Include your entire organization in ag advocacy efforts.
Today is Ag Day and we are talking about advocacy. But we think it’s worth noting that in agriculture, every day is ag day, and we should always be advocating for what we do and how we do it.
Reams of research have told us for years that consumers, especially millennials, expect brands to have purpose beyond the sales and delivery of products and services. They expect brands to support issues that are important to them and, as we see in B2B circles, to advocate for their industries. And they won’t be fooled with a few warm-and-fuzzy marketing messages.
In the age of demands for transparency and authenticity, it’s not enough to communicate your new purpose and assign a team to deliver on it. To have credibility and not be outed, brands must live the purpose from the inside out.
We all know the drill when brands awaken to this “new world,” in which the basis for the brand relationship transcends the commercial transaction.
- Pronouncements of commitment to an issue are made.
- Resources are allocated and task forces are formed to tackle the issues that the brand should support.
- PR agencies are engaged.
- Themes are created, along with websites, social media handles and tradeshow graphics.
- Manifestos are crafted, speeches are prepared, and press releases are drafted.
- Posters appear in common areas of the office, and a blurb is included in the company newsletter.
Check the box. We’re done. Now, let’s get back to business. Right?
The most successful and enduring advocacy programs go broad and deep in the organization. They’re more than a tactic in the marketing or corporate communications arsenal.
As you’re preparing or updating your corporate social responsibility (CSR) or advocacy program, consider these actions to ensure your plans and implementation are both genuine and credible to the core.
8 Essential Steps to Credible Advocacy for Agriculture
1. Ensure that the C-Suite internalizes and will evangelize the issue and the brand’s position on it. If they don’t take it seriously, why should the rest of the organization do so? And won’t customers figure it out eventually?
2. Educate your entire organization – shareholders and stakeholders – on why the issue is important, how it impacts your customers, your business and the larger world.
3. Delineate the desired behavior and language that is expected of the entire organization, to ensure your actions reflect your intentions at all touchpoints. And accept that, in some cases, the best employees can give is a position of neutrality.
4. Encourage all stakeholders to openly exchange information and opinions on the issue through internal channels, such as Slack, in addition to what your task force pushes out.
5. Invite employees’ families to be a voice for the issue, or at least share the facts around the issue and where your brand stands on it.
6. Recognize and reward those who volunteer to support and champion the issue.
7. Report your progress on achieving goals, solicit questions and seek feedback.
8. Monitor internal and external conversations, and be prepared to adapt your initiative – sometimes issues morph as new developments or voices emerge.
As brands face heightened consumer cynicism and expectations of purpose and transparency – on the farm as much as in town – organizations cannot afford to be cursory or superficial in their CSR efforts. By educating and engaging the entire organization, advocacy for issues that are important to farmers becomes easier, encourages authenticity, makes a direct impact and is ultimately more rewarding.
Independent Consultant. Before starting her freelance career, Diane worked at Rhea + Kaiser for more than 25 years. During her tenure she put her strong critical thinking and creative problem solving skills to work across a variety of clients.