Media consultants offer techniques for handling tough questions and telling dairy’s story to consumers.
Are there antibiotics in milk? Why do you take the baby calf away from its mother? How can you justify tail-docking? Do you produce good or bad milk?
Media consultants Jane Hillstrom and Michele Ruby offered techniques for dairy producers to handle tough questions and tell dairy’s story to consumers in a lively educational seminar Wednesday at World Dairy Expo.
Sponsored by Dairy Management Inc., the “Leading the Conversation” seminar focused on several techniques:
· Listen to the question and don’t be shy about asking for more information. In a situation where there are conflicting opinions, it’s easy to ignore what the other person is saying or become defensive. Try listening before responding. Listening bridges the gap between you and the speaker—and buys time for you to formulate an answer.
· Don’t interrupt or use defensive body language. That says you’re closed to listening and don’t want to hear.
· Welcome the question. You can respond by saying, “Thank you for asking,” or “That’s a good question and something that’s often misunderstood.”
· Don’t lead your answer with detailed scientific information but, rather, something that connects you to the questioner, such as the fact that you’re both mothers with teenagers.
· Find common ground. Starting a sentence with, “I know we can both agree that we have a passion for caring for animals. . .” diffuses the situation and leads to finding a logical conclusion. Focusing solely on your differences never advances the situation. Finding common ground may not change an opinion, but it is the first step toward being heard. It also leads to more dialogue and, eventually, problem-solving.
· Don’t get defensive. That doesn’t help win advocates. Share positive stories to help create a meaningful discussion.
· Rephrase the question. “I think you’re asking me if milk is safe?” You’re not only gaining knowledge that helps in addressing your opponent’s concerns and advancing your position, but also showing courtesy, reinforcing confidence and gaining respect and trust.
· Don’t be closed to helping them understand. “If dairy producers and advocates don’t speak up, someone else will define the dairy industry,” Hillstrom said.
· Lead with something that matters to them, like Health and Wellness. A flip booklet containing consumer-tested key messages was handed out to audience members to help share facts about childhood nutrition and low-fat dairy options. “Try to bridge your dairy knowledge with what’s important to you and the consumer, such as healthy, good food,” said Ruby.
· Do believe you’re credible and that consumers want to learn more. Look for information seekers who are open to learning.
· Don’t stay under the radar. You can be proactive with your own circle of family and friends.
· Do express your passion for the industry and be your authentic self. “Don’t be afraid to lead the conversation and be an advocate for dairy,” Ruby said.