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Success in communicating to the pork industry — the topic I was asked to write about. My first reaction (after saying yes, of course) was to wonder why I struggled to get started. The venerable light bulb went off as I realized why I struggled — the title is inaccurate. If you want to succeed, you don't communicate TO the pork industry; you communicate WITH the pork industry.

Of course standard communication principles apply in this industry as in any other. Everyone strives to stand out — messages that resonate, creative work that grabs attention, action motivated — but if you read no further, remember this, "Communication success in the pork industry stems from treating each of the audiences (and there are many) as a partner in the common goal of maintaining a healthy, sustainable industry."

Keeping this in mind, here are ten principles I like to follow.

1. Know Your Audience (you expected this one, didn't you?) Identify who your audiences are and then learn all you can about them. Understand what drives each audience, what issues they may be facing, what their buying cycles might be, what their communications preferences might be, etc. For larger operations, understand the process — who influences, who decides, who purchases, who implements and most important, how it all interacts.

2. Plan Together. Work closely with your clients/teams to put together the plans for communicating with the audiences you have identified. Do it together, with agreed upon goals and an agreed upon path for getting there.

3. Confident, yes. Arrogant, no. Deliver a confident and clear message about your product or service but don't be arrogant about it. You are communicating with business people. Talk with them as you would with other business people; respect their experience. Most importantly (haven't we all applied a lesson learned from Mom?), understand that the more you know about a topic, the more you realize you don't know. Arrogance leads to closed minds and closed minds don't make for good partnerships.

4. Walk in your customers' shoes. Spend time in their settings. Get in the barns, in the clinics, whatever it takes. Watch the markets, keep abreast of the issues important to them, and watch the global markets. Be proactive in your communications. By doing this, it helps lead to principle number five.

5. Be a partner. We have common goals; we all want a healthy sustainable industry which, of course, leads to further success for each of the operations and organizations in the industry. Do your communications reflect a year-round commitment to their success? Do your communications support the sales representative/customer relationships? Do you speak with them as a partner?

6. Benefit Speak (and Dig Deep!)
When preparing messages, don't think about how it benefits you, think about how it benefits your audiences. Dig deep for what will really resonate with them. For example: Product X is "convenient". Well, so are five other products. How is yours different? What need does Product X satisfy? Is there a need to satisfy?

7. Be authentic. Need I say more? Be honest. Long-term communication partnerships stem from authenticity. Don't promise something that isn't real just to make an impact or get an immediate reaction.

8. Respect time. If there is one thing to know about the audiences in the pork industry (all of them!), they are short on time and high on demands. Veterinarians are in short supply, producers are extremely busy, editors receive more communications than you can imagine. Don't ask your audiences to read volumes of information. Respect their time and your messages are more apt to be read or heard.

9. Give sound advice. Clients (and customers!) are busy and work with us for a reason. They rely on the knowledge and advice we can provide. Make sure you have done your research and provide recommendations that are sound. If you don't know, say so.

10. Be Nice! Say your "pleases" and "thank yous." It may seem like a silly principle but it's one that's often overlooked and one I find to be the most important. Your message isn't the only message your audience receives but you want it to be the one they remember, right? A simple please or thank you can be the icing on the resonant, creatively delivered cake and make it the one that lasts. Who wants to hear from a partner who isn't nice?

Wynnie Zuchowski is an Account Supervisor with Martin|Williams Advertising where she works with clients like Pfizer Animal Health.

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