What We Say Isn’t What They Hear

It’s a novel concept. Or, maybe it isn’t. 

It happens all of the time. Most times without us (and sometimes them) even realizing it. When I say to my husband, “Let’s go to Wal-Mart,” he hears, “I want to torcher you by taking you to the worst store ever.” 

From the day we are born, we are taught to be skeptical of everything. There isn’t a time when we don’t have our guard up and question why things are the way that they are. 

Not to mention, we are quick to throw up a red flag if we sense that it is for someone else’s best interest. Why do we hate most salesmen? Because we know that they are getting a commission on the sale. Why do we hate most politicians? Because we know that they oftentimes have their own agendas to get reelected in the next election. In our minds, they are out for their own best interests. 

How is all of this different for farmers? While we would like to think that it is, it isn’t. 

I recently attended a conference where I heard an interesting presentation from the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance. The speakers explained research that their group has been conducting with consumers, and the results are quite insightful. In a nutshell, they found that what farmers say isn’t necessarily what consumers hear. In fact, we may be doing more harm than good with the messages that many of us use in our everyday lives. 

  • We talk about how we “need to produce more to feed the world.” Consumers hear: “You want to produce more to sell to the world.” 
  • We talk about how we “care about our land and animals.” Consumers hear: “You take profitable shortcuts if you can.”
  • We talk about how “most farms are family-run.” Consumers hear: “But farmers are beholden to big processors and the bottom-line.”

The moment a consumer thinks that a farmer is out for their own best interest, they automatically hear something different.

As an industry, we need to stop being so defensive. We constantly talk about safety of our products, the need to produce more for a growing population and the reasons why we do what we do. All of these are a defensive reaction to what we think consumers are concerned about, but are they really concerned? Maybe. Or, maybe not.

We need to think twice about what is coming out of our mouths…or typed on our keyboards. Consider your message from a consumer’s point of view. Remember, it’s not consumers’ fault why they think the way that they do, so try to come up with a better way to convey what you really mean to say. When all is said and done, it’s about trust and emotion, not facts, that makes people think the way that they do. Just as we are more trusting of the salesman that goes to our church and the politician that we’ve built a good relationship with, consumers have more trust once they know the farmers that produce their food.

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One Response to What We Say Isn’t What They Hear

  1. Excellent Points! To think that what we have been “coached” to say as concerned farmers– to show unity of voice– is not helping– makes telling our story that much harder. I feel the best way to connect with food-conscience consumers is to bring it back to the family level. Most of those interested in where their food comes from, are those that are educated well–thus we hope they can think for themselves. We are farmers, but at the same time, we have to provide for our families–just like any food consumer! We do the best we can to follow procedures that ensure the highest quality of product, through providing quality animal care, and protecting our natural resources. At the same time, farmers need to make a modest profit to provide for their loved ones and reinvest in their family businesses in hopes of attracting the next generation. People don’t HAVE to buy our products as much as we would like them to, but we have our OWN tables to put food on. Thus, by continually trying to improve our farms, through innovative and safe technology practices–we are trying to produce more food. This is how we survive as business owners and families– and provide inexpensive, quality food for a growing population.

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