Better Blogging: PROactive not REactive


As a part of my recently started Better Blogging series I want to share tips, ideas, and things that have worked for me in blogging for agriculture, and get feedback from you on these ideas. There’s no particular order to these posts and last time I discussed how I come up with topics for my blog posts. I received some great feedback and want to continue this series with a topic very relevant to advocating for agriculture today.

Seems like every few weeks (sometimes more often) there’s a new campaign or effort by animal rights organizations to degrade the image of livestock producers, farmers, and agriculture in general. They use every tactic and resource available to appeal to consumers’ emotions and win over their monetary support. I see this infuriates many in the agriculture community and often see responses that carry much emotion with them. Instead of REacting to these images, videos, and statements, I suggest we be more PROactive in our efforts.

Social Media Outposts
Be proactive in planning Social Media use (Photo credit: the tartanpodcast)

By being proactive I’m suggesting we counteract these negative, emotional messages with our own positive, candid message. Releasing a blog post or video at the same time or shortly after a negative release, does good by drawing traffic away from these messages, but our work should be continous; meaning we should have a conscious, regular effort to promote our actual activities in food and livestock production.

We can accomplish this by several methods.

  1. Above ALL, Stick to your own experience. When engaged in conversation, stick to what you have witnessed. If you do not have experience in the subject area, be sure to refer to someone who does. This is how Social Media works for us and makes it so easy to connect with farmers and ranchers in all sectors of agriculture, so ther will always be someone to reference for tough questions. It’s okay to say “I don’t know, but I will find someone who does.”
  2. Capture a video or post on your blog for each activity in your operation. If you work livestock one day, describe your handling methods or how your pen design works to decrease stress and works with the natural actions of the animal. Talk a little about the antibiotics, vaccinations, or treatments administered. This will show consumers how livestock are handled through the farmer’s viewpoint. This video depicts a set or our pens and how cattle flow through them.
  3. Respond to controversial topics. See a food or agriculture related news story online? Post your response on your blog! Be sure to include facts and examples from your experience, and it’s best not to be heavily critical. Criticism does not come across as well. You can also draw search traffic from the story if you use similar words in your title. My response to a Newsweek story about useless Agriculture degrees is an example.
  4. Be candid. We work with living plants and animals, changing weather conditions, and real life problems. Consumers need to see that we are real people too. We buy food at the grocery, we are a part of our communities, and sometimes not everything goes as planned. Maybe I have a calf get sick, an animal dies, or pests or a plant disease infests our crop. Talk about the problem, how your respond, and why you made that decision. Maybe you’re not comfortable revealing those things? Find a way to talk about it. This is how we, agriculture as a community, can be transparent. We may not all have the same production methods, but we’re all in the same game. Working to provide food for ourselves and our families.

This topic came up in response to a Mercy For Animals video post on the I am Agriculture Proud Facebook group.  MFA is an animal rights organization that will stop at nothing for emotional appeal. Andy Vance did a good job of outlining the issue of confronting AR groups in his blog post, It’s the middle 80% that matters most. He described MFA as the suicide bomber who will stop at nothing to run us out of business. PETA is the Johnny Knoxville of AR, and HSUS is the brains and the check book. The best way to counteract messages from these AR groups is to aim for the other 80% as Andy explains. The 80% are the ones in the middle who are still receptive to agriculture’s message.

Once you follow these steps, and make this PROactive material part of your regular agvocate message, feel free to post links to previous, relevant posts when an anti-agriculture message is released or appears on your radar. Be prepared and you’ll always be armed with the positive, candid message that is not fueled by emotional response.

In case you are interested in some video examples, visit my YouTube page (AgProud) and view the several videos I have posted. Some depict day to day activities on the ranch, and a few are responses to anti-agriculture messages.

So when you see propaganda aimed at defaming agriculture’s image, keep these points in mind. Be PROactive in your message, instead of REactive. What tips can you add to my list? How have you dealt with videos and media releases with anti-agriculture messages?

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16 Comments

  1. Well said! And if you proactively develop a community of people who are familiar with your operation and your care for your land and livestock, they will ask you first when these topics arise.
    Nothing about blogging has been more satisfying than having someone I have never met in person, thousands of miles away, explain the realities of dairy farming to someone in a supermarket who complained about a dairy issue. Non-farmers CAN get it and want to. You and Andy are so right about the 80%.

    You did a great job with this post!

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  2. Funny that I had never heard of MFA until I read this. OK, I actually hear about MFA everyday. It is the Missouri Farmers Association, a coop formed in a 1 room school house a few miles from me back in 1914. In Missouri, MFA is associated with grain elevators, farm fuels, livestock products, and farming. Maybe Mercy For Animals chose the acronym to be spiteful, but I would rather assume it was just a poor decision on their part.

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  3. The guys over at Dream Dirt TV (Twitter @DreamDirt) made a good point. As farmers and ranchers we do have compassion for our crops, livestock, and way of life. Be sure to highlight this as a way to connect with consumers.

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  4. Ryan,

    You’ve done a great job of summarizing some of the points we need to not only understand but act on. The cotton posts I’ve been doing have really done that for me. Though I don’t farm, having been on hundreds of cotton farms in the last (mumble) years, lets me understand the basics & that’s what we need to start with. I can frequently handle questions but when someone asks something deeper I do research by talking to the folks i know in the business.

    Look forward to meeting you in a couple of weeks!

    jp

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  5. My brother is an attorney. I think he feels your pain of having your profession under constant attack. Just like any job, it only takes one idiot to make everyone look bad.

    You should think of being proactive in trying to get the word out there first and to establish partnerships with your loyal end users. The example I’m thinking of is close to my heart. I feed my dogs a raw food diet. Beef, turkey, chicken, rabbit, buffalo and venison. As a friend of animals I would like to know that the livestock that feeds my dogs were treated humanely. I know a number of dog owners who deal directly with farmers/ranchers (I drive an hour to a turkey farm every few months) for this very reason. A few of them are PETA members, which I find funny. Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that there are a group of people out there that would have your back if they knew you and your stories. It’s kind of a group version of many hands make light work.

    Just a thought.

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    1. Thanks goddess. That’s definitely what I (and many other agriculture bloggers) am trying to do by blogging about events in ranch life that I encounter. If you have any specific questions feel free to send em my way and I can address them

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  6. Actually, I’ve answered most of my questions just by going back and reading your old posts. So, thanks for that. 🙂

    I found your blog by accident. Maybe troll through blogs/forums for your end users to see if there is an opportunity to direct some traffic back to your blog. Just a thought.

    If you’re interested here are a few places I go to that might be interested in all you do to keep our food healthy and safe.

    http://www.truthaboutpetfood.com – a well known blogger for raw feeders who talks about food quality and safety.

    “Like” Doctor Karen Becker on Facebook. She has 55,000 followers and recommends a raw diet. Most posts are questions about a dog/cat health issue but, every now and then food issues come up.

    healthypets.mercola.com/groups/healthypets/default.aspx – a forum for health questions. If nothing else maybe you have questions about your own dogs and cats. 🙂

    dogfoodchat.com/forum

    I’m sure there are forums for butchers, people who want to shop local, are just curious about farming/ranching and anyone interested in food safety.

    PETA and the ilk are well funded and organized. They don’t care who the bring down to get their way. If I ever see an opportunity to redirect someone to this site you know I will.

    Thanks to you guys I get to live out my little farm dream without all the hard work and long hours. Thanks.

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    1. Glad you found my posts useful. Not sure where my blog is headed once I find a new job, but I know I continue to cover my life as a cattleman. Thanks for sharing these links. I’ll have to go take a look at em.

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