Join the Conversation—Who will tell your story?

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By Kerin Clark, Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation (Written May 2009)

If not you, then who?  Who do you want to tell your story about what you do in agriculture?  Joining in the conversation should be a formal part of every agricultural producer’s business plan today.  Today’s consumer wants to be engaged not educated; which makes communicating with consumers just as important as marketing and making production decisions.

While face-to-face conversation is still the best when it comes to engaging consumers, in today’s fast paced society it is important to remember social media.  “Use today’s medium and go to where people gather,” Mace Thornton, American Farm Bureau Federation Deputy Director of Public Relations, told the audience at the May 29 WyFB Foundation Symposium.

“Today people are gathering together by utilizing social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter,” He continued.  “Consumers want to know what you do, and why you do what you do. Tell them.”

“Putting a Face on Agriculture” is so important in today’s society.  Amazingly, there are people today that would like to do away with animal agriculture and all that it provides our country.

Agriculturalists face increasing threats from legislation that fails to utilize the expertise of veterinarians, animal scientists and experienced farmers, and could result in higher food costs and lower food safety from the threat of unsafe imports.

Speak to local groups

Thornton presented a hands-on workshop offering tips for engagement and messaging.  As part of the program, producers prepared an elevator speech they could give to a local group.  They had a few minutes to prepare and then present their speech.  Many people comment they don’t have anything unique to talk about; once a person begins writing some messaging they realize differently.  “Everyone has a story to tell and coming straight from a producer is the best way to get it done,” Thornton said.

Social media

Thornton also showed how consumers are utilizing social media sites to get their news and information.  According to Chuck Zimmerman of agwired.com, social media usage has increased from one hour/week a year ago to six hours/week on average today.

Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter can be utilized as another tool in telling your story.  “Once you send out your message it becomes viral and begins spreading to more people than you can imagine,” Thornton stated.

To show just how easy it is to get involved, Thornton called on a volunteer to sign up on Twitter.  WyFB Young Farmer & Rancher State Chair Chalsey Kortes volunteered and in just minutes she was sending “tweets” from the Symposium.  Kortes can be followed on Twitter.  Her tagname is @wyobeefgirl.

“Social media is crucial in today's society.  This is how the majority of America's youth and young adults get their news/information and keep in touch with others, including myself,” Kortes stated.  “I also find it a great way to spread the word of agriculture.  I have both Facebook and Twitter accounts which were easy and fast to set up and allow for rapid sharing of important websites and information.

“I have a "Ranch Twit Pic of the Day" on Twitter,” She explained.  “As the old saying goes - a picture is worth a thousand words.  My hope is that non ag citizens can get a look into what my day entails and grasp a better understanding of a cattle rancher.”