types. Individual farms are scrutinized by untrained passersby who may post videos on the Internet or even share them with officials unaware of proper farming or livestock handling practices. Worse, they could create on online discussion about "the bad things" you or your employees are doing.
These are but a few reasons agricultural operations today need to build community support and create local backing that will be there when it’s needed. Achieving this requires planning, execution and ongoing follow-through.
The thought of hosting field days or community farm tours on a daily basis is no doubt daunting. However there are many, proven low-cost/no-cost and low-risk ways to help residents understand the bonuses farms and livestock operations bring to their communities.
In upcoming installments, we’ll examine ways to:
- enhance the identity of your operation
- identify and build alliances with community influencers
- communicate with local media to ensure your stories are told
- create a crisis communications plan
- practice crisis communications
- build a circle of influence
- enhance emergency response readiness
We’ll also explore building a long-term community relations plan that helps ensure your farm or your livestock operation will be as favored in your communities as you are. After all, folks have to know your business to support it. It’s your opportunity to take advantage of.
I look forward to sharing several discussions.