“We don’t need them to understand us, we need to understand them,” said Joe Miller, General Counsel for Rose Acre Farms at the Animal Agriculture Alliance 12th annual Stakeholders Summit which kicked off Wednsday morning in Arlington, VA. The theme of improving communications throughout the food chain was reinforced frequently throughout the morning panels, which is perhaps ironic, given that one of the first speakers was discussing farm protection legislation, or as it is more commonly known, “ag gag.” Miller began his presentation by overviewing the controversy surrounding farm protection legislation, but ended by discussing how the industry must better understand consumers, rather than the other way around. “The public needs to know they can trust us,” said Miller. “We need to close the gap between a producer and a consumer.”
Miller’s presentation was closely followed by the panel entitled, “Demystifying the Blogosphere: How to Engage Online Moms,” where two influential bloggers, Joanne Bamberger and Sarah Braesch actively engaged with the audience and answered questions about how to effectively work with online moms.
The panel was moderated in part by David Wescott, Director of Digital Strategy at APCO Worldwide. “I’m here to give you a bit of a reality check,” began Wescott who told the industry that they must do better at connecting with the “middle ground,” their consumers. “Social media has been isolating communities more and more and those communities tend to take very extreme positions and it becomes harder and harder for those communities to interact.”
When asked by an audience member if there is a verifiable “middle ground,” Wescott, Bamberger and Braesch all agreed that there is, and it’s online moms. “Women, your consumers, are getting their information from bloggers that they know and trust,” said Bamberger. “There are really good conversational ways to get your message out to that audience, you just need to put in the effort and develop the relationships. Explained Wescott, social media isn’t complicated: “It’s about people talking. Keep it simple: know who your stakeholders really are, ask them what they want, and then give it to them.”
The 12th annual Stakeholders Summit, themed “Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food and Consumer Confidence,” began May 1, 2013 in Arlington, Virginia. The audience included approximately 200 leaders from across the food chain.