The farmer leaders of the dairy checkoff had a vision in 2012 to construct a “newsroom” with the goal of protecting and building consumer trust in dairy.
A newsroom is what it sounds like: an actual location that operates like a media outlet would, following news trends, social conversations and determining how to participate in them, all in real time.
This is a critical resource to have in a changing world where consumers are further removed from agriculture yet are asking more questions about how their food is produced.
Today, people receive and share information in different ways and with others who are like them.
This is why it’s important to have a strong voice through a vehicle such as a newsroom, and why the checkoff invested in technologies and a staff to listen, participate and help start meaningful and relevant conversations to help grow public trust.
The newsroom is housed at Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and is the first of its kind in the dairy industry. The staff features analysts equipped with monitoring technologies that allow us to search traditional media coverage and social media conversations for stories and issues that may be of concern.
Specifically, the newsroom monitors hot-button, consumer-relevant subjects, including:
- Animal care (e.g., cow living conditions, large farming)
- Food safety (e.g., antibiotics, GMOs, pathogens)
- Dairy in the diet (e.g., protein, lactose intolerance, full-fat dairy)
- Sustainability (e.g., responsible farming, environment, nutrition/healthy food, recycling)
First step: Listen
It’s not uncommon for an anti-dairy group to launch an attack against us with unfounded claims or for the media to publish a story that is unbalanced or contains errors. So what do we do?
The first thing we do is listen. This helps us determine the impact of a conversation, who is doing the talking and who they influence.
Through the newsroom, we can see if online conversations or news coverage make an impact among consumers.
We can determine, for example, if a particular issue or subject is being discussed only among activist groups or if it is breaking into mainstream conversations. We also look at how any content is being shared and who it is reaching.
Generally, if a conversation is confined primarily to activists, the newsroom simply monitors, as we know it is unlikely we can sway their views or engage in a meaningful conversation.
It’s more important to reach people in the “moveable middle,” those who may consume dairy but have questions or don’t demonstrate a “passion” for dairy foods.
The goal is for dairy farmers and others in the dairy community to engage in conversations with these consumers to share information about the industry that could help them see dairy in a different light.
And, while we don’t respond to every media story that contains misinformation, there are times when our monitoring indicates a response.
One example: Late last year, the Today Show hosts discussed an erroneous claim that the casomorphins in cheese create an addictive effect. The story was promoted by anti-dairy groups who called cheese “dairy crack.”
The hosts used this terminology without reaching out to the dairy community. That’s why a National Dairy Council expert authored a letter that refuted the claims with sound science. As a result, the Today Show wrote a story on its website that debunked the myth.
Fill the pipeline
The best “response” the newsroom and checkoff can provide to misinformation is to continually and proactively “fill the pipeline” with content that tells the accurate story about modern dairy production.
We share stories at DairyGood or National Dairy Council and their accompanying social media channels.
This drumbeat of content celebrates dairy and tells our story. We focus on the care farmers give to cows and the land, as well as farmer contributions to their communities.
We also share news about the latest research that supports dairy’s role in the diet and offer dairy-inspired recipes for every occasion.
The newsroom also is inspired by consumer interests. Our tools point us toward common questions people have about dairy; that’s why we post articles that answer the questions, “Is dairy gluten-free?” or “Can you freeze butter?” among other frequently- asked topics consumers search for online.
In creating proactive and response-based content, the newsroom collaborates and coordinates with the broader dairy community.
This means working closely with state and regional dairy checkoff organizations across the country, along with leading national dairy organizations, including the National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association, Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council, on response-based content.
These efforts assure alignment on messaging and taps dairy’s collective resources and expertise to help protect and grow public trust.
You can help, too. Farmers and other stakeholders can help “amplify” content through the checkoff’s DairyHub.
This is a place where users can easily download and post stories to their social media channels in addition to starting conversations with their peers throughout the industry and staying up-to-date on dairy news and events.
Every effort made inside and outside the checkoff’s newsroom is helping to achieve the industry-wide goal of protecting and growing consumer trust in dairy.
- Dairy.org – Visit Dairy Management Inc to learn more about your checkoff and find links to local promotion organizations.
- DairyGood – Click on DairyGood to see how the checkoff is telling the stories of America’s dairy farm families and the foods you produce.
- National Dairy Council – Check out National Dairy Council to learn more about nutrition research and how dairy plays a critical role in the diet.
- Amplification Center – If you are interested in how you can share DairyGood content on your social channels, send a request (Emial Theresa Ianni).
Your Dairy Checkoff in Action – The following update is provided by Dairy Management Inc. (DMI), which manages the national dairy checkoff program on behalf of America’s dairy producers and dairy importers. DMI is the domestic and international planning and management organization responsible for increasing sales of and demand for dairy products and ingredients.
PHOTO: The DMI newsroom team uses current technologies to monitor issues around the clock, which helps determine if there is a potential impact on consumer trust. Photo courtesy of DMI.
Joanna Hunter is the executive vice president of Consumer Confidence with Dairy Management, Inc.