As urban encroachment continues, producers should develop a public relations plan, suggests Angie Molkentin, public relations counselor in Waukesha, Wis. According to a recent survey of 76 members of the Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin, 57 percent have received complaints from non-farm neighbors.

Molkentin defines public relations as the process by which good deeds become widely known. A publication relations plan includes the following components:

1. Stakeholder. Determine what group of people you plan to direct your efforts toward. For example, this may be non-farm neighbors, the nearby community, or the local town council.

2. Desired outcome. Determine what it is you want the stakeholder to know or do differently after the public relations effort. For example, your goal may be to have neighbors come to you with a concern about the dairy before complaining to authorities.

3. Key messages. Determine what “messages” you want to tell the stakeholder to achieve the desired outcome. Within one week, the typical listener only retains 10 percent of the information you present to them, so focus your message.

4. Potential partners. Identify people who can help you get the word out. This may include your family, employees, cooperative or processor, the local Farm Bureau or other agricultural groups.

5. Communication tools. Next, you will need to decide how to get your message across. This could mean open houses, farm tours, or one-on-one contact with neighbors and town board members.

6. Resources. Budget the necessary time and money.

7. Evaluation. Determine how you will measure success. For example, you may consider it a success if no complaints are filed to town officials in one year’s time.

8. Future issues with stakeholder. Try to think of potential problems that may come up in the future. This could include the effects of an expansion or air quality concerns.