Using Words that Work

September 22, 2010 07:29 AM

As your neighbors drive past your dairy, your farm sign is the next line of communication. Does your name convey that you are trustworthy, caring and responsible?

JaneHillstromBy Jane Hillstrom, Hillstrom Communications
Just because you’re speaking doesn’t necessarily mean that knowledge is being transferred. Communication is a science similar to the formulation in developing a balanced ration. It has certain ingredients — words, voice and body language — that when mixed correctly help you say what you intend to say.
The same can be said for the written word. For example, exclamation marks and all capital letters imply you are shouting. Bold, black, square letters speak gruffer than fine, cursive, yellow letters. By now, you might be thinking, “I have more important things to do than read about WORDS!” Consider this: Every conversation — written or verbal — counts. Every conversation affects dairy demand, which affects the viability of your business. So, PAY ATTENTION!
A picture speaks a thousand words. The roadside image of your farm says who you are, what you stand for and how you care for your animals without ever opening your mouth. A well-groomed farm is as well respected as a clean restaurant.
As your neighbors drive past your dairy, your farm sign is the next line of communication. Does your name convey that you are trustworthy, caring and responsible? Farm signs vary from “Just ‘R Mess Dairy” to “Knee Deep in It” to “Our Family Farm Since 1887.” Which words set a tone with your neighbors and community members about the type of dairy operation you run? Where would you want to buy pure, wholesome milk?
 Hillstrom   moving 2
As dairy producers work to educate the public about modern on-farm practices, words that work matter.  As Dr. Frank I. Luntz, author of “Words That Work” says: “What matters is not what you say, but what people hear.”
At times, simple and clear work best. For example, a family farm located across the road from a housing development posted two signs, “we have flies” and “we are not moving!” with the intent to inform their neighbors they live near an agrarian business.
The “we have flies” sign is very clear and follows the rule of simplicity. The owner eventually removed this sign after criticism that it was too strong. The sign, “We aren’t moving!” draws a line in the sand letting everyone know our arms are crossed and knees locked. Do the words create a positive image?
 Hillstrom   flies
These signs made their way onto Facebook and were printed in the local newspaper. In his article, Bob Pratte, reporter for The Press-Enterprise said, “Consider the signs a pre-emptive strike against silly grumbles from people who move to a rural area because they like the setting and then complain about farming.” The signs were a shot fired across the bow…or the road. Would warm cookies and cheese have been more effective?
Communication in any form shifts the receiver. Below are a few ideas for signage for your dairy to shift them your way:
·         Our Farm Feeds the World…and You
·         Care. Quality. Stewardship…Every day.
·         Producing Healthy Products for a Healthy Population
·         Feeding Families Everyday
·         Producing Milk by Caring for Our Cows and Protecting the Land.
Obviously, these are ramblings for a rich country. There are more than 900 million malnourished people in our world. Empty stomachs don’t worry about communication tips, farms next door or flies.
Photo credits: Kevin Snow
Jane Hillstrom owns Hillstrom Communications, a public relations firm, and is co-founder of Dairyland Digital, the owner of, an educational and networking website for people who work in agriculture. She can be reached at 920.839.5032 or

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