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.
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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?