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RHEA+KAISER: 7 STEPS TO ENSURE ADVOCACY FITS IN YOUR MARKETING TO FARMERS
Blog by Diane Martin, Rhea+Kaiser

Make sure your brand and company are up for task of ag advocacy.

An ag advocacy campaign can be a noble gesture. It can be the biggest wreck of your career, too. Or it can be a long-term commitment that helps generate positive understanding of modern agriculture and bolsters farmer loyalty to your brand. It all depends on whether you've done your due diligence up front - long before you start shaping messaging and activation plans.

Before you pitch the advocacy idea to your management, take these seven pre-planning steps to be sure ag advocacy is right for your brand and organization.

1.Set Goals. Write down your goals and desired outcomes across all audiences - farmers, dealers, general public, media and employees. Be as specific as possible.

2.Commit for the Long-Term. An advocacy program is a long-term strategy that demands a whole-organization commitment. Be willing to commit to communicating with the general public or don't bother. The last thing ag needs is another echo chamber.

3.Assess your Reputation. Thoroughly and honestly evaluate your brand's reputation among all potential audiences. Is there baggage? Is your brand or organization a lightning rod for debate? Chances are you instinctively know, but gut alone can set you up for failure. Recent research - your own and secondary sources - is a good start. Social media is a critical source for gauging your reputation in real-time. Social scraping tools like Cision will provide a robust report of what's said, by whom, when and where.

4.Assess Company Culture. Understand where advocacy fits in the culture and what the company's thresholds are for risk and transparency. Also know what resources are available to support the effort and manage potential blowback (even the most benign messages can draw venom from the most extreme, anti-ag voices). Have a sense of management's ROI expectations, too. The culture assessment helps you determine if you should pursue an advocacy program and how boldly to proceed. It also tells you whether you can be an active voice or simply an endorser of other initiatives.

5.Audit Current Efforts. There are hundreds of ag advocacy initiatives out there, most with their own view of agriculture, but not all align with your brand and mission. Just as you would conduct a brand audit or competitive review, audit what's currently being done by other groups and individuals. You'll see where there are opportunities to complement efforts, where there are messaging gaps you can fill and where there are opposing points-of-view.

6.Determine Basis for Credibility. Simply answer two questions. First, what gives you the authority to advocate on behalf of farmers? Second, what makes you a credible voice for agriculture? If you cannot answer these questions substantially and truthfully, then you have no business embarking on an ag advocacy program. You not only set up your brand for ridicule and potentially bad press, you risk dragging farmers into your morass.

7.Revisit Goals. Now, if your confidence remains strong and commitment even stronger, it's time to revisit your goals and desired outcomes to ensure they are measurable, meaningful and actionable. Then, begin planning.

Farmers and agribusiness have more public perception hurdles to jump than ever before. Farmers want to know agribusinesses have their backs, but being a public voice for ag may not be right for every brand. By following these seven pre-planning steps, you'll know your limitations and opportunities before adding advocacy to your marketing strategies.


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