Giving credit to your sources will have a lasting effect.
Farming is increasingly reliant on science and new discoveries. From herbicide-tolerant traits to building fully-automated dairies, farming has become contingent upon the brightest of minds. And the key to communicating this science to farmers is credibility. Credibility is built through research, trials, peer reviews and publications. It requires dozens of years, grants, and millions of dollars to earn that credibility.
The additional challenge to credibility is the growing, if unfounded, skepticism to science in the 21st century. From climate change, to vaccinations, to fluoridated water, there is no shortage of reasons to question what science is afflicting on our population. However, in his 2017 findings, Lee Rainie, director of internet and technology research for The Pew Research Center, presented that Americans are most likely to trust scientists over other groups on these same issues. Yet it takes only one misstep to discredit that work, with an error in reporting authorship, academic or professional affiliation, or references. Therefore, it is up to us as ag communicators, product stewards and brand marketers, to take the onus and ensure that we are messaging accurately and recognizing the contributions made to science and the individuals who made them.
Below are some guidelines for connecting with scientific and agronomic experts and reporting on them accurately:
- Give credit where credit is due and be specific. When an expert has made a discovery, run a trial, or contributed to the advancement of agriculture, it is up to us as marketers and product stewards to recognize that individual and their achievement.
- Establish a positive relationship. By building a positive bond, this facilitates a relationship for further resources and references for the future.
- Confirm an individual’s title and report it correctly. Many experts use their professorial title or title that is used for their teaching position at colleges and universities to distinguish who they are. (i.e. Dr. Aaron Hager, Associate Professor and Extension Specialist for the University of Illinois Extension, College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.)
- Identify a specific university or institutional campus. Many universities and academic institutions have multiple campuses. Their Extensions might be affiliated with only one of those campuses. It’s imperative to be precise with university and campus identification, as they maintain branding just like any other product.
- Report on the most recent data. When addressing data, trials and results, use only the most updated conclusions and ask for it to be explained in the most relatable terminology.
- Use comparative sources. Check out the USDA, the FDA, the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, and other government databases to compare trial results and clinical reports that have been written.
- When in doubt, look at the toolkit. Most institutions have a press office that contains academic ranking information and a marketing toolkit. The press office can help make contacts and move the process along. A marketing toolkit, commonly located within an institution’s press office website, explains the most appropriate manner to identify how an individual from their institution should be identified outside of the institution.
- In the absence of a toolkit, any individual with a doctoral degree should always be identified as Dr. proceeding their name or with their degree credentials after their name. (i.e. Dr. Elizabeth Wahle or Elizabeth Wahle, PhD).
We can confidently say that science is real. You are a living, breathing creature of science. Celebrate it, champion it, and continue to work with experts to learn more about how it will enrich your ability to be a better steward for your products, brands, farmer-customers and industries. Most experts are thrilled to teach you what they know. Take the opportunity to listen, share and propel it forward.
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.