By Stephanie Metzinger, Communications Manager
Business tycoon Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” His teaching rings even more true in today’s “new normal,” where COVID-19 has significantly increased the use of technology, digital platforms and social media.
When coronavirus triggered a nationwide lockdown in March 2020 and consumers were forced to spend more time at home, activity on all major social networks—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, TikTok—soared. According to the Harris Poll, 51% of U.S. adults have been using social media more since the outbreak began.
The crisis has reinvigorated social media, presenting farming and agriculture companies with an opportunity to speak directly to consumers about their food supply. The public wants to know that they have a stable food supply—and there is no better person to tell the story than the farmers who produce it.
As consumers are “doomscrolling,” or consuming an endless procession of negative online news, farms can get in front of the news. Rather than wait for a misleading statement by media to go viral and ultimately damage your brand, be transparent with your audience and take proactive steps to provide them with the information they crave.
With more eyes surveying what companies are doing, mastering the tools to protect your brand reputation is key. Below are three guidelines on how to strengthen your digital presence during this pandemic.
Silence Is Not Always Golden
When a crisis strikes, many companies tend to either say too much or nothing at all. Neither of those tactics works—especially in the food and ag industry where consumers rely on our products daily. Check in regularly with your audience, letting them know that a disaster such as COVID-19 has not impacted your ability and dedication to growing and delivering fresh produce.
WHO DID IT RIGHT:
Mission Produce used Instagram to post photos of their team members—from the sales team and food safety experts to packing house employees and field representatives—with accompanying captions assuring their audience “that the world’s finest avocados will still be on their grocery store shelves.”
Earn Trust through High-Quality Content
The pandemic has caused a boom in video-sharing as more diverse audiences are creating and uploading videos to the internet to “mentally escape” during the pandemic. To cut through the clutter, brands need to keep up with this accelerated pace. Providing content rich with valuable information—whether it be a video that humanizes your brand, images paired with an impactful caption or sharing an article link with your personal analysis—is how you build and maintain trust with your audience.
WHO DID IT RIGHT:
Between Facebook and Instagram, HMC Farms allows consumers to journey to the farm by sharing “show-and-tell” type videos that cover topics such as trialing an autonomous wheel barrow and explaining how plastic is used as an umbrella to protect the grapes.
Del Bosque Farms and John Boelts of Desert Premium Farms leverage their Twitter accounts to post photos that give an “inside look” into their crops/fields as well as short videos about everyday farm happenings. For example, one of Del Bosque Farms’ most powerful posts was a 3-second video demonstrating how “First thing in the morning, our team washes their hands. Every team member washes their hands at least six times every day.”
Build Credibility by Elevating Employees
The 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer revealed that, for the first time in history, consumers trust peers just as much as subject matter experts and more than CEOs, governments and academics. With this in mind, showcasing your employees and featuring their voices on your social media channels can greatly strengthen your brand in the eyes of consumers.
Beyond COVID-19, these three principles can be applied to all types of crises. If you need support in applying these guidelines to your company, please reach out to me or one of our communications team members at email@example.com or (949) 885-2256.
WHO DID IT RIGHT:
Innovative Produce utilized Instagram to share short videos of their field workers and office staff speaking candidly, in both Spanish and English, about the impacts of COVID-19 and how grateful they are to agricultural workers for helping bring food to the table during the pandemic. The company also weaves in images of employees practicing COVID-19 safety measures including temperature checks, social distancing and wearing face coverings.
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