Let the Big Ag Reframing Begin

I’ve been issuing periodic warnings via Twitter that food and agriculture reformers better pay extremely close attention to the new, deep pocketed industry coalition, the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA), which asserts on its home page: “For too long the voice of farmers and ranchers has often been missing in the conversation about where food in America comes from.” Personally, I haven’t noticed their voices missing but perhaps some have been unable to speak out because they’ve been so busy hiding deplorable conditions, unnecessary subsidies and unsafe/unhealthy practices that have, sadly, become mainstream in our food and agricultural system. However, any alliance that starts out with a $30 million budget means business and will be a force to be reckoned with. The USFRA’s goal, obviously, is to begin to reframe the debate about food production and agriculture in this country — a debate that up until now has been dominated by food and agricultural reformers.

If you want to get a sense of how a professional advocacy marketing campaign works, take a look at the email below that I received today from Kyle Trompeter of the Zocalo Group in Chicago, on behalf of the USFRA. A quick visit to the agency’s website reveals that it specializes in tapping the power of word of mouth strategies that are sustainable to achieve three objectives:

1. Fuel positive recommendations

2. Combat negative recommendations (they do have their work cut out for them there)

3. Ensure that the net sum of your entire marketing mix leads to powerful recommendations by your industry’s most influential consumers and experts.

“Do you know how you’re being talked about and recommended?” asks Zocalo on their home page. Big Ag does and they don’t like what they’ve been hearing. That’s why they’ve hired this agency and likely other agencies that specialize in print, TV and radio advocacy marketing to begin to sway public and thought leader opinion towards views more to the liking of Big Ag. Unfortunately for us, these types of campaigns work, as I witnessed first hand as a soda tax advocate in New York. When Big Beverage came to town with their slick, emotionally manipulative, deep pocketed advocacy marketing campaign to derail the proposed penny per ounce soda tax, we wound up losing.

I won’t be reaching out to Kyle and “participating in the conversation” since I’ve been doing that for years and it’s been going pretty well from my vantage point. Rest assured, however, that Kyle will get plenty of takers willing to contribute “useful insights” and who will soon be preaching the gospel of USFRA, as the alliance moves to purchase allies and silence potential critics in the same way Big Tobacco and Big Food are doing. Food and agriculture reformers will need to vigorously counter the messages that come out of the USFRA campaign — quite frankly, to compete they will need substantial funding and their own professionally created counter-marketing. But since just about every food and agriculture reform funder currently refuses to fund advocacy marketing or counter-marketing campaigns, I’d say we’re in trouble. You need to fight fire with fire, and food and ag reformers are holding a tiny matchstick while industry wields a $30 million blowtorch.

Hi Nancy,

My name is Kyle Trompeter and I work for a word-of-mouth marketing agency, Zocalo Group.

We’re partnering with the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance, a newly formed alliance consisting of a wide range of prominent farmer and rancher-led organizations and agricultural partners, in an effort to help them connect with the public in an open discussion about food production and agriculture. As part of what we’re doing, we’re speaking with people who would likely have valuable points of view on this. And, we thought you would be able to contribute some useful insights, given your reputation in the food industry.

We are working toward holding events and activities in the coming months so we’d love to talk with you soon. Would it be possible to touch base for a few minutes by phone to get a sense of your thoughts on agriculture, give you a heads up about what the USFRA is doing and maybe discuss your interest in participating in the conversation?

For more information about the USFRA, please visit us online at: http://www.usfraonline.org

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Kyle Trompeter

Kyle Trompeter

Zócalo Group | 200 E. Randolph, Suite 4200 | Chicago, IL 60601

Phone: (312) 596-5906| Mobile: (708) 655-2809 | Email: ktrompeter@zocalogroup.com

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