Advocate for Dairy

June 2, 2013 08:52 PM
Advocate for Dairy

Provided by Dairy Council of California

Communication techniques can help

Dairy farmers are no strangers to criticism. Whether it’s about farming practices or the nutritional value of dairy foods, dealing with misinformation and negative perceptions is a reality of the dairy profession.

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Dairy Council of California recently enlisted the help of debate coach Robert H. Gass, a professor at California State University, Fullerton, to train staff and board members on persuasion, debate and social techniques to help them in situations where they are challenged about dairy’s role in a healthy diet.

"Although we are the experts and are well-informed, it is sometimes difficult to put the facts into a persuasive argument, especially in a public forum where we are having to defend dairy," says Tammy Anderson-Wise, CEO of the Dairy Council of California.

While the Dairy Council of California leaders received formal training, Gass says farmers and industry members can boost their effectiveness by following this three-step guideline.

For example, when defending flavored milk in school, Gass says not to be adversarial or antagonistic, but to acknowledge that parents are well-intentioned in not wanting their children to have added sugar:

  • Step one: Provide the audience with a succinct and pithy headline statement that is assertive and memorable, such as, "We’re all concerned about childhood obesity, but the truth is, flavored milk is an excellent nutritional choice."
  • Step two: Provide evidence and proof for your point of view. "Flavored milk has all of the great health benefits of regular milk, including protein, calcium and vitamin D."
  • Step three: Summarize the consequences of your argument. Often people make a succinct argument without backing it up with the possible impact. In this situation you can say, "We know many kids won’t drink any milk unless it’s flavored, so the overwhelming irreplaceable nutritional benefits of having them consume milk in some form outweigh the concern over small amounts of added sugar."

Eventually, Anderson-Wise hopes to extend the training beyond her staff and board so the industry, in a united voice, can serve as ambassadors for milk and milk products.

"Making a persuasive case for dairy will be important in the long term to help us ignite a new passion for dairy among consumers," she says.

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