I’ve been in the public relations industry for more than 20 years, and honestly, my parents still have no idea what I do. Their explanation to friends and family always entertains me when I happen to overhear it at a function or when it’s played back to me by family and friends.
Generally, it goes something like this, “Kelly works in the meat industry. She does something with writing.” Yep, it’s generally that short and vague. Why? Because PR is hard to explain and telling someone it’s often called “the red-headed stepchild of marketing” is not something you bring up at social events. NOTE: I have given myself full permission to use this phrase – I’m a redhead and a stepchild.
Let’s try this explanation: PR is similar to a car manual. You stuff it in the glove box and don’t even think about the manual until you really need it. But when you’re stuck on the side of the road, out of cell range and need to change your own tire, that piece of content is a lifesaver. Something else about the manual – it’s hard to measure how many people use it over the course of a year or the lifetime of the vehicle or the impact it had on the user. But we know the information in it helps drivers solve problems, get out of sticky situations and keep moving.
So, what does this have to do with the meat industry and public relations? Everything.
Let’s talk about how an integrated public relations program is SO much more than crisis communications and media relations.
Educate, educate, educate.
Education is at the heart of what we do in public relations. Public relations is an amazing tool to help educate every target audience, internal and external, about the industry. The headlines the consumer saw about the meat industry throughout 2020 and already in 2021 mostly have been negative. Public relations can be the tool that turns that negative messaging around by educating consumers and the media on your products and your company’s role in the meat industry. The more we start sharing our story, the bigger benefit we will see. What about an online series of educational pieces for consumers? More and more they want to know where their food comes from and we can help bridge that gap with education. If you are a processor with retailer customers, do you submit information for their consumer media tools? If not, why? It’s a great tool to leverage and that material can also be supplemented in online ordering portals, shelf signage, etc. Have you held an education session for retail employees on your product details? Teach them about your brand to help them educate their customers about your story and products.
Another audience we need to keep educating includes the communities where meat businesses are located. Do you have someone assigned to each of the relevant community organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Lions Club, Rotary, etc.? Do you have team members that work with schools to provide lessons to students? If so, do those individuals have a set of talking points they can use to educate community leaders on the positive impact your business has on the local economy? A solid public relations program will help target key audiences, develop a strategy for communicating with them, create talking points and build local support for your business.
The media can be a looming monster for some – me included. But burying our heads in the sand and not reaching out to proactively educate or share stories with them is a detriment to our business. It’s not too late to start. The more the media is educated about our industry, the more comfortable and confident they will be to tell our story. If we don’t hide, then maybe we can keep at least one reporter from going undercover in a plant or on a farm to gather information and telling only one side of the story.
Finally, let’s not forget one of our most important audiences – our team members. Educating team members about the full scope of your business helps them better tell your story to others. Employees that are fully invested in the industry better understand their role and can become brand ambassadors.
Education has always been the element we can count on to help lay the foundation for solid communications. By proactively educating our audiences we expand our opportunities for them to learn more about the industry and feel confident about the products we produce.
So, maybe it’s time I proactively educate my family on what I do. Because while I might be a red-headed stepchild, PR doesn’t have to be.