Commentary: Engage the public, have some ‘skin in the game’

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The “abused lawyers” video we posted on Monday was a big hit. A number of readers commented that the video ― a parody of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) fund-raising techniques ― ought to be shared with the general public.   Our Dairy Herd Network newsletter, which contained the video, was sent to approximately 19,000 people, most of them affiliated with the dairy industry. So, it was somewhat humbling later in the week, while attending the Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit in Arlington, Va., to learn that the HSUS has 112,000 followers on Twitter and 1,100,000 Facebook fans. And, another animal-rights group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, has 1,363,000 Facebook fans. That’s pretty good reach ― at least compared to our newsletter. The person who shared those numbers at the meeting, Michele Payn-Knoper, had some important things to say about agriculture and how it can extend its reach. (See video above.) “A lot of different tools are out there that can give us a voice,” said Payn-Knoper, Holstein breeder and founder of Cause Matters. Social media, such as Facebook and Twitter, offer tremendous possibilities.  The trick, once again, is to engage people outside of agriculture. And, as Payn-Knoper points out, “Twitter is the easiest place to go beyond the agricultural crowd.” I know what she is saying. My Facebook friends are personal acquaintances, some going back to grade school. They are friends because of certain similarities, compatibilities or shared experiences. When I want to say something, I am preaching to the choir to some extent.   Twitter is more impersonal than Facebook and offers the potential for attracting a more diverse audience. It is great for relaying information to a large number of people. And, you can include video links with your tweets. What I really liked about Payn-Knoper’s presentation was that people in agriculture shouldn’t complain about public perceptions if they, themselves, haven’t made an effort to do something about it. In other words, have some of your own skin in the game. It wouldn’t be difficult to post a short video of yourself walking across a field or toward a barn and telling what you love about it. “All of you have a unique, authentic agriculture story to share,” she said. I agree, we all need to step up.



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Laurella Desborough    
Florida  |  May, 05, 2012 at 07:13 PM

There are other animal interest groups that are involved in similar fights with the animal rights organizations. So, when a video like this shows up, we send it to all our contacts, which means dog groups, bird groups, etc. Most of them people who are not involved in farming or animal agriculture, but they KNOW the problems created by the HSUS, et al and they support agriculture.


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