Feb. 13 2024 09:28 AM

If you don’t tell your story, someone will tell another story.

Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program board member Doug Harbach of Schrack Farms in Loganton, Pa., visits with consumers at the 2024 Pennsylvania Farm Show Calving Corner. Schrack Farms provided cows for the live dairy cattle birthing center that draws thousands of visitors each year.

No one knows what happens on a dairy farm better than a dairy farmer. You are the subject matter experts who have dedicated your lives to producing a safe, nutritious, and delicious product for consumers to enjoy. Shouldn’t it be you that helps build trust and inspires them to drink milk and eat dairy products?

If you don’t tell YOUR story, someone will tell ANOTHER story.

Farmers are often listed among the most trusted and respected professions. Factors that are most important to consumers are care for others, trustworthiness, and being essential to society. Farmers embody all of these attributes.

We at American Dairy Association North East are often asked by farmers in our six-state region to offer trainings to help communicate with consumers. To answer that call, we created a new program for those of you in our region to provide consistent, accurate information to help you hone your skills to tell your story.

Customized Communications Coaching is a unique training experience that allows you to choose the specific topics that your farm or group is most interested in. These engaging sessions feature the latest communications tools, trends, and data. We focus on key messages, social media, traditional media, hosting farm tours, tough questions, and crisis preparedness.

We delve into who modern-day consumers are and what their interests are to help better understand who is purchasing your products — and even more importantly these days, why they are purchasing your products.

One point to keep in mind is that we are not our own audience. We already know why we should be drinking milk. So, we help you find the right words that will resonate best with others as you have conversations about the dairy industry. We have developed a set of key messages around animal care, environmental stewardship, and the nutritional value of dairy to give you easy talking points.

Handling tough questions is also critical to building trust in dairy. We offer tips and tricks to diffusing potentially heated discussions and recognizing that a question may simply mean that someone is opening the door to have a conversation. This is the perfect opportunity to tell people what you want them to know.

The training can also include practical steps for handling guests when hosting a farm tour. For example, try not to use jargon or acronyms. I once said a cow was “freshening” to a non-farm colleague who replied with, “There is nothing fresh about that!” Look at your farm from a consumer’s point of view so you’re ready to explain things in terms they understand.

Our highly skilled team brings a combination of practical on-farm experiences coupled with decades of consumer-facing communications backgrounds. While we may not have “seen it all” when dealing with consumers, there isn’t much we haven’t encountered. We look forward to working closely with farmers and dairy groups who are ready to step up and advocate for dairy.

For more information or to request a Customized Communications Coaching session, click here. We welcome groups of all sizes — maybe employees from your farm or an organization in which you’re involved would be interested. We ask that you request your training session at least four weeks in advance to allow time for scheduling and customization. Hope to see you soon!

Jean Kummer

Jean Kummer is the industry communications specialist for American Dairy Association North East.