by Stan Koenigsfeld
My family and I very much enjoy our land just outside of Jefferson City, MO, and the ten cows that live on our 27 acres.
Really, our cattle seem more like expensive yard ornaments. On one of my many out-of-town trips last fall, I got a dreaded phone call about one of those ornaments — a newborn calf roaming the pasture with no cow in sight.
My wife, Julie, a city girl who married a farm boy, was a real trooper. The adventure started with a trip to the farm supply store for a bottle and milk replacer, then to a dairy farm to buy frozen colostrum and back home to convince this calf that a bottle of milk is as good as what nature has to offer. Today, Ellie, the calf is fine and healthy.
The point of this story is how much those of us in the rural lifestyle market need easily accessible information about the basics of this high maintenance lifestyle that we love. Every single day can be a new experience. Some of us have farm backgrounds, but many do not.
How do folks who have chosen to reconnect with the land find out about bottle feeding a calf, keeping algae out of a pond, picking the right tractor for their operation, building the right fence, and so on? I will recommend a solution later.
RURAL LIFESTYLE REACH
And there are quite a few of us who need help with our "rural lifestyle habit." How do I know that? The National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) has compiled some very helpful data about those of us living the rural life. NAFB has just completed the most comprehensive research to date on the demographics of rural lifestylers, www.nafb.com. The research tells us many things:
• The market is huge — 16 million households on at least 3 acres each.
• The market is affluent with above average incomes.
• Those living the lifestyle want to "connect" to the land and this way of life.
• Their purchasing decisions are based on wants, not
• Most derive their income from another source.
• Radio is their medium of choice because of their busy lives.
At Living the Country Life, the new partnership between Learfield and Meredith, we think reaching the rural lifestyle market is about content and connection. Content won't come from taking a traditional farm radio program and repurposing it for this audience. It also won't come from a collection of print articles that touch on the appropriate subject matter.
It WILL come from great and passionate journalists who view this audience as unique. It will also take companies that think that it's worth investing the money necessary to build a multimedia product offering, specifically for this group of consumers. It's not about tweaking the stuff we're already doing with farm content; it's about building a whole new mothership.
It's also about connection. In much the same way farm broadcasters have a special relationship with farmers, these rural lifestylers want to trust and have a relationship with the people bringing them the information they need. To build that relationship, people want to get to know and connect with those personalities. It will take a different style of communicating than is typically used in farm broadcasting and publishing. Rural lifestylers not only want to be informed, they also want to be entertained!
So, what's the best way to reach them?
Radio is a key component but not the only one. The answer lies in combining the intimacy and immediacy of radio with the on-demand convenience of online information and the in-depth power of print. It's considering the end-user, not the medium (radio, print, etc.).
Here's an example: a well-known and trusted radio host does a great three minute program about vinyl fencing. That show ends with a tag: "for an installation demonstration, visit us at LivingTheCountryLife.com where the consumer can watch a do-it-yourself, how-to video." After the video, the consumer has the opportunity to immediately look at product reviews (from fellow rural lifestylers) and go shopping for that product without ever leaving their chair. When you're searching for a particular product, wouldn't you like it to be that easy?
By the way, my next on-the-road call from my wife about Ellie was to tell me that, on this particular day, the other cows were not being nice to Ellie and Ellie was sad. City girls. ...
Stan Koenigsfeld is President of Learfield News, Jefferson City, MO.