How to Gain Trust From Consumers

628x471As agvocate bloggers and social media gurus, sometimes we feel we are standing on a soapbox shouting at consumers. We are saying all of these wonderful things about agriculture, but are consumers actually listening to what we have to say? Are they actually trusting the words and phrases we type to them.

When talking to consumers about agriculture, trust is the most important feeling the consumer needs to have towards you (the agvocate).  It is that trust that will stop these consumers from picking up propaganda from other sources and believing it without asking questions (How Ag Will Defeat PETA).

Below are five ideas you can use to gain trust from the consumers that read your agvocate blog.

1. Use pictures and video

Whenever you write about a topic, use pictures and video from your life depicting your topic. While the words you are saying may be confusing or lead to questions, pictures and video will help answer those questions. Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words.

2. Tell them everything

Don’t leave something out because you think it will make agriculture look bad. Telling them even the hairy specifics in agriculture will lead to them trusting you more. You just need to make sure you have a good reason for doing what you are doing and be able to explain that.

3. Provide the other side

You may remember in high school when you had to write an argumentative paper. In this paper, you needed to not only provide your opinions, but also the opinions of the other side. It is important to include this other side in your blogs posts because it allows the reader to make their own educated opinion. Plus, when you include the other sides opinions, it is a great way to talk about the topic at hand and disagree with what they are saying.

4. Provide citations

Whenever possible, provide other blog posts or even news stories that also talk about what you are saying. Including other people’s work will help consumers trust you. People trust news, so use it to your advantage.

5. Answer questions thoughtfully and accurately

Whenever someone has a question, there are several things you need to think about. This is why it is important to be thoughtful. Don’t get caught up in the anger that question has caused you (it is more important to be the calm one). While answering the question calmly, make sure it is accurate. If it is a controversial question string, your opposition will be sitting there ready to pounce on anything that could be inaccurate (leading to a loss of trust).

As these five ideas show you, trust is an important feeling for consumers to have towards you. We need to constantly be aware that every opportunity can be used to gain trust or lose it.


3 Rules Card Companies Use for Writing Valentine’s Day Cards

Happy-Valentine-day-2012-greeting-card-Well, if you didn’t know it yet, tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. And naturally as a guy, I’m not too fond of this holiday. To me it is just another holiday created by the card companies, but I will say that I really enjoy getting my wife gifts for Valentine’s Day (especially when they are chocolate covered strawberries and she lets me eat one).

Even though this may be a holiday created by the card companies, one of my favorite part about any holiday is looking at the new cards, mainly the funny ones. The one thing I think card companies have mastered is the ability to get a point across in a small amount of words, just like writing titles for a blog post. Below are the top 3 rules for writing a Valentine’s Day card (that just so happen to also pertain to writing a blog post title).

1. Short is Best

Have you ever gotten that card that has the super long poem on it with all of this frilly wording? Yeah, I hate it too. It just takes to long to read and honestly, I like cards that get to the point. Card companies should always be concise in their writing so you can get the point quickly.

2. Turn heads

The best cards to me are the ones that grab my attention and make me want to read the inside of the card. To do this you need to not only use rule number one so they get it right away, but you need to be creative and do something that is going to catch their attention.

3. Know your audience

There is nothing more important in card making than understanding your audience. A card company should never make a pink card for a husband (okay maybe some wives would buy that, but that’s beside the point). For this reason, it is important to have a deep understanding of your audience so you will know what will grab their attention (a.k.a. number two).

Well, I know not all card companies will take my advice, but this is what I like to see in a card (and more specifically titles for a blog post).




How Ag Will Defeat PETA

George O'Leary lying at Notre Dame.

George O’Leary

At one point in your life, you may have had an “ah ha” moment at church. Well, Steph and I have been going to a new church the last few weeks and I had an “ah ha” moment. This weekend, the pastor had a really good message and it got me thinking. He was talking about distortion (or in general terms, lying). The point where I had my “ah ha” moments was when he said, “living a life of distortion, can give you trouble in the end.” Just take George O’Leary’s word for it.

The pastor gave several examples like George O’Leary and it reminded me of some of the struggles agriculture is having with PETA and other animal rights groups. We have all seen PETA promote a video about a dairy farm where animals are being “abused.” I will admit that sometimes there is actual abuse, but most of the time there is a lot of “distortion” in those videos (darkened video, sad music, etc.).

The unfortunate thing is that these videos are working and swaying the public’s opinions on agriculture and its practices. However, I honestly think PETA’s distortion is catching up with them. I have been in several rooms where people have been talking about PETA, not because of their latest video, but about whether they should believe PETA.

This reputation for distortion is something that could eventually be PETA’s undoing.

There is a lesson in this for all agvocates, do not distort the truth…ever. It is better to tell the truth about something upfront, rather than try to explain yourself after someone has caught you lying. Don’t sugar-coat things or only show the “good” parts of your farm. You need to open the barn doors wide open and explain what you are doing and why you are doing it. That person may not agree with what you are doing, but you have gained their trust for the next time you are trying to explain a “sticky situation.”

Being always truthful is how we gain the trust of consumers.

Please share any questions or concerns about this topic in the comments section, I want to hear about your experience with being truthful to consumers.

Top 4 Rules to Answer ‘How Often Should I Blog?’

How often to blog

For some bloggers, finding topics to write about is really hard for them. Or it takes them a long time to write a blog post. These problems generally lead to the big question every beginning blogger (and probably most expert bloggers, but don’t want to admit it) asks, “How often should I blog?” Below are my four rules for how often to blog.

1. This is content.

The most important thing to remember is that blogging is content (Why Agvocates Need to Take Notes from Chipotle). For this reason, you need to make sure you are posting frequently (at least once a week, at least). Blogging is a great way to tell consumers about agriculture and we should put out as much content as possible about it, but within limitations.

2. How much time do you want to give?

While blogging a lot is important, you need to recognize how much time you can give every week so you can set yourself up for success. If there are weeks where you can post four times a week, but other weeks you can’t post at all, then you are better off spreading out those four posts over those two weeks. Whatever you do, you need to post consistently so your readers can begin to expect how often you are going to blog. Fluxuating the number of posts can also make your blog harder to circulate to the masses.

 3. How long does your blog take to get circulated? 

While you can blog five days a week if you have enough time, I think it is important to think about how long it takes for your blog to get circulated around social media. As you begin blogging, it will take more time for your blog to get circulated in social media. For this reason, don’t jump the gun on posting the next blog until the hoopla about your old post has begun to die down. We sometimes see this a lot in social media where people will post two news-worthy things close together and not maximize the publicity surrounding both items.

4. Know yourself and your blog

In the end, most of these rules deal with how well you know your own capabilities. Make sure to not stress yourself out over your blog. Blogging should be fun and exciting, not something you hate doing every day. For instance, I could be doing my dishes right now, but instead I’m blogging (don’t tell my wife that). In order for your blog to be successful, you need to be yourself, have fun and know your limitations.

Why Agvocates Need to Take Notes from Chipotle

Oh, Chipotle. How I love your burritos. The warm tortilla shell nestles that warm bean and steak mixture. With bountiful amounts of sour cream and guacamole. How ever did you make this meal taste so good…

I think most of us have enjoyed a Chipotle burrito before, but for the last few years, Chipotle has been coming under some fire by some agvocates. It hasn’t been because agvocates have experienced poor service or sub-par food, but rather for the way Chipotle chooses to portray certain segments of agriculture.

scarecrowYou may remember this scarecrow  advertisement created by Chipotle, highlighted by a scarecrow scared of where the food industry was heading. Or the newest Chipotle endeavor making a mockery out of agriculture in a short satirical comedy on Hulu called “Farmed and Dangerous.”

I could sit here and argue about whether these advertisements are truthful, but that is not the reason I think agvocates should be taking notes. You see, the strange part about these advertisements is that they don’t really mention Chipotle. Yes, watch those advertisements again and you will see that there is really no direct mention of Chipotle until the very end.

You are probably thinking what’s the big deal, but in the marketing sector everyone is talking about it. Chipotle is almost revolutionizing the way advertising works. And surprisingly, these tactics are working. People are actually listening and believing what Chipotle has to say because, well, it is “content marketing.”

You may have heard about content marketing, which has been a really big buzz phrase associated with blogging and social media for the last few years. Content marketing is the idea that brands create informational (sometimes controversial i.e. Chipotle) content including blogs, social media and most recently, advertising. The beauty of content marketing is giving a brand a voice on important issues in its industry, leading customers to have a better “relationship” with the brand. Chipotle is using a lot more content marketing in their advertising than a majority of other brands. They are successfully making an advertisement “informational” without it seeming like they are selling a product.

Chipotle’s use of content marketing is a pretty big deal because it is changing the public’s perception of agriculture, whether warranted or not.

So you are probably asking yourself, how do we (agvocates) become less “advertisement” and more “informational?” How do we as individuals get the trust back from the American public (with a smaller marketing budget I might add)?

You are probably expecting me to say that you need to tell YOUR story. This is true and we can always use more agvocates out there, but I think the best way to reach consumers is by reaching out and getting into their homes as a collective, UNIFIED unit. No more “organic versus conventional” or “small versus large,” we need to stop fighting amongst ourselves before we can start fighting against the likes of Chipotle. Yes, Chipotle may have many advertising and marketing minds and a large multi-million dollar advertising budget, but I know they can’t compete with a grassroots initiative as determined as the families involved in agriculture.

I think we have great opportunities available for anyone to start advocating for agriculture, so in the words of Nike, just do it.

Top 5 Ways to Use PETA to Your Advantage

I know P.E.T.A. is not a favorite group for agvocates to have a conversation with, but I feel they actually can be useful for some things. Here is my list of ways you can use P.E.T.A. to become a better social media agvocate.

1. Set the story straight

Most social media agvocates can agree that PETA does not do the best job of telling our side of the story. That is why it is very important whenever PETA makes a claim to actually talk about it. Carrie Mess recently did this exact thing when she responded to Ryan Gosling and his views on dehorning. Agvocates need to explain why things are done the way they are done because people are listening to what PETA is saying and waiting for someone else to speak up.

2. Use them to create blog posts

PETA is a great website to browse through to get ideas on possible blog posts to write about. Whenever you go through their website and find something that isn’t right, talk about why it isn’t right. Give a response to what they have to say about the issue. You might find a whole slew of blog posts after reading just one web page.

3. Read their posts for SEO search terms

PETA is a social media machine compared to most of us social media agvocates, so why recreate the wheel? Whenever you are reading their content, pay attention to the keywords they are using. You can then use these keywords in your own blog posts. Think of it this way, if you use the same keywords, your blog post is more likely to come up in searches whenever PETA articles come up. Linking to their information, while we don’t want to promote it, is also a great way to become further linked to them in searches.

4. Be more trustworthy than they are

I am sure we have all felt the harsh tone PETA tends to have when on social media, like they are trying to push an agenda. That is exactly what we don’t want to do to consumers. Pushing an agenda just turns consumers off unless they are completely on board with your opinions. It is important that you appear trustworthy and transparent. You need to be an agvocate that is there to help people get reliable answers to their questions. Don’t be afraid to tell them the truth, transparency lends credibility.

5. Comment on their posts

I know this is really hard to do, but if you can stomach it, you should comment on their information. Engage people on social media that appear to be against an agricultural practice. You may not convince them, but there are others watching that are on the fence about what to believe. You need to be calm in your conversation and do not push an agenda, just give your stories and facts. You are not after the trust of the person you are engaging, but rather the silent hundreds that are listening.

Why it is Important to be Transparent as an Agvocate

agriculture, transparency

Chico Locker and Sausage Co. Inc. is a good example of being transparent.

I was a part of a conversation last week that discussed transparency and whether we, as social media agvocates, should tell consumers everything about agriculture. Whether we should tell them the “gritty” truth or just keep it a secret.

My answer… we NEED to tell consumers everything because they need to know what agriculture is all about.

This is especially important to us social media agvocates because we are the leading form of pro-agriculture information for consumers. Below are the three reasons I think we should tell consumers everything.

1. They demand the truth

Every consumer I have ever talked to wants to know the truth about where their food comes from. If we don’t give it to them, what does that say? It is like a big flashing sign that says “agriculture has a big secret that it doesn’t want you to know.” Consumers demand and should expect the truth from agriculture. If you want to tell people how you butcher animals, like Chico Locker Sausage, go right ahead. If you want to tell people why dehorning cattle is important, like Dairy Carrie, go right ahead. Consumers want to know and who are we to tell them they can’t.

2. If we don’t, who will?

This is actually the scariest question social media agvocates combat every day. If we don’t tell consumers what agriculture is all about, then who will give them the information. If you actually google “dehorning cattle,” there are quite a few examples of the bad information that can creep into google searches. Being transparent also makes social media agvocates more credible to consumers because consumers don’t feel like they are being lied to.

3. Are you hiding something you are ashamed of?

Everything that I have ever been taught in agriculture has been shown to me with the greatest amount of pride. If there is something we as social media agvocates are not willing to tell everyone about, then maybe we shouldn’t be doing that thing in the first place. If you are doing something that you think could be harmful to agriculture, you need to stop doing it NOW. That secret, that distrust is exactly what has gotten us to where we are today. Where consumers do not trust where their food comes from. If you can’t talk about it, then don’t do the act in the first place.

I think you can tell that I really think social media agvocates should be telling the truth about everything they do. After all, the main reason to be a social media agvocate is to answer common question consumers have about the food they eat. If we are not ready to answer those question, then we shouldn’t be social media agvocates in the first place.