I have been in two different conversations in two different places this past week that have surrounded the same question: how does an agricultural company or organization communicate in a way that meets the needs of a wide variety of generations and technological capabilities? Now, I’m not an expert in this arena by any stretch of the imagination, but these were two of the biggest thoughts I had on the subject:
Are you utilizing all of the technology available to you to meet the needs of everyone?
The hard part of this question is that everyone needs something different. Younger, more technologically saavy individuals may want to follow you on Twitter on their iPhone or Droid, while some older farmers may still have their e-mails printed off for them by their wives (this was actually an example used in one of my meetings!) and won’t read anything that isn’t in hard copy. Unfortunately, you have to be good at it all. In a lot of businesses and organizations (especially non-profits), you don’t have the option to go to an employee whose only job is social media or newsletter writing or producing news releases. It is more important than ever that you work to diversify your skills. If you do have people who specialize, great!! If you don’t, think of little things you can learn to make sure you don’t leave one segment of your audience behind. Can you learn Twitter or Facebook? Can you shoot a short video while you’re on a farm visit? Can you run a blog where your printed newsletter can be posted online?
Is your information easily transferable across mediums?
This is where the integrated communication strategy really comes into play. Many groups produce information in printed form, which continues to work well (especially where your audience is farmers who either can’t or don’t want to take part in online communication). However, the question that needs to be asked is, do I have information that could be easily transferred across communication mediums? This could be one of the easiest ways for you to get the same information to different generations and technologies (which is one of the biggest challenges in agricultural communication, in my opinion, as mentioned above). For example, you could take a news release, post it or review it for your blog, pick out a few key points to tweet along with a link to your blog, link it to your Facebook page, send it to trade publications for their print and develop a handout or brochure that is easily readable. Although it may sound like a lot of work, it really isn’t. You took the exact same information and just presented it in numerous ways, without leaving anyone out.
Creating a communication strategy within your organization or company that integrates your information into multiple technologies and routes of communicating is extremely important. Are you using everything you have available to you? Are you utilizing people who have skills in technologies (Twitter, design, video-editing) that you lack? Can you learn from them or have them help you expand your communication skills? Are you taking the information you have and disseminating it across multiple mediums that reach several generational and technological groups?
And an overarching question (but maybe the most important): are you keeping an open mind to the communication strategies that you could be using that are new and foreign to you in order to make everything previously mentioned effective?