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PASSING THE GAVEL
Emery Kleven, 2005 National Association of Farm Broadcasters president and farm director for Waitt Farm Network, shares his vision for NAFB and agrimarketers' success.

AM: What is the top issue facing you as president of NAFB in 2005?

As I look at this first question, I reflect on the many issues currently facing the farm broadcasting industry. In sorting through them, I can narrow it down to credibility. As reporters and journalists, farm broadcasters have worked hard to earn trust and loyalty, not only with our audience but also with the people we report about in news stories. From politicians to CEOs, and from farm organization officers and staff to the ag producers, it's a daily job to earn and keep that credibility.

NAFB's annual Washington Watch was a fine example of farm broadcasters' credibility. It's unfortunate that all managers could not attend this meeting to see the respect given to NAFB members. Whether it is the Secretary of Agriculture, the Ambassador of Australia, the U.S. Chief Ag Trade negotiator or the CEO of a commodity organization, this respect and trust was earned, not overnight, but over the 60 years that NAFB has been in existence.

Farm broadcasters' program content is being squeezed at the expense of ROI, return on investment. Therein lies the issue: How do we maintain credibility and integrity, while at the same time keeping an eye on the bottom line? It takes management, sales and farm broadcasters working together. A strong, credible and viable NAFB can be a part of that team, conducting marketing, promotion and research activities that help member entities reach their goals.

At my desk I have a quote from the late Senator Paul Wellstone. He said, "The future will belong to those who have passion, and to those who are willing to make the personal commitment to make our country better." I apply that to what I do in my professional life, and I think it could apply to the members of NAFB. We're looking for people, whether in sales, management or on-air, who are committed and passionate about making the future of the farm broadcasting profession better.

AM: What is your biggest challenge personally?

Being 6'5", my biggest challenge is to keep my legs from cramping up when flying coach. But as Steve Allen used to say... "Putting all seriousness aside"... the challenge as I enter the top chair of NAFB is to be a leader of conviction. Another one of my favorite quotes is from the late President Ronald Reagan who said, "A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have the determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets rough."

The good thing about NAFB is that it is not lonely at the top. I will be seeking counsel from many capable NAFB members, including several past presidents who are still active in the farm broadcast profession and many associate members from both the ag industry side and management side who have a wealth of knowledge.

AM: How can you and NAFB help agrimarketers achieve success?

Success for agrimarketers would be defined as being profitable. For instance, at the farm shows I attend, I realize that farm broadcasters can be successful to a point if we drive customers to our sponsors' booth or tent or red barn or Web site. But if those people are only there for the free popcorn or hotdogs, have we achieved that "success"? Perhaps to an extent we have achieved some, but success, at least in the terms we're talking about, is bringing in the qualified people - the customers or potential customers who spend money that in turn becomes profit.

If you were asked to define success for a professional baseball team, it would be a World Series championship. But what does that championship ultimately mean for the owner(s) of the team - profits.

We want agrimarketers to hit that home run, have a championship season and be profitable. But it takes teamwork, passion and commitment. It also takes research, marketing and promotion. Simply stated, it takes work.

We need to work smart to achieve goals. It takes planning and preparation. I once had a coach who always stressed the point that you need to "plan the work" and "work the plan". Whether it's baseball or broadcasting, success depends on the effort and preparation we put into it. And that is what I think it takes for NAFB and agrimarketers to be successful. AM


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