Causing a chain reaction of changed perception

The farm world has become saturated by the do’s and don’ts of agvocating.

As a public relations consultant specializing in finding the right tools, platforms and words that help agribiz connect with stakeholders and consumers, I’ve been “guilty” of adding to the noise.

But as a new year approaches I feel we need to do the obligatory stop-and-take-stock: let’s look at what we have, what we’ve done and how we we can improve our efforts moving forward.

I hope that people have had great success acting as agvocates using the various methods and social media platforms available. Every little effort adds up to one big, cumulative result in the end. But I’m afraid that for some consumers it’s to the point that they’re blocking it all out, because it’s redundant and repetitive.

People want new. They want to be wowed by something they haven’t seen or heard before. It’s inherent in our human nature to want to explore and learn and improve ourselves – if for no other reason than to show off our new-found knowledge to peers.

There are numerous ways to be the catalyst that will tip off a chain reaction to help change perceptions about agriculture. From capitalizing on people’s emotional intelligence and psychometrics to good old-fashioned education and understanding human’s fear of the unknown you can come up with innovative ways to wow your audience. And if you need a little help lighting up your creative fire we’re only an email or call away!

Here’s to a new year full of positive change!


Persuasion is ubiquitous.

From the hundreds to thousands of ads (in their many forms) you see a day, someone, somewhere is trying to persuade you to do or buy something.

The ultimate goal of persuasion is “to convince the target to internalize the persuasive argument and adopt this new attitude as a part of their core belief system.”

No matter where you go someone is trying to convince you that what they have to say is right, that you need to buy their product or service or that your life is incomplete because you don’t have their widget.

So how can you persuade someone to listen to your information or buy your product or service?

  • Create a need: Work backwards by discovering your target audience’s ‘pain’ (problem) and then create a product, service or piece of valuable information that can solve it.
  • Appeal to social needs: If you create a product or service that will help your target audience become (or think they will become) popular, prestigious, or on the same scale as their peers you will easily be able to persuade them to buy. TV commercials are a prime example of companies trying to persuade you to purchase their products so you can be just like everyone else. This is also sometimes referred to as the principle of ‘consensus’.
  • Use loaded words and visuals: Positive and powerful (ie: loaded) words and images such as “New & Improved” or a photo of a healthy, smiling individual using the product, are used regularly to convince people that THIS product is THE BEST.
  • Use opinion/thought leaders/experts: Using authority figures or key opinion leaders (KOL) to hawk your wares is nothing new – and continues to be used because it works. If you look up to someone and respect their opinions it won’t be hard for them to persuade you.
  • Likeability: Similar to the above point, if you consider someone as a trusted friend chances are you will be more than willing to listen to what they have to say and agree with them.
  • The power of reciprocity: You can also be more easily persuaded if you feel you owe the other person something. It’s that nagging little guilty conscience voice in your head telling you, ‘Weeeell, they did do that for me…I better at least listen to what they have to say…’ – and if it turns out they’re a peer or a KOL then BAM it’s a double whammy and you never had a chance!
  • Consistency: Most people tend to be creatures of habit so if being persuaded to buy or do something is similar to what you’ve always bought/done then you will be easily persuaded to do so. It can also mean that people enjoy being consistent with their beliefs or prior commitments.  And sometimes it just means  that it can take a lot of extra work to research the alternative, so for many people staying consistent or sticking with the tried and true is easier to do when there are 15,000 other things on the day’s agenda…
  • Scarcity: Perhaps one of the easiest ways to persuade people, but not necessarily always the most forthcoming it seems, is to convince people that what you have is scarce. Customers will be beating down your door to get the shiny-shimmery prize you have to offer.

Why do people tend to follow (unwittingly or not) these general principles of persuasion? Because they usually net the biggest payout, the safest choice, the right choice. But buyer beware: the above can also be used to trick you. Con artists and hucksters are too aware that we often make these types of decisions unconsciously and will, therefore, exploit them to their benefit.

How can you apply these principles to agriculture (morally of course!)?

As a farmer you don’t actually have to create a need; pretty much no one can exist without food. However, if you’re trying to help people understand what it is you do consider discussing the need for food security and how your industry concretely addresses those concerns.

Consider using experts and KOLs to help you share important information, but remember to use ones that your target audiences (consumers) can connect with, not ag industry leaders they wouldn’t know from Adam.

It’s also easy to find great examples of loaded words and visuals, but you should never, ever use them deceptively. The moment you lose credibility is the moment you lose any trust you’ve worked so hard to establish with consumers and it isn’t likely to be built up so easily again, if ever.

Reciprocity can also be employed: thank consumers for choosing your product. There are oodles of campaigns out there to ‘thank a farmer for feeding you today’, so why not thank a consumer for buying your produce, contributing to your bottom line, and subsequently helping your young Jane get through college?

Above all, the principle of likeability is the easiest and perhaps the most effective: Being honest, transparent and pleasant will go a long way to building trusting, long-term relationships with your most important stakeholders – the consumer.

To learn more about the powers of persuasion check out Robert B. Cialdini’s book Yes: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive.




How to develop talking points

Commonly drafted in the world of politics and public relations talking points are a set of key messages that can be used again and again during conversations, debates and discussions with media or target audiences.  They’re used by an organization’s spokesperson as a reminder to stay on topic and can also be used to help you draft other communications collateral (eg: letters, speeches, press releases, etc). They’re not meant to be shared verbatim with external sources, but rather used internally within your business or organization.

Communications or marketing strategists (in-house or outsourced) will determine what are the hot button issues around a particular topic in your industry or business and develop talking points to be used as answers to probable questions from media or consumers.

Talking points are great for helping redirect or frame issues in the manner in which you’d like your target audiences to see them.

Talking points are helpful in the ag industry when you are consistently met with the same questions or criticisms. Once you’ve memorized them you’ll feel far more confident when approached. This confidence will exude in your answers as well and the people to whom you’re speaking will consequently feel more assured. They will also begin to look to you for future answers so you will become a thought leader and influencer in your own right – helping advance your industry and educate consumers even more.

To avoid having your talking points perceived as superficial, robotic repetitions of irrelevant facts keep the following in mind:

  • If you want people to take away only one important thing from your conversation make that your first point.
  • Add sub-points to the main one as needed, but remember people remember things best in threes.
  • Anticipate what questions your audiences or typical media outlets interested in your business/organization/industry will ask. If you’ve been in the game long enough these should come to you easily.
  • Don’t be the king/queen of attitude: be respectful. Good discourse (and solutions) comes from mutually respectful discussion.
  • Emphasize win-win solutions if applicable.
  • Be clear and concise; don’t overload your audience with too much extraneous information.
  • Include a call to action: What do you want your listeners to do? Close with this point.

Before drafting your talking points, think about the best arguments and point of view of the other side then craft your points to pre-empt those arguments.

The printed word is far from dead

Over the last few years naysayers have hinted at or been convinced that the death knell of print media is sounding ever louder.

As we like to say: The printed word is far from dead. In fact, it’s more ubiquitous than ever before thanks to the internet, social media, and thousands of ads a day. Like art, it has just changed over the years: from caves to contemporary.

Sometimes used interchangeably (but not necessarily a synonym for) with ‘content management’, brand journalism uses industry relevant stories to relate to your target audience. By ‘story’ we don’t mean a fairy tale bedtime type story, but rather written communications that use carefully chosen and measured words to convey who and what you are while maintaining your organizational messaging.

Because companies and organizations tend to see the world through bottom-line glasses they often miss a variety of opportunities for connecting with customers on an everyday basis in a human to human way. Being human means cultivating a real, honest and transparent connection with people. It’s about being responsive and simultaneously proactive and it’s certainly about being accessible. It’s not all about pushing out information, but pulling it in as well.

You don’t want your customers to feel bossed into purchasing your product or service, but to want to do so willingly. This means crafting stories that make them feel less mass marketed to and more part of the process and the success of your business. The best thing about using this approach is that they’ll become brand ambassadors thereby exponentially increasing your reach.

It sounds easy, right? Just change a few words here and there, use ‘we’ instead of ‘us’? Make all your customer communications fuzzy and feel good?

Actually, brand journalism is about three things:

  1. Authentic stories filled with real people doing real things
  2. Crafting messages and content with brand specific, “owned” words
  3. Within those stories, messages and social media content: studious use of a thesaurus

Mark Twain said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter. It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” One word often has a slight nuance over another synonymous word; on the surface they basically mean the same thing, but in relation to what you’re discussing one is usually better than another. Furthermore, you want your copy to be fresh and intriguing not stale and cliché. Finding the perfect word is like finding the perfect outfit: you might try many on, but not all of them work. If they don’t fit or feel right you simply move on to the next. It needs to look good, convey your personal style and give you that jolt of confidence for success.

You need to own it.

The printed word is indeed far from dead: it’s commonplace. In a commonplace world make sure your business is uncommon by employing brand journalism.







3 Practical tips to promote your ag business every day

While most industries have some form of public relations with their target audiences, it has been difficult in the past for the small farmer budget, time or tool wise.

Thanks to social media, a curious audience and easy mobility, however, this has changed drastically – and for the better. Farmers can now open a window through which consumers can view their busy and productive day of growing the food they enjoy.

A few things you can carry out effortlessly each day:

Social media

Social media tools and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, blogs, and even Pinterest are easy to use, cost nothing*, and can be done in seconds on the go (with your smart phone).

Heading to the back 40 to plant this year’s corn crop? You can tweet about it.

Working in the greenhouse planting this summer’s tomatoes? You can post a photo on Instagram.

Looking to share your experiences with others about your bee keeping adventures? Write a blog entry.

Host an event

It doesn’t have to be big; you could just invite direct market customers or pair up with the local farmers’ market or grocery store and invite some VIP’s to your farm for a visit. Or a hay ride, pumpkin patch picking contest, corn maze….You get the idea. Basically, it’s providing you a captive audience to whom you can talk all about your farm or industry and address any myths, questions or concerns.

If you don’t want the hassle of developing all the logistics around an event you can always sign on to an annual event like the Union des producteurs agricoles du Quebec’s  (Quebec’s agricultural producers’ union) “Portes Ouvertes” (Open House).

Be an everyday agvocate

You’re at the grocery store and you hear some people discussing the quality and price of imported Brussel sprouts – and it just so happens that you’re a Brussel sprouts grower! You could politely inject yourself into the conversation and answer questions – and of course plug your local Brussel sprouts business while you’re at it! 😉

Thanks to initiatives like Agriculture More Than Ever you can wear your ag pride, fly a banner or use their ready-made infographics and ag fact sheets so you don’t even have to come up with the stuff yourself! How much simpler could it be to be an agvocate?!

Let us know what you do to promote the ag industry.

And if you need help developing some tangibles (ie: communications/marketing/PR material) around an idea you have our social agrInnovation™ services are only an email away!

*Some offer premium packages with all kinds of bells and whistles for a small yearly fee, but you’ll do just fine with their free versions.

The 5 w’s of connecting with your target audience

In the world of PR/marketing/communications initiating and cultivating relationships with target audiences is key to building trust and credibility; making those crucial, two-way connections with target audiences in the agriculture sector is no less important.

And with the advent of social media and mobile capabilities it’s easier than ever. In fact, if you have a smartphone there’s really no excuse why you shouldn’t be able to reach out to those important clients, stakeholders, and consumers because you can do it from the barn, the tractor or the top of the silo!

Who – How will you know who to connect with? Easy. Don’t forget that you’re a consumer as well so just put yourself in their (or your!) shoes: who would you want to talk to about important issues related to farming? Probably the person growing and/or processing the food. Lucky for you, that’s your specialty. ;-P So turn it around, seek out off or online places where consumers go to look for information, and start creating, posting and sharing relevant content on those platforms.

What – The experts in Social Media Land say “Content is king”. Basically, this means keep the manure in the barn where it belongs and share information, stories, articles, insights, etc. that offer something of value. And remember: what might seem mundane and everyday to you will be new to thousands of people. Don’t forget that Canada’s farmers make up about 1.7% of the country’s population – meaning that almost 98% are ‘farmless’ and have little to no idea how a farm works. Again, consider how you would approach learning about something new: what kind of information do you look for and where? What questions do you ask and to whom? This will help you create a limitless supply of content ideas.

When – What time of day (or maybe even month or year) should you post and share content? We’ll use Facebook as an example, because with almost 700 million users you don’t want to neglect this social media platform. Facebook offers lots of metrics (click on the ‘View Insights’ tab of your Facebook page) to help you learn when the best times to post online are. Insights also offers a ton of other info to help you hone your content (are there more male than female followers? What age group? Where do they live?) Because many types of production are seasonal keep this is mind when looking for shareable content to ensure you get the most engagement (which not only means people ‘liking’ your content, but sharing it among their friends as well): posting helpful hints on how to choose an apple variety or encouraging people to share their favourite maple syrup recipes would be ideal in fall and spring respectively.

Where – At this point in the social media/online game there are almost hundreds of platforms you can use to share content. Which one you choose will depend on what you want to accomplish. For example, if you want to share your everyday experiences in detail to make people really feel like they’re right there alongside you a blog might be a good idea. If you want to showcase various products made from the produce you grow then maybe Pinterest is the ticket. If you want to be silly and fun or add the reality TV factor to your outreach you could try YouTube or Vine videos. Experiment and you’ll find out whether that’s where your target audience is hanging out and if they’re engaging;  if not, try something else. A word of caution: choose a few platforms and stick with them; don’t try to be everywhere or everything to everyone. You’ll get discouraged, give up, and lose out on many opportunities to grow your business and promote your industry.

Why – You might be saying to yourself, “Is this girl nuts?! Like I don’t have enough to do in my minimum 12 hour work day on the farm I’m supposed to start making videos, writing blogs, and posting pictures a few times a day?!” First, don’t inundate your followers with a post every five minutes; they’ll get as annoyed at being bombarded as you will with doing it. Pick and choose a few best content pieces for the day; if you’ve found 10 great articles you’d like to share either keep a running list of links back to those pages in a Word document or bookmark the web pages to return to them later. Second, choose something you’re good at and enjoy: maybe you’re an amateur photographer. In that case, snapping a few pics with your phone throughout the day and sharing those online with a succinct and clever caption can often be enough (remember ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’). If you have lots to say and love offering up opinions or advice maybe a blog is for you (which can be linked to and subsequently shared across other social media platforms). If brevity is your thing, try Twitter where you can say all you want to say in 140 characters or less (you can also share links and photos) throughout the day.

Need help figuring it all out? That’s what we’re here for!

The big impact of small words

A recent post on the Foodie Farmer blog explores the Top 10 Annoying Words About Agriculture.

We couldn’t agree more when it comes to how words – those 2-D, black and white things – can have such a huge impact on your business especially if they become ingrained or attached to a specific concept. Words – like the air we breathe – are often taken for granted.

In the Foodie Farmer post she explores words like ‘big’, ‘industrial’, and ‘agrarian’. Those are certainly words that can have several connotations depending on what you’re talking about.Unfortunately, those words are most often used in a negative or misinterpreted sense when connected to the agriculture industry.

Framing, the idea that examines how social movements position language and ideas to mobilize support for their efforts, draws on the extraordinary power of language to encourage and incite change. The manner in which movements, businesses, or organizations frame their ideas can have a definite impact on its success.

Based on her analysis of food regime framing, Professor Harriet Friedmann of the University of Toronto, suggests implementing a parallel framing project that basically presents solutions to whatever crisis or issue is at hand, thereby contributing to regime construction as opposed to deconstruction and mistrust. (Source: “Food Sovereignty: Reconnecting Food, Nature and Community”)

The thing is the printed word is not dying out; in fact, it’s more ubiquitous than ever before thanks to the internet, social media, and thousands of ads a day. Like art, the printed word has just changed over the years: from caves to contemporary.

That’s why it’s important to remember that it’s not only what you say, but how you say it.

As Mark Twain so famously said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter. It’s the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.”

social agrInnovation™

This gallery contains 1 photo.

So, we recently launched our line of social agrInnovation™ tools & services – but what does that mean? Who is it for? How can they can help? social agrInnovation™ forms the basis for how we think about and approach issues. It’s the answer to our “idea translation”  formula. And it’s the definition for the passion,… Read more.

Welcome to the new Alba PR

As an extension of Alba PR the Tin Can Communications blog has, in the past, focused on somewhat random PR, marketing and communications, and word concepts, tidbits and miscellany.

With the recent launch of our new social agrInnovation™ tools and services our blog will now be focusing more on agricultural communications and PR as well as tools, insight, and advice for creative SME and agripreneurial ventures.

In terms of clients this certainly doesn’t mean we’re exclusive; we’re always up for a challenge and the opportunity to stretch the creative brain God or natural selection gave us is what keeps us going. Who needs energy drinks?

So what does social agrInnovation™mean?

Using a mix of both new (social media) and old (print) Alba PR develops persuasive public relations and communications tools to:

  1. connect urban and rural with social and/or educational initiatives both on-line and off
  2. create and strategize business or organizational projects, initiatives, and products or services that follow the innovation –> brand activation –> customer implication (buy-in) cycle
  3. curate and amplify the connectedness between people to strengthen innovative products/technologies for Canadian agriculture
  4. generate social persuasion through the written word
  5. encourage relationship marketing by creating and developing contact –> connection –> conversation.

And there’s lots more to come! Stay tuned as we add other complementary social agrInnovation™ tools and services to the menu!

Meanwhile, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter or connect with us on LinkedIn.

Have a question? Think you can use our help? Contact us to learn more!

PR Lessons from Mr. Smith

This gallery contains 1 photo.

Note that this is a re-post of a previous entry, but bears repeating. Some old movies and books are classics for a reason: their messages are time tested and consistently relevant. When I recently caught the last 45 minutes of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (having always meant to see the whole thing, because I… Read more.