March 28, 2015

Missouri agriculture & new media

I love pointing out success stories in new media, and the Missouri Department of Agriculture is a great example of a government agency that understands the power of online communication, and capitalizes on it.  And it’s because of the work of just a few people, who’ve taken it upon themselves to make lots of engaging content available to people online. (Disclaimer: I consult with the department on some of these projects.)

AgriMissouri Showcase: This is a blog and a podcast series that highlights Missouri-grown products, from fresh vegetables to barbecue sauces. Sarah Gehring does a great job of keeping the blog up-to-date with news about events, photos from the road, and even a weekly recipe using Missouri foods.  My company helps out by producing audio and video shows about interesting Missouri products.  It’s a great example of providing consumers with interesting cotent in a way that goes beyond a brochure-style website.

Missouri Farmers Market Blog: Lane McConnell travels the state visiting farmers markets to give them advice on marketing themselves. Ninety-nine percent of the people in her job would be content with occasional email blasts to the directors of the farmers markets.  But not Lane.  She keeps up with her very active blog, and she even has a pretty cool photo stream to highlight the kinds of things you can find at a Missouri farmers market. We’re going to be adding videos to this site, starting soon. (If you want some great down-home recipes, check out Lane’s personal blog: Home Cooking is What I Like.)

Missouri Wine Girl: Danene Beedle is a wine lover who just happens to have a job promoting Missouri wine.  But her blog is a great example of where profession meets passion.  It’s not a commercial for Missouri wineries — except in the sense that you can tell she loves what she’s doing, and reading her blog makes you want to experience some of those wineries for yourself.

Every one of these projects are miles ahead of what we would normally expect from a state government agency. But the passion of Sarah, Lane and Danene have led them to create lots of interesting content that benefits consumers.  They have the makings of an entire “Missouri Agriculture Channel” online, and they’re showing no signs of letting up.

Online Communications Seminar – Oral Health Programs

This week, I held the first in a series of online communications seminars I have planned for this year.  This one was focused on state oral health programs.  It was based on a program called MO Healthy Smiles, which we’ve implemented with the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services. We talked about how the program has helped them increase the number of participating children from 8,000 to 25,000 in less than two years. And they did it with “content marketing”–offering up compelling video, audio and text to help them communicate more effectively with the people they most need to reach.


People are talking about your business online, whether you know it or not.  Social media has made it easy for the people who buy your products to converse with each other.  It’s also made it easier than ever for you to get feedback from your customers, and react to their ideas.

There are 4 steps to getting started in social media for your agritourism business:

  1. Listen – find their conversations online and hear what they’re saying about you.
  2. Converse – respond to both good and bad comments, not like an institution, but like a person.
  3. Create – Give people interesting stuff that they really want. Use text, photos, audio and video to tell the story of your business from their point of view.
  4. Encourage – Do what you can to give visitors a story they can tell to others – not a story about your business, but about themselves.  If you do that, they will willingly tell the stories, and your business will benefit.

View the slideshow.

How to make your multimedia stand out on the Web

If you’re into multimedia, that’s great.  But lots of interesting text should accompany everything you do — even audio and video.  Steve Rubel makes a compelling case that text — not video — is still king of the Web.  Why? Here are some highlights:

  • It’s scannable – according to Jakob Nielsen users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average site visit and 20% is more likely

  • Three letters: SEO – For all that Google Universal Search has done to elevate video, search results are still largely made up of text and everyone wants better SEO
  • Distribution – Nothing flies like text. It’s so easy to cut and
    paste it and send it somewhere or to clip and re-syndicate it via
    email, RSS or social networks

I think he’s right, and my experience with blogs and podcasts bears that out.  I think multimedia is still very important.  It’s easy and inexpensive to do, and it adds a lot of information you can’t convey very well with text.  But all your multimedia content should be accompanied by text.  It makes it more findable, more sharable, and more scannable.  And those are three important factors in making yourself and your organization more influential.

Why your word-of-mouth marketing plan may be doomed to fail

If you think of “word-of-mouth marketing” as a way to get people to tell your story to others, you’re doomed to fail.  Copyblogger’s Brian Clark has a great explanation for why that’s true.  He points out that people really aren’t that into telling stories your story.

People tell stories about themselves. They even buy things in order to say something about themselves.

They don’t give a hoot about your story unless it furthers their own
personal narrative. If it does, your story comes along for the ride.

And this is why providing good, interesting content is so vital to your communications effort.  People are willing to talk about the product or service you provide, only insofar as your product or service makes them look good, or makes their lives better.  If you can help people become better-informed, or more enthusiastic, you’re encouraging word-of-mouth marketing in a way that’s far more valuable than if you simply “tell your story” to them.