Have you thought about developing a public relations plan for your farm? As we look at the challenges facing agriculture, topping the list today is the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) and their attempt to place an issue on the November 2010 ballot.
It will take the help of all farmers to help spread the news of the good work taking place on Ohio farms. Even though the public may lack agricultural knowledge, they do have an interest in learning more about farms. Developing a farm public relations plan will provide an organized and meaningful way for you to deliver this information.
Before you dive into developing a public relations plan you should first determine:
• What are our farm’s public relations goals, i.e. why are we doing this?
• Who will take the lead on developing and implementing the plan?
These are two very important questions. You might want to create awareness, develop a favorable farm image, build a larger customer base, etc. It doesn’t matter what your goals are as long as you have set and written goals.
Without goals, it will be difficult to determine if the plan is meeting the farm’s public relations needs. It is also important to have someone responsible for the farm’s public relations plan. Without a specific person taking the lead on the public relations plan, it may just remain a really good idea that never got started.
After the public relations proceeding questions have been answered, it is time to begin developing the public relations plan. The first step is to think about your farm’s mission and objectives.
Your mission statement will help explain what your farm does, how it does it and why. It is important that you build your mission statement on your core values. This will help the public understand who you are and what is important to your farm business.
You may also consider writing a short history of your farm business. How the farm was started and the changes that have occurred over the years may not seem exciting to you, but today’s public is interested in getting to know and learn about farms and farmers as we’ve seen through the growth of the local foods movement.
Determine audience. It is important to determine who your audience is, so you can decide what information would be of interest to them. Think about what you want to share, what they want to know, and why you want to share that information.
Some examples might include:
• You may want an external audience to know about the quality product you produce and the conservation practices utilized in production to create awareness in the community.
• Another external audience topic would be basic animal welfare practices implemented on your farm. This information would help the general public understand how you care for your livestock and why specific practices are utilized by the industry.
• An internal audience such as stakeholders not involved in the everyday workings of the farm, might benefit from end of the year production records and a comparison to last year, new technologies and practices implemented recently and a financial summary for the year.
The last, but an important part of your plan is choosing the methods to communicate your information. This is a vital part of the plan, you may have all the other steps taken care of, but if you choose the wrong communication method your audience will not be reached.
Some ideas to communicate your message are as follows:
• Letters to the editor discussing what is happening during the current season, i.e. it is spring time and farm machinery will be sharing the road with motorists.
• Contact newspapers, requesting a feature story about an event or a human interest story about farm life as well as the business side.
• Develop a brochure that can be mailed to neighbors and landlords that explains your operation and the sound agricultural practices that you utilize to produce your product.
• Classroom visits to help youth understand how their food is produced.
• Speaking at meetings of community organizations to share the economic impact agriculture has in the community.
• Hold a ‘block party’ at your farm; give tours and explanations about how your farm is part of the food production cycle.
• Develop webpages, YouTube videos and/or social networking sites such as Facebook or Twitter to tell your story. Pictures and daily updates draw interest to your farm and help the public develop a connection with the people producing their food and fiber.
Use plain language
One last note as you are developing and delivering your public relations plan; be sure to use language that the general public will understand. Every day farm terminology such as heifers, A.I., chemical names, etc. might be confusing to the non-farm public, so take time to explain terms. Your public relations plan will help you be effective at informing and educating, but only if your message is received.