Relationships and storytelling do matter when it comes to getting the attention of the media. The Viewing Ag From a Media Perspective workshop focused on how farmers and ranchers can get their stories told in the media.
Allen Bjerga from Bloomberg News moderated this session which generated great information about understanding the challenges journalists face daily in their jobs. An important reminder Allen gave attendees was the media’s job is to be unsupportive of agriculture because they are not supposed to choose sides. The media’s job is to share the facts and let their audience hear both sides of an issue.
Jerry Hagstrom of the Hagstrom Report shared tips on how to deal with media. Try not to sound angry was his first suggestion. He followed that up by truthfully telling attendees that people are not satisfied in hearing we have an affordable and abundant food supply. There is a growing demand for people wanting to hear how food is produced.
Lynn Brezoski with the San Antonio Express News offered her advice on how farmers can be more effective in reaching out to the media. She told attendees to initiate the contact on issues that are important to them and impact agriculture. She said that can be as simple as sending an email sharing what’s on your mind. Invite the media to your farm or ranch to see first-hand what your operation looks like and how it works.
My biggest take away-came from Allen Bjerga, and I think it is key to building media relationships. “Respect the role everyone plays in the conversation. Respect the role of the journalist and the job they have to do in asking tough questions.” He reminded the audience that if you ignore a reporter, you may be facing an undercover video later. Respectable media are trained professionals and their questions are normally more fair than undercover investigations.
Another reminder from all three journalists was the media is still trying to figure out how to deal with social media. Be patient, they are learning just as consumers and farmers or ranchers are learning. So how should farmers tell their story whether using social media or traditional media? Transparency was the answer, it’s your best tool in telling your story according to Bjerga. He went on to say, “Savvy farmers and ranchers are installing webcams on their livestock operations and being proactive and transparent.”
What about when the media gets it wrong? When the media gets it wrong, truly wrong, (and that doesn’t mean you simply disagree with the facts) politely point it out to the author. If you don’t get a response, politely point it out again. This is one example of how you build a relationship with the media. You may not get your story told but your better off than if you did nothing or if you attacked the media outlet.
Another key reminder for attendees was time is important for journalists. Whoever gets back to the media the quickest will be a part of the story because journalists have a deadline to meet. If you want your voice heard, be a part of the conversation. And last, but not least, remember the media has a job to do just like farmers and ranchers. Being civil will get you a long way with a professional media outlet!
chrischinn is a Farm Bureau member in Missouri, serves on the Missouri Farm Bureau board of directors and will represent her state at the delegate session in San Antonio. She is a hog producer, 5th-generation family farmer and former chair of the national AFBF Young Farmers & Ranchers Committee. She is one of the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance’s “Faces of Farming.” Find her on Facebook and Twitter (@ChrisChinn).