by Lynn Ketelsen, General Manager, Linder Farm Network, Owatonna, MN
At a time when information and entertainment is available everywhere, it takes creativity and commitment to stay ahead of the rest.
As a past National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) president, I'm excited to see all the innovative programming and projects our industry is doing. From Rural Lifestyle programming, Tractorcades, E-Newsletter and Web site programming to value-added broadcast with our marketin partners, farm broadcasting is truly responding to the changing marketplace.
With an energized farm broadcasting industry, the Linder Farm Network has added a couple of new concepts that have been wildly successful. Our goal with these is to provide rock solid information, see our audience on their turf and create excitement in Minnesota Agriculture.
If you would have told me ten years ago that marketing seminars, having celebrity 'guest' farm broadcasters and doing on-line newsletters would be a very important of our business, I would have said you're crazy. We all know the importance of concentrating on the quality of our product, but expanding our offerings to farmers has been our largest growth area.
Our Marketing and Management Seminars, and the Linder Farm Network "Farm Broadcaster for a Day" events have become huge listener hits and an important part of our total marketing effort.
This past year we held a series of five marketing seminars across the state, a traveling road show if you will, that drew more than 1,750 farmers. The concept is simple: bring experts farmers want to hear to a all-day meeting at a location close to their home. The
challenge is to determine what topics to cover and when and where to hold the events. The second part is to get people to attend.
Our experience with marketing seminars began with a single event five years ago. We felt that if we had a top market analyst that farmers heard on our airwaves and supplemented that with various other speakers we might have a winner.
International soybean consultant John Baize was a speaker at our very first seminar and talked about the soybean crop in Brazil and international trade issues. In addition, we featured a market analyst, meteorologist and a financial planning speaker. We charged $25 per person, promoted the seminar heavily on the air and it drew over 300 attendees — about double our expectations. We knew then we had connected with the farmers.
Our marketing partners also have been key to our success. Ag Star Financial Services and the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association have been with us since our very first seminar and provide a very important role in both the planning and marketing of these events. After each seminar we survey those attending, have planning sessions and look at how to do things better the next year.
According to the executive director of the Minnesota Soybean Growers, Jim Palmer, "It is vital to our organization to reach out to farmers across the state. Through these seminars, we see farmers who we don't get access to at any other event." Palmer went on to say that many farmers are simply too busy to attend state conventions and trade shows. He added, "but those larger farmers will go to an event the quality of the Linder seminars — they are outstanding."
This past year the seminars series set a new record with an average of 350 farmers at each event. The events were held in succession, starting on Monday and wrapping up on Friday. According to speaker Baize, "I have given speeches across the country, but nothing like this. The crowds got bigger everyday at each location." He adds, "the events have a rock concert electric atmosphere, they are fun to do."
This years speakers included Baize, Al Kluis of Northland Commodities; Meteorologist Bryce Anderson of DTN; northern Iowa farmer Dale Opime, who also farms in Brazil; and USDA's Farm Service Agency Director John Monson.
Add to that a 30-minute radio broadcast live on the Linder Farm Network during lunch with a farm broadcaster as MC and you have a winner.
"FARM BROADCASTER FOR A DAY" EVENTS
Another major promotion this year is the Linder Farm Network "Farm Broadcaster for a Day" on the scene broadcasts. The concept is simple, go live on location with interesting guests, a celebrity farm broadcaster and create excitement in the industry.
For this, the preparation is as important as the actual broadcast. Taking someone who has never been a farm broadcaster and having them read markets and conduct interviews can sound daunting, but it makes for a great radio program.
Our first guest broadcaster was Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty. We knew he would be a winner because of his experience in doing a weekly radio program. For his guest, we were fortunate to tie in a visit with USDA Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns. Our location was the Kernel Restaurant in Owatonna, MN, our home base. And our audience included farmers and farm leaders from across the state.
The program was great radio and great farm broadcasting. I had written out the markets for the governor, provided a full background and briefing of all guests and written questions for our "farm broadcaster" to ask. The governor melded the script with his own comments and questions and it went great. Secretary Johanns was a super guest, and other farm leaders were also featured on the program, including commodity group presidents, farm organization leaders and bio fuels experts.
The listener response was terrific. They loved hearing a guest farm broadcaster. I served as his co-host, but keeping things moving was my main duty. Since that time we have continued the concept with senators, congressmen and ag leaders taking the farm-broadcasting role.
We love the concept. It's great on the air, makes for a lively "live radio" program done in front of an audience on location, and cements our relationship with various ag leaders across the state of Minnesota.
Our organization has always emphasized being out with our audience. Both the marketing and management seminars and the "Farm Broadcaster for a Day" events have accomplished that while providing solid information for our farm audience.