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Cracking the Code, Conversing with millennials grows in importance

“With over 80 million millennials in the U.S. today, everyone is taking a strong look at this group trying to understand their trends, fine patterns and ultimately how to communicate with this affectionate “dubbed generation ‘selfie group,’” explained Angela Anderson, manager of Food Chain Outreach for the National Pork Board. 

The millennial generation consists of individuals that were born in the early 1980s to the early 2000s. 

Anderson was one of the speakers at the “Crack the Millennial Code” webinar presented by Dairy Herd Management, Drovers CattleNetwork and Pork Network on April 8 through BrightTalk.com.

Moderator of the webinar, Emily Meredith, communications director for Animal Agricultural Alliance, said, “Millennials will be the key to our industry’s success in the long run.” 

Food concerns

“While people should be concerned about how food is grown, the millennials in particular are asking the tough questions and looking to learn more about how food is grown and raised,” described Anderson. “Millennials also have a strong desire to be socially responsible, and this is included in their decisions about purchasing food.”  

Anderson added, “Millennials are inherently skeptical about everything and are asking more questions about everything in agriculture from farmers, food companies and even agricultural organizations.” 

In a survey conducted by the National Pork Board, nearly 65 percent of the participants indicated they currently have serious or some concern with how farmers raise animals for food. 

Educating millennials

“We haven’t done a good job of truly educating the consumer about how we raise our animals or grow our crops for food,” said Anderson. “Recently consumers have started asking more questions and are listening to the media, asking their friends and looking at social media for answers.”

Anderson warned that social media is a perfect opportunity for detractors or activists to really spread their message and create a bias against modern agriculture. 

However, millennials know that detractors have an agenda that can go too far, and the more extreme the message is, the less willing the millennials view it as positive.

Anderson further noted millennials do not want one-sided information from any source, and by giving them information and facts, it is an opportunity for them to understand the whole story and come to their own conclusions. 

“At the end of the day consumers may not want to know every detail, but they do want to feel confident that their food is being raised and grown in a responsible manner, and they want their voice to be heard on an issue they are concerned about,” described Anderson.  

Social media

“We have learned that millennials don’t just have to believe in something to share it with their social networks,” said Anderson. “They just want to have a conversation about anything, and this can be confusing to see where they really stand on different issues”

Anderson noted one of the most critical aspects of using social media to connect with millennials is to be ready to have someone ready to respond to any questions they have tweeted or posted on Facebook. 

“Nothing irks the millennial generation more than having to wait 48 to 72 hours for a response to a questions of theirs,” said Anderson. “The millennial generation is also an instant gratification generation.”

Millennial blogger

The webinar’s other speaker, millennial blogger and hog farmer Nicole Patterson, began her blog, farmgirlfactsoflife.com, in September 2013 as a response to the extreme disconnect she saw between consumers and her family’s farm. 

Patterson stated in the webinar that she feels the industry as a whole needs to work on the image of rebranding family farms and the disconnect between farmers and consumers. 

She added, “My goal is to help consumers understand how we raise their food by surrounding them with facts, not emotion. Farmers are eating the same products that they grow and are the same products that consumers are eating.” 

Trust

“People just want to know that they can trust the farmers growing their food, and when we build a trust in a positive relationship between the two sides, I feel like these issues of GMOs and antibiotic use won’t be so hard to talk about and to understand,” stated Patterson. 

“Agriculture has been hiding under a rock for far too long, and this creates a distrust in the food system,” described Patterson. “We’ve got to revamp the system and create a trust and understanding between the two groups of farmers and consumers.” 

Anderson explained successful communication with millennials must start with a deep understanding of their perspectives and how they engage in social media. 

Also, in a world that focuses on social responsibility and consciousness, millennials view it as the responsibility of farmers, food companies and agricultural organizations to step up and lead the conversations about modern agriculture. 

Easy prey

“Consumers are easy prey for misinformation about food because of low trust and their distance from food production,” stated Anderson. “It is really important for us to use engaging language in the conversation or message to millennials. They do not respond well to one-sided language or even defensive language.”

This webinar was a preview to the Animal Agriculture Alliance,Stakeholder’s Summit which will cover in depth how to crack the millennial code on May 8-9 in Washington, D.C. To register for the event visit animalagalliance.org/Summit.

Madeline Robinson is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SIDEBAR:

Conversation Do’s and Don’t

Do

Don’t

Recognize that they are engaged and interested

Assume that they are more likely to side with activists

Invite them to a conversation that includes back-and-forth communication on social media

Use social media simply to broadcast a message to them

Use a realistic tone that takes their skepticism and cynicism into account

Give them a reason to question a producer’s true motives or poke holes in a producer’s story

Provide them with information that allows them to draw their own conclusions

Attempt to discredit other sources or information as less trustworthy or credible

Millennial trust – Millennials find farmers and veterinarians as credible sources and are more likely to believe them than government agencies like the USDA and the Food and Drug Administration. When starting a conversation with a millennial it is very important to not use a defensive tone or one-sided information.