How to share your farm story and through social media and traditional media
June 2, 2017
Agriculturalists have long been encouraged to share their story with consumers through social media and through interviews with the traditional news media.
The list of agriculturists who share their stories through social media is growing and some of those who originally began blogging some years ago are still going strong and enjoy a loyal following. Sharing information online or with a member of the media can be daunting but can also be rewarding.
Crystal Blin has been blogging for nearly 10 years and has spoken about how to best share ag's story online through social media. She was certainly no stranger to delivering her agriculture story when the opportunity arose to be included in RFDTV's series FarmHer. Blin was familiar with creator Marji Alaniz and was happy to invite her and her crew to the Blin's northeast Iowa farm.
Alaniz has a background in corporate agribusiness and a deep love of agriculture but she doesn't come from a production agriculture background.
"Marji has learned a lot about agriculture but she doesn't come from an agriculture background," Blin said. "Even though she's the host, she's there to learn."
TEACHING AND LEARNING
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With Alaniz and the filming crew at her side, Blin went about doing the chores as she always does on the registered Hereford operation. She found Alaniz asking why she was doing things, like weighing feed, that she might have otherwise not explained.
"You go about your daily life on a farm and things come so naturally to you," she said. "When she was there following me, it was really interesting. It's awesome to be around people like that because it reminds you about what parts of agriculture they're interested in."
Answering Alaniz's questions helped Blin deliver a message to viewers about agriculture that includes a strong theme of caring for animals well and correctly. That message remained at the forefront of Blin's mind as she worked with the video and audio crew, who she said are incredibly talented but have no experience around livestock.
"They had the idea that we would throw a drone up in the air and fly it over the cattle," she said. "We really pride ourselves on how docile our cattle are, they're Hereford cows, and they were not crazy about that drone."
Blin and her husband, Jon, spent the day ensuring that the FarmHer crew were able to take the video shots they needed and wanted while still ensuring that everyone, man and beast alike, were safe.
Once the filming was done, Blin's ag story was in the hands of Alaniz and the editing team.
"It was a little nerve-wracking because we didn't see the show before it aired," Blin said. "I have a good relationship with Marji so I trusted her and felt comfortable not seeing the show."
Blin's background in marketing made her conscious of the ease with which audio can be edited to tell a different story, one that might not shed such a positive light on agriculture. Her advice is to determine if you feel comfortable enough with the person that you are confident they will tell your story accurately.
WHEN TO WALK AWAY
At one point, Blin was contacted by a writer for a publication in Chicago seeking an interview about antibiotic use on the farm. After some online conversations, Blin felt uneasy with the writer's intentions and was upfront in advising the writer that she was unwilling to grant an interview unless she was able to approve her quotes prior to publication.
"They were not interested in that so I did not do the interview," she said. "I did not feel comfortable with what the end product would be and I wasn't going to let her twist agriculture's story to fit her mold. I walked away from the interview."
Prior to Blin's interview with FarmHer, she notified her local paper so they, too, could cover the story.
"Honestly, that was so good because that reached a non-agriculture audience and a lot of people tuned into the show because of it," she said. "It created so many conversations."
The local coverage turned out to be a boon to the telling of Blin's story but the opportunity would have been missed had she not contacted the paper and proactively invited them to take part. People continue to recognize her from the story and her appearance on FarmHer and her positive ag message continues to grow.
"If you have some type of agriculture story or event, you can't expect the media to come to you," she said. "If you really want the message out there, you need to go to the media."
Colorado Farm Bureau Policy
Communications Director Taylor Lobato encourages those in agriculture to share their stories with those in the media.
"Keep it personal," Lobato said. "Talk about what it means to you and the impact certain issues have for you."
Members of the media may ask for comments on behalf of the industry as a whole and Lobato said, in that case, remind the interviewer that you can best give specific insights.
"You can't speak for everyone but your experience has been X, Y, and Z," she said.
Lobato said preparation is key and part of that preparation is to understand the goal of the article and the writer's level of knowledge about the subject. Researching the writer and the publication can give valuable insight to help guide the interview and produce the best outcome.
Colorado Farm Bureau and most other agriculture organizations offer media training to help members best share their stories. — Spencer is a freelance writer from Wiggins, Colo., where she and her family raise cattle and show goats. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Rachel Spencer Media.