NGA. What are the biggest trends reflecting how producers use new media platforms?
LO. Agriculture's widely diverse farming operations are categorized by the type of enterprise and size of operation. Small farm owners make up the vast majority of the population and are in a better position to take advantage of web-based communications to market locally grown goods, network with other farmers or use management information. Larger producers, especially the top five percent, are often difficult to reach because they function as business owners. They focus more on critical information and real-time resources, such as text messaging or cellular-based communications that help enhance business decisions.
NGA. What are some of the benefits and pitfalls of utilizing new media tools?
LO. New media allow you to reach producers with greater speed and more current information. News alerts and market updates can be delivered in near-real time to provide producers with valuable information to make business decisions. This provides value beyond just selling your product and gives greater credibility to the person or company delivering the information. One key drawback is the growing volume of new media information. Companies must provide enhanced value or a great hook to get producers to read or take part in the offer.
NGA. How do these new media options apply to today's producer? Do the majority of producers tend to gravitate to more traditional mediums?
LO. This depends on several factors, not the least of which is age. We often hear 'more experienced' producers say that traditional communications channels are preferred, and they leave the computer and Internet work up to their children, who are more familiar and comfortable with the technology. This younger generation often is responsible for daily on-farm management, and their opinions carry significant weight. So while traditional media may be more appropriate for some, new media is a good way to reach a younger audience. As these sons and daughters get older, the value they place on new media will grow.
NGA. How does the message change when using real-time platforms like blogs, text message or webcast?
LO. There is no room for marketing messaging, but rather real news needs to be delivered in short sound bites. The opportunity for delivering a more comprehensive marketing message comes when the new media points to a website with more information. As always, content is king.
NGA. How can marketers and business leaders make the transition into communicating through these new formats?
LO. Get educated by trying what is available, and by learning what your customers prefer and what new media will most effectively convey your message. Understand the limitations of your own organization and, if necessary, seek out consultants to help build a new media platform.
NGA. What place do traditional media have in a modern campaign that uses one or more forms of "new" media?
LO. The use of new media in a traditional media campaign is similar to what we see on cable news networks. While the cable station reports more in-depth news stories, the ticker at the bottom of the screen constantly reports the latest, most up-to-date news items in short 'sound bites'. In the same way, new media can provide constant messaging and campaign updates, while the broadcast, TV, radio and print segments deliver more in-depth information.
NGA. What emerging developments will guide how companies communicate and respond to producers?
LO. Companies must continue to look toward innovative ways to reach divergent and emerging segments of the farming audience. The standard rule holds true -20 percent of the farmers produce 80 percent of the food. While the remaining 80 percent still encompass a huge number of farmers who purchase goods and services, these two groups cannot be communicated with in a like manner. Successful companies will identify which group is most critical to their business -or decide that they carry equal weight - and develop plans that target each segment in unique ways.
Since childhood in central Illinois, Lyle Orwig, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Charleston|Orwig, has maintained his passion for agriculture. He oversees Charleston|Orwig's agribusiness accounts, including ARM & HAMMER Animal Nutrition, Smithfield Foods, Inc., Pfizer Animal Genetics, Chemtura Crop Protection and Dairyland Seed Co. His accolades include 'National Agricultural Communicator of the Year' and Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year.