Information from GoatConnection.com|
Good Behavior First, Good PR Second
Like many Main Street businesses and Fortune 500 companies, some dairy operations are developing and implementing public relations plans. Before this exercise is initiated, however, dairies must act like good neighbors.
“Be sure your own organization is behaving properly,” stated Angie Molkentin, a communications consultant, at the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin annual business conference. “You cannot cover up poor performance with ‘good PR’.”
Writing A Public Relations Plan
Conveying key messages will help your nonfarm neighbors better understand your business and why you manage it the way you do. An example is, “Our family and employees treat animals exceptionally well. These well cared for cows give high quality milk. Producing milk is our livelihood, so it’s in our best interest to make cow comfort a priority.”
List potential partners in your public relations plan. These individuals and groups may include employees, family members, milk marketing company, extension agents and conservation groups.
What are some ways to communicate with nonfarm neighbors? Molkentin offered some ideas:
Molkentin noted that dairies should budget time and money for these activities and projects. She said that simple “good neighbor” acts can be extremely helpful in portraying a positive image for agriculture.
As with most plans, evaluation is important. The communications consultant offered some ideas for evaluating public relations effectiveness. Did town officials receive any complaints about your dairy? Are neighbors will to defend your farming practices?
A public relations plan should also list future issues that may concern the stakeholder. For example, if the dairy is looking at an expansion, keep neighbors informed. Proactive communications do not fuel the rumor mill.
On the Midwest DairyBusiness web site at dairybusiness.com/midwest, Molkentin’s Public Relation Plan outline is posted. Feel free to use this to help develop your dairy’s public relations plan.
Working With Media
Prepare for media interviews:
Keep coming back to your sound bites (simple, short, easy-to-understand messages) during media interviews. Most likely those sound bites will appear if they are repeated often.
“Answer questions, but weave the sound bite into each response,” said Molkentin. Sound bites allow you to become quotable. “Simplify your messages to one to three short sentences that only last 8-20 seconds.”
Molkentin shared an example of one dairy producer who used, “We will be a good neighbor,” as a sound bite. This message came through in the newspaper article and it was used as the story’s subhead, even though the story focused on the dairy’s potentially large scope.
“Support you messages with facts, statistics, experts, analogies and personal experiences,” Molkentin recommended. “Always tell the truth and use positive language.” Instead of saying, “I am not a crook,” say, “I am fine, upstanding citizen.” Also, you want to take control of the interview, rather than responding in a reactive manner.
When a reporter calls, ask:
Furthermore, Molkentin said to avoid using jargon and acronyms. “SCC doesn’t mean much to most people,” she commented. Speak in terms that people understand, such as high quality milk. “Be sure your messages are pleasing and make sense to your audience.”
Develop phrases that may appeal to the readers or listeners. “Capitalize on the dairy industry’s positive statements,” Molkentin commented. For example, describe your family farm as one that involves the father, two sons and a daughter, as opposed to describing it as a large farm.
Before completing media interviews, offer individuals’ names who may be willing to provide additional information for the reporter’s story. “Make sure these people support your actions,” Molkentin noted. The reporter will appreciate the additional sources and this should help substantiate your message. If you do provide additional names, warn those people that may be contacted.
In addition, Molkentin suggested preparing a fact sheet about your dairy operation. This helps media representatives report accurate figures and use correct terminology. A fact sheet is also a good communications tool to distribute in conjunction with farm tours.
Good neighbor ideas: