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Checkoff Watch: Social media and communication training: A must for farmers and consumer confidence

Contributed by Don Schindler Published on 07 February 2017
Scoial Media

Why did Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) invest in social media and communication training for America’s dairy farmers when there are other pressing needs?

The simple answer is: to build consumer confidence. You see, there were two major changes that caused confusion about how dairy is produced and its role in the diet.

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The first change was urbanization. Over the past few decades, consumers moved from rural areas to cities in search of jobs. When you live in the city, your life and what you know about it tends to revolve around the city. Therefore, food isn’t from a farm; it’s from the store.

People know there are farms – they’ve seen movies and documentaries and have been to a farmers’ market – but they don’t really know what life is like on a modern farm. And they don’t know how much the farm has changed with advancements in animal care and technology. You are definitely not farming the same way your grandparents did.

The second change was communication and information. In the past, consumers knew where their food came from because they had direct access to someone who produced their food, whether it be a relative or friend.

Gilmer cowsNow, they don’t know farmers, but they do know where to get information about their food. With the rise of the internet, they rely on their mobile devices (just like we do) using search engines such as Google and social networks such as Facebook to get information and shape their opinions about dairy.

Those sources aren’t always good to dairy.

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From these two factors, you can see that you are a different farmer producing dairy products for a different consumer.

tillamookThrough DMI’s research, we understand consumers have high trust in farmers. You have a lot of credibility, but there is an absence of the authentic farmer voice online. DMI asked farmers what it would take to get them to use social media and the overwhelming response was communication training.

So in 2013 DMI launched the Communication Training Team, which focused on digital communication training for the industry. Its goal is to connect dairy farmers to consumers through communication and teach farmers how to create positive stories that could be placed on the web and shared via social media channels.

In the beginning, trainings focused on telling your farm’s story using social media tools and the technical aspects of getting people set up to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.

But now communication training has evolved into producing engagement through the “Why you farm” stories, how farmers can become online influencers, teaching techniques on how to create great video and photos, managing modern crisis management via social media and protecting your right to farm.

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The training has merged with the Dairy Farmer Spokesperson Network, created in 2001 by the checkoff and other dairy organizations, which has already trained several hundred dairy farmers to be media representatives for the industry, and the checkoff’s award-winning crisis training, also created in 2001, to help with the social media onslaught that occurs during a crisis situation.

What are the results?

We have completed hundreds of trainings for more than 15,000 farmers, industry staff and dairy professionals over the past three years.

You can see the results of many more farmers interacting with consumers on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube about the benefits of dairy and the great animal care they provide – all aimed at protecting your right to farm and grow your business.

Through the help of DMI’s Dairy Hub and Amplification Center, dairy farmers and many others have been sharing positive stories on their social channels with just one click.

You can sign up to be a member of the Dairy Hub by filling out this form, and you can join the Amplification Center by sending an email request (Monica Labelle).

We also train farmers to help them recover in the event of a crisis that may occur at their farm. If your website and social properties are established before a crisis hits, you should have a faster recovery time. The trust you build with your consumers now will benefit you down the road.

How can you get involved?

If you feel you are ready to get into social media, the checkoff has many ways to help.

1. Most of the state/regional checkoff teams have training programs that are coordinated with our national program. You can contact your local checkoff staff to start working on a plan.

2. Training tools are available in the Dairy Hub. We have posts and training modules from how to set up a Facebook page to how to shoot and edit videos. We are adding more every week to keep you up to date on the latest social offerings.

3. We can bring communication training to your organizations. The DMI Communication Training Team is available to speak at your events to give everyone the confidence they need to advocate on behalf of dairy. If you would like to bring our trainers to your event, feel free to reach out to me (Don Schindler) and we’ll be happy to work with your organization.

While you are a different farmer producing products for a different consumer, connecting with them will build trust that is critical to your livelihood and the future of our industry. It all starts with a direct connection that can be built through social media.  end mark

PHOTOS: DMI has trained more than 15,000 farmers and dairy professionals in communications and social media training over the past three years, helping put more farmer voices online. 

Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy producers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.

Don Schindler
  • Don Schindler

  • Senior Vice President - Digital Innovations
  • Dairy Management Inc.

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