Animal Ag Summit: Be ready to manage a farm crisis, foster transparency

Animal Ag Summit: Be ready to manage a farm crisis, foster transparency

2015 Animal Ag Summit speakers offer proven tactics and advice to attendees on transparency and crisis management

Being on the television show "Undercover Boss" had its challenges and benefits, says Brad Scott, a fourth-generation dairy farmer whose operation appeared on a 2013 episode of the reality show.

Related: Trust, Transparency, Discussion: Keys To Enlightening, Engaging Consumers

Speaking at the 2015 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit in Kansas City, Mo., on Friday, Scott said letting a TV crew into his family's 1,000-cow dairy farm to film the episode, featuring the CEO of Menchie's Frozen Yogurt, was exciting.

2015 Animal Ag Summit speakers offer proven tactics and advice to attendees on transparency and crisis management

Scott's farm, Scott Brothers Dairy, supplies milk to Menchie's. "After this experience, our farm and the Menchie's marketing team have a much better connection and understanding," Scott said. "When they have questions about animal handling, we're the first people they call."

More transparency for animal ag
Other speakers repeated Scott's call for increased transparency within animal agriculture. Gary Cooper, COO of Cooper Farms, Inc., said opening up the farm is a risk, but "if you aren't at least a little uncomfortable, you aren't being truly transparent," he said.

Transparency is a crucial tool to building consumer trust, making a logical transition into the Summit's final sessions, which focused on crisis and reputation management.

Related: Consumer influence discussion dominates Animal Ag Summit

Dr. Helen Wojcinski, science and sustainability manager at Hybrid Turkeys, shared her advice for attendees in times of crisis based on her experience when an undercover video was released showing animal mistreatment.

"You have to have a strong record of animal care," Dr. Wojcinski said. "Be open and public about your commitment to animal care every day, and make it a part of the culture among supervisors and employees."

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Dr. Wojcinski also shared tips for interacting with the media, including being proactive by being the first to break a story even if it's negative.

"By facing the situation head-on and releasing our own press release first, we were able to achieve a more balanced story in the media," she said.

Kimberly Keller, senior director of reputation management at Charleston|Orwig, shared that food brands are struggling in developing positive reputations, with fewer and fewer food-related brands faring well in studies measuring consumer trust.

"Reputation translates to financial success," Keller said. "Your reputation has an impact on your business and your bottom line."

More Animal Ag Summit 2015: Put a face on agriculture

Source: Animal Agriculture Alliance

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