As a post-Brexit world draws ever nearer, farmers have a relatively short period of time to position their farms and diversification businesses as ‘doing good’ in order to justify payments out of the public pot alongside an ailing NHS and education system. In such an environment, and with the growth of publicity-hungry vegan warriors, the role of public relations (PR) is certainly one that needs to come into the equation, says marketing and communications executive Amy Woolliscroft, of Northamptonshire-based farm business consultancy Arthey Associates.
“PR is probably something that a lot of farmers haven’t had to think about before, and many will struggle to see the value of presenting a good public image on twitter, for example,” says Amy. “The modern generation of farmers are largely prevalent on social media, but many may not think further than what their peers think of the latest tractor purchase they are posting about, instead of using it to educate and inform the non-farming community.”
“The image that needs to be encouraged, now more than ever, is of farmers as custodians of the environment, nurturing the land around them to support local wildlife and making the countryside accessible to all, as well as producing high-quality British food,” says Amy. “Farmers are brilliant at doing all of these things, but they need to learn to shout about it a bit more to justify public spending.”
Support from the local community is vital and farmers must engage with them as much as possible. When the local primary school contacts you again to ask if the children can come and see the lambs, say yes! These things all require an element of effort and consideration, but engaging local children with the quality and benefit of locally produced food at an early age is vital. Open Farm Sunday is also an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed.
“Facebook, twitter and Instagram are probably downloaded onto your phone but only come into the equation from a personal perspective, however farmers should consider a Facebook page for their enterprise and inviting neighbours and local press to ‘like’ it,” advises Amy. It may seem a bit laborious to start with but creating a page on social media showing all of the positive things your farm is doing, posting several times a week, will enable the local community to see past the inconvenience of mud on the roads at ploughing time.
As we approach an age where farming subsidies are likely to be fighting for a share of the public spending pot, and sections of the vegan movement and environmental extremists seemingly doing all they can to discredit British Farming, it is essential that farmers learn to present a faultless image of public and environmental service. If you are unsure how to go about doing that Arthey Associates can help put together a public engagement plan for your business and would be pleased to discuss your requirements.
For more details please call Amy on 07858 656444 or email Amy Woolliscroft