At the recent Telling Your Story Round-Up, hosted by the Mid-Atlantic Dairy Association, Pennsylvania Dairy Promotion Program and Center for Dairy Excellence, dairy producers were given tips for engaging with consumers.

The keynote speaker was Michele Payn-Knoper of Cause Matters Corp. in Lebanon, Indiana. As a professional speaker, Payn-Knoper has spent more than a decade training producers to be agricultural advocates. Through her presentation, “Championing Agriculture,” she encouraged attendees to develop an action plan, using the following six areas:

1. Who? Identify your target audience.

Some producers are comfortable working with elected officials and legislators, while others feel more confident educating school children. Focus on one group that you work well with.

2. What? Determine the issues that impact your audience the most.

Payn-Knoper advises producers to figure out your target audience’s “hot-buttons,” a topic, tradition or issue that will immediately grab their attention.

She recommends that producers gain perspective from extended family and friends who live in cities or suburban areas, as opposed to rural areas.

3. Why? Communicate your agricultural message by focusing on what’s important to your audience.

Remember to lead with “them,” your audience: Why should they care about what you’re saying? How does it impact their life and what they care about?

4. Where? Find events and opportunities to share your message.

Offer to host tours on your farm, get involved with local community groups or reach out to the local media. Be proactive rather than waiting to react to a crisis. Payn-Knoper also encouraged attendees to make social media part of their community and take advantage of tools like Facebook and Twitter.

5. When? Make a commitment and stick to it.

Even communicating with one person for one hour a week is enough to start making a difference, Payn-Knoper says. Encourage other producers to develop similar goals to make an even more meaningful impact in your area.

6. How? Set your action plan into motion.

Establish a connection with your target audience (who) by talking with them about their hot-buttons (what) and how those issues relate to your message (why).

“I know you’re already sharing your story,” Payn-Knoper says. “I’m simply asking you to take it to the next level. Connect with people at their level of passion because you’ll be more effective at championing agriculture.”  PTD

Learn more about becoming an agricultural advocate at Payn-Knoper’s website:

PHOTO: Dairy producers brainstorm ways to share their story with legislators. Photo by PD Editor Emily Caldwell.

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