Turning trust into a powerful marketing tool for farmers

Trust is one of the most powerful marketing tools – and consumer trust in Australian farmers is on the rise. Patrick McClelland, from public relations firm Porter Novelli, explains how putting three key principles to work can help farmers turn consumer trust into business growth.

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Trust is one of the most powerful marketing tools – which is good news for farmers. The 2014 Reader’s Digest Most Trusted pollputs farmers in eighth place, two higher than the previous survey.

“I think this reflects a growing awareness of the importance of agriculture to individual Australians and the country as a whole,” says Patrick McClelland, Managing Partner and Agribusiness Lead at public relations firm Porter Novelli. “A lot of positive news coverage has been generated by the latest Free Trade Agreements with Asia, rising exports and the fact the Asian countries trust our products to be ‘clean and green’. I also think the ‘food dude’ culture introduced by television shows such as MasterChef and My Kitchen Rules is having a big impact on the way people think about what they eat and where it comes from.”

An effective strategy

McClelland has identified three key principles that can help farmers turn trust into a more successful business.

Transparency

“Absolute transparency is vital,” he says. “Australians demand it and, if you’re not honest and open about what happens on the farm, the public will get their information from sources that may not reflect the reality.”

Pride

Australian farmers have a record they should be proud to share. “Australian agriculture is lean, efficient and productive, and our farmers are as good at what they do as any in the world,” says McClelland. “For example, in the first 10 years of this century, the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sector recorded productivity growth rates higher than every industry in Australia apart from information technology. Farmers are outstanding conservationists, investing in technology and research that will help them to become more sustainable. Many Australian farmers are also leading the world in terms of animal welfare. These are things the public needs to know.”

Consistency

A consistent voice across the sector is crucial. “We need to provide context and sound evidence for what we do and to keep on reinforcing this in a consistent way,” says McClelland. “A good example is Aussie Lamb. The creative presentation has been tweaked but the basic message has stayed the same since 2004, so this really resonates with the public.”

Putting the principles to work

McClelland advises farmers to work on strengthening their relationship with consumers.

“Traditional media such as print, radio and TV are still important means of communication but, these days, people also digest information in different ways,” he says. “You need to be clever with social media – for example, if you slot an innovative infographic or quirky little film on to Facebook and people find it interesting or it makes them laugh, they’ll share it. This can be a very effective and low-cost way to engage with consumers, particularly young people.”

He would also like to see more opportunities for consumers, journalists and school students to visit a farm. “Australian farmers have everything to be proud of and nothing to hide,” he says. “There’s no better way to build trust than to let consumers see that for themselves.”