BEEF GROUP USES NUTRITION STORY TO INFLUENCE 'EVERYDAY HEROES'
Den Gardner, Contributing Editor
Well, they may not be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound or be faster than a speeding bullet. But if you’re a woman, once the Council for Women’s Nutrition Solutions (CWNS) gets a hold of you, watch out! Why? Because you’re an Everyday Hero to them, and you’re running full speed ahead in today’s fast-paced, sometimes out-of-control life of work and play.
CWNS is an all-women advisory board of leading health and nutrition experts, including doctors, dieticians and researchers. Affectionately known as CWNS (pronounced See-wins), the group has a goal that is quite simple: Champion women’s lifestyle choices for everyday health. Let’s let Mary Young, executive director of nutrition for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and sponsor of CWNS, explain further: "We talk to women 25 to 55," she says. "They are the primary people who prepare the food, the decision-makers in the households.
"They need energy to help them get through their day without crashing," she continues. "Not only are they the chauffeur, chef, maid, doctor, vet and parent, but they also most likely work outside the home. And beef is packed with nutrients that play an important role in helping them confront these energy drainers."
The organization’s mission is to create a new recipe for women’s health by promoting a balanced lifestyle, championing good health and supporting the individual choices these "Everyday Heroes" make each day.
To promote CWNS, the NCBA is using the media in a big way. But that’s later. A little background information on the group, which was organized in late 1999, would be helpful before getting to the specifics.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard all the nasty things that have been said about red meat. There’s too much fat, it causes heart disease and who knows what else. Young, a registered dietitian, says for 25 years the nutrition community was focused more on "avoidance mentality" when it came to eating properly. "Don’t eat fat, salt, sugar and so on," she says. "Beef was unfairly maligned. There was tremendous oversimplification in nutrition education. So we talked to women about their concerns and what they needed to know to live healthfully and feel great."
What NCBA found out was that when it comes to health, nutrition is women’s No. 1 issue. Women weren’t looking at those issues from the standpoint of preventing heart disease or cancer, for example. They were looking at those issues to help them and their families get through the day. Pretty simple, huh?
Young says NCBA decided to focus on a message that "beef is an everyday solution for women. It’s convenient and has a bundle of nutrients." The primary audience chosen was moms and the people who influence them - such as health professionals and the media.
THE ADVISORY BOARD
"Who better to talk to women than women," Young says. "So we brought female experts together from all health and medical professions - women who were facing the same issues as our audience. We wanted women talking to women to champion the cause of everyday health issues."
One of these women, Dayle Hayes, a nutritionist, former board member of the American Dietetic Association, consultant, author, educator and pioneer dietitian in online nutrition communications, says the council itself is a good example of "thinking outside the box." She’s an original CWNS board member, writes a weekly column in the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, and regularly appears on the local CBS television affiliate in Billings to talk about nutritional issues.
I caught Hayes by telephone immediately after an interview she had held with the Wall Street Journal. "Somebody was writing about beef in steakhouses," she relates. "The newspaper wanted a nutritional point of view. This is a wonderful avenue for CWNS to provide perspective and give proper background information. We can provide a solid nutrition science perspective."
It seems to me that so much time has been spent in the past decade defending beef that it would be tough for CWNS board folks to not feel defensive when talking to the media about these issues. For Hayes, that’s not the case.
"I’m hardly ever defensive," she proudly says. "As a registered dietitian, mom and consumer, I can absolutely speak on behalf of the beef industry and CWNS. Beef is a good-news fit into today’s lifestyle."
Hayes says CWNS provides positive nutritional information for women and that the group’s role is to present beef as part of the solution for women in their daily lives. "Recently a reporter asked me about iron deficiency anemia. It’s a common problem in the U.S. for women and children," she explains. "Beef is power-packed with nutrients and is a great solution for that problem."
The biggest challenge, Hayes says, is getting the organization’s voice heard. "Consumers are bombarded with nutrition and health information. Somebody needs to tell consumers what information’s good, bad or in-between. We have a wonderful voice and message - one that’s practical and common-sense oriented."
THE MEDIA AND THE INTERNET
Consumers want concrete nutritional solutions, according to CWNS. With women talking to women, and using the media in many cases as the conduit, the result is a win-win for consumers, Young says. "To be successful, the CWNS board had to take ownership of this concept and commit themselves to be part of it," she explains. "They are females facing the same issues as their audience. And we’re using the media, conferences and the Internet to get our message out about how to use the nutrients of beef to overcome their daily stress problems."
Kim Essex, director of brand marketing practice for Burston Marsteller in Chicago (the agency for NCBA), says CWNS has hit the road running. She notes that a series of health/nutrition forums for health professionals and other women consumers (two already took place in Dallas and Philadelphia, with two more scheduled this year) - along with media relations (mostly women-targeted media) and a new CWNS Web site - will make 2001 a busy year for the group.
Thus far, media hits have been impressive. Some include: The Chicago Tribune’s "WomanNews" section, Self magazine and Woman’s World.
"We want to take beef from where it exists now - as a dietary treat - and get women to think about it as having nutritional value," Essex explains. "CWNS, through the collective research of the council and its credibility, can create that new world for beef."
Essex says cattle producers are thrilled with what’s happened to date. "They think it’s great that professional women can stand up and tell women that beef needs to be a part of their diet," she points out. "They believe CWNS is far more influential than they can be. They get it. In fact, they’re married to our target audience. In a way, that’s reassuring."
Young says the health forums, done in conjunction with the Speaking of Women’s Health group, are opportunities for local media relations in large cities. NCBA also held a backgrounder for consumer media in New York in the summer of 2000 and did what Young calls "a media burst" at the American Dietetic Association annual meeting last fall by participating in an "Everyday Solutions" session.
At the New York City event, CWNS launched a partnership with iVillage.com. That ended in January. CWNS plans to create its own Web site - CWNS.org - and launch it sometime this year.
CWNS will be a work in progress as it grows in stature, visibility and credibility. "This group lives the issues women face," Essex says. "They are women who are talking beef solutions in so many life stages."
All this is good news for Young, who sees the check-off dollar working overtime for cattle producers as CWNS reaches many of their key constituents: consumers, health professionals and the media. "That’s the best thing about CWNS," she says. "These women believe in the role beef’s nutrients play in good health for families. And they’re passionate about it. Our beef producers like that passion. And for a person who’s worked on and fought so many beef nutrition battles, it’s refreshing and invigorating for me. These women are committed to beef and a healthful diet." AM
Den Gardner owns Gardner & Gardner Communications, New Prague, Minn.