Public outreach 101: Media and community engagement

By Emily Solis

I don’t think it would come as a surprise to anyone if I told you the animal agriculture community doesn’t always get a fair shake in media stories. That’s why it’s so important that we step up our efforts to build relationships with the media so the world can hear our side of the story.
woman interviewing another woman

You might be hesitant to engage with the media when we commonly see headlines and stories that don’t depict animal agriculture fully. But that should make you more eager to engage and share your perspective. Talking with the media can provide quite a few benefits: getting the word out about your organization or company to the public or customers, third-party legitimacy, providing scientific insight into key issues, and making sure the voice of animal agriculture is represented. Here are some recommendations to nail the interview:

Screen all media inquiries. When you receive a media inquiry from a reporter, be sure to find out what the topic of the story is, who will be conducting the interview, what publication is running the story, and what the reporter’s deadline is. It’s okay to ask for time to prepare rather than give an instant interview. If you aren’t familiar with the reporter or the publication, it’s always a good idea to do some research before agreeing to the interview. Check to see if it’s a reputable source, if they provide balanced coverage, and who their audience is.

Prepare for the interview. Once you have decided to do an interview, preparation is key. Determine what your key messages will be based on the topic of the interview and the audience of the publication. Prepare yourself for any tough questions. How will you answer? If there are statistics or scientific facts you want to reference during the interview, be sure to have those ready.

Nail the interview. Listen intently to the question and ask questions for clarification. Steer clear of using industry jargon or overly technical terms that the audience may not understand. Be conversational and friendly but remain professional. Show your passion for what you do, and tell the truth. If you don’t know the answer, be honest. Lastly, close with a strong statement or call-to-action that the audience is sure to remember.

Follow up with the reporter. Make sure to share any links or resources that you mention during the interview. You can also suggest other experts on the subject that the reporter may want to interview. Thank them for reaching out to you and offer to be a resource on other stories in the future.

Ready to take your advocacy and public engagement efforts to the next level?

Join the Animal Ag Allies! The Animal Ag Allies program, an initiative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, empowers farmers, ranchers, and practicing veterinarians to be outspoken advocates for agriculture online and within their communities. The Alliance is always looking for emerging voices in the dialogue around modern animal agriculture to be on the front lines of responding to issues and sharing positive content about animal agriculture.

The Animal Ag Allies program consists of two phases: online training and a private forum to discuss engagement strategies and emerging issues. The training modules are all available online and may be completed at your own pace. Modules include: overviews of each sector of animal agriculture, where to find more resources on each sector, hot topics and emerging issues facing animal agriculture, how to address contentious issues, growing your social following and reaching outside the choir, and public outreach.

Following the completion of the training modules, you’ll be invited to a private networking group where you can interact with other Allies participants as well as industry professionals from the Alliance and other select organizations. The networking group provides a private community to get advice on growing your online following, engaging on certain issues, responding to comments and messages, and any other relevant topics. Fill out the enrollment form to be considered for our next class at: animalagalliance.org/initiatives/animal-ag-allies/.

Animal Ag Allies is a new initiative of the Animal Agriculture Alliance that gives farmers, ranchers and practicing veterinarians the confidence and tools to speak confidently and engage positively online and in our communities. For more information about the program, visit animalagalliance.org/initiatives/animal-ag-allies.

Founding sponsor: Zoetis
Program sponsor: Merck


About the Author

Emily Solis

Communications Specialist
Animal Agriculture Alliance
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