Nov 05, 2010  |  Today's News |  Public Outreach

This week’s elections have meant a lot of things to a lot of people. The ramifications of policy and regulations on farming and farmers are yet to be seen. But no doubt, there will be discussions regarding a host of issues. Are you prepared to be an effective communicator?


Our society has experienced a communications revolution. It’s a 24-hour news, entertainment, and conversation cycle featuring non-stop Facebook status updates, tweets, texts, and emails. You may not be engaged, but surely you know someone who is. And probably, you or what you do has been the subject of their online conversations.


Regardless of your feelings on this shift in the way we communicate, it is a reality. The paradigm has transformed and taken conversations about farmers and farming with it. It wouldn’t be such an issue if those conversations just disappeared into cyberspace, but that’s not what happens. Those conversations find their way to CNN, your local school board meeting, and even to the highest levels of government.


Take, for example, that U.S. EPA officials publicly acknowledged that their early review of atrazine was started because of worry in the public, carried on a wave of what’s known as “new media.”


So what does all of this mean to you? Who knows. But what is very clear is that there is a renewed expectation of personal conversations. Farmers are expected to talk about what they do, be completely transparent, and quit hiding behind what’s perceived as false modesty. Behavior you might describe as humble is too many times construed as deceitful.


The famous Baxter Black line, “Don’t ever ask a man the size of his spread,” doesn’t play in this brave new world of information.


And not only do people want information about you and what you do, they need to hear it in language that means something to them. The way you share your stories and ask questions must resonate and clearly illustrate that you are fully engaged in your work. That you recognize there might be concerns. And that you care about what people feel.


That’s right. It’s time to get in touch with not just your feelings, but you must use language that indicates at least a willingness to understand others.


So what’s to be done? Illinois Corn Marketing Board is involved in several projects including very specific research to help identify the best pathways to success in these conversations between farmers and non-farmers. We are bringing our conversations to new audiences, like at the Corn Crib and the Gateway racetrack. And we’re learning.


Hopefully, you’re ready to learn, as well. You might want to make the Illinois Commodity Conference a priority meeting this fall, as these things will be explored by experts there. Hope to see you in Bloomington on the 23rd.