If there is one thing I have learned working on behalf of dairy farmers and the dairy checkoff for the last several years, it is this: Farmers care. Farmers care about their animals; the land, water and other natural resources; their family; employees and community; milk quality and safety; and feeding the world a nutritious product produced sustainably.
This commitment makes it easier for your national, state and regional checkoff staff to tell the farmers’ story to consumers, influencers, thought leaders and others. But I also know many farmers do not always see what the checkoff does in this area. That is because your checkoff makes farmers’ investment work harder by focusing on reaching consumers and thought leaders where they are and with the voices they trust most – places where there are few farmer voices.
The checkoff’s approach to telling your story relies on compelling content that helps maintain and bolster trust in milk and dairy foods, dairy farmers and the dairy community. And continued progress around sustainability and environmental stewardship is a topic people increasingly care about.
In fact, a recent survey by a Gen Z market research firm affirms that issues such as climate change and sustainability are a top concern for Gen Z (those born between 1997 and 2022) and their parents; 75% of Gen Z say that corporations (and industries) should take more responsibility in fighting climate change, a number that increases to 85% of parents.
Based on these concerns, along with more people searching for information online and the growing impact of influencers and social media within environmental topics, the checkoff shares dairy’s story by the following.
Engaging media partners
The checkoff teams up with media partners that co-create stories that break through the clutter. One recent example is a partnership with VOX Media around a video that explains “When the Cows Are Away, Nutrition Will Pay.” The video highlights an Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy study that talks about dairy’s nutrition contribution and the impact of a world without cows. It is accompanied by articles and social media content that explores U.S. dairy’s environmental footprint and the efforts and commitments dairy has in place around sustainability progress. The VOX partnership resulted in nearly 20 million impressions and 2 million video views, with visitors spending an unprecedented four-plus minutes watching the video and reading the article. This is just one example of the relevant media partnerships checkoff has used to get dairy sustainability stories in front of consumers.
Reaching consumers through influencers
Today’s consumers rely on people they trust and/or “are like them” as consistent information sources. That’s why the checkoff works with its Dairy Dream Team of chefs and recipe developers, foodies, gamers and unique lifestyle influencers that have a combined reach of 25 million Gen Zers.
Bringing farmer voices to thought leaders
Thought leaders – sustainability experts, academics and influential organizations – are another critical audience to bolstering trust in dairy. The checkoff shares dairy’s story of sustainability leadership by meeting them where they are and in the channels they frequent. The checkoff breaks through during key moments in time, including Earth Month in April, Climate Week in September and the annual Conference for the Parties United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 27) in November. In 2021, this work generated nearly 50 million impressions across major content areas and more than 21 million video views shared through LinkedIn, Twitter and more.
This work makes a difference. Among thought leaders, survey data showed:
- 74% strongly agree that dairy has an important role to play in sustainable food systems.
- 62% strongly agree that dairy provides a unique nutrient package that is hard to replace.
- 58% strongly agree that dairy is one of the most affordable and accessible sources of high-quality protein in the U.S.
What’s happening now?
Your national, state and regional checkoff teams continue to share dairy’s story of environmental sustainability progress. This fall’s efforts build on previous work to affirm and inspire the belief in dairy as a healthy and sustainable solution as we know consumers and thought leaders are looking for more information.
We continue to partner with influencers that reach Gen Z. This includes a new partnership with mega-influencer Mr. Beast, a video gamer and content creator with more than 186 million subscribers to his content across YouTube, gaming channels such as Minecraft and more. Through the partnership, which launched Oct. 12 in coordination with National Farmers Day, Mr. Beast created a custom, in-game experience that spotlighted farmers and farming practices in his own unique style. Mr. Beast also issued a TikTok challenge to urge his fans to connect on-farm sustainable practices with their own personal choices. And while there may not be many farmers among Mr. Beast’s followers, there are 186 million consumers (many of them Gen Z) who listen to what he has to say.
Thought leader work also continues as the checkoff joins conversations and creates a surround sound that amplifies dairy’s voice. This includes participating in high-profile forums such as GreenBiz Verge and COP 27, outreach with major media outlets – Forbes, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others – and using paid digital and social media to amplify dairy’s story.