As we’ve explored over the last two editions of Inside Dairy, 59 percent of the public surveyed has a favourable opinion of dairying, and more than 90 percent of the media coverage about dairying is positive/neutral. However, we still have a big job ahead of us to get more people thinking positively about dairying, especially when a handful of strongly opinionated people are driving an anti-dairying message.
DairyNZ, along with many other organisations, is actively investing in informing public opinion. But it’s a long game and there is no silver bullet.
We have a dedicated team managing the media and supporting our community engagement effort. You may have already chatted to them or met them at a local discussion group.
So, what are we doing?
Firstly, and most importantly, we represent you and your positive work on-farm. It’s your stories, your effort and your passion that will ultimately make a difference. When members of the public listen to you, read your story or visit your farm, it has a profound impact on how they view dairying.
And we’re here to support you to do that. We write and publish about a dozen columns each month; we pitch hundreds of positive dairy stories to mainstream media each year; and we’re countering misinformation and poor media imagery on a daily basis. It doesn’t end there. We’re actively building strong relationships with journalists across the country to help them understand our dairy world better.
It’s not just about what you read in your local paper or online news. In the coming months, we’re launching new initiatives to generate positive coverage in a range of media spaces, from TV to social media. This is about getting dairy stories into locations they traditionally haven’t appeared: business, environment, technology and innovation pages; and home, lifestyle, travel and food magazines. We want the dairy story to focus on you and the great things you’re doing onfarm, in your communities and in the wider sector.
Taking a stand
As we all know, media outlets have a tendency to home in on anything negative and sensational, and this can cast dairying and farmers in a bad light. There are a small number of farmers who don’t do the right thing – and that lets us all down. Together, we need to stand up and say it’s not okay to treat animals poorly, or knowingly mismanage effluent. There’s no place for these kinds of farmers in our sector.
Not just news
Engaging with media, and therefore the public, is a big focus for us but it’s not the only one. I’m excited to tell you DairyNZ’s curriculum-based education package is now taught in a third of primary schools and a quarter of secondary schools. Meanwhile, 21,000 children have visited a dairy farm in the past six years and 36,000 children have completed our educational kit that explores science through the context of dairy. Engaging with children in this way is powerful, helping to form a positive view of dairying into adulthood and often positively influencing parents and teachers along the way. To the farmers who open up their farms for school tours – like Michael and Susie Woodward featured on the next page – thank you. This wouldn’t be possible without you.
DairyNZ is also getting involved at more public events, such as the Waikato and Clevedon A&P Shows. The power of these events is in the conversations – the connections – telling the dairy stories, and putting a human face to it all. Look out for events near you soon, as we might be there. If you’re keen to volunteer with us at an event, contact 0800 4 DairyNZ.
In the new year, you’ll see a campaign launched by DairyNZ to promote dairying through a strong creative message. You’ll see it in advertising, online and in print. It will reflect what we stand for in dairying. I look forward to being able to tell you more about this soon.
We, and you, can’t do this job alone. What if we got other people, even those outside our sector, to say good things about you and dairying? It’s hugely effective when other people promote your great work and say ‘I think dairying is good for our country’.DairyNZ will always promote dairying, but it’s unsurprising that some people come back at us with cynicism and with the view that ‘of course you would say that – you represent dairy’. It disappoints me because, as a research organisation, we have independently verified science and facts to back up everything we do. We’re not out to push a commercial product or service, or to promote a personal agenda. That means it’s crucial for others to put their hands up, especially those independent of the dairy sector.
Got a story to share?
At DairyNZ, we know the difference it makes when farmers share their own stories. It carries weight. If you’d like to get a story out there, we can offer plenty of advice and support. Get in touch with our team at 0800 4 DairyNZ (0800 4 324 7969). We also have a handy Sharing Your Stories guide. To request a copy, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article was originally published in Inside Dairy December 2017