Posted by: Kristy on December 22, 2015

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Daren Williams HeadshotBeware of Observational Studies and Sensational Headlines (No, bacon is NOT as bad for you as smoking!)

 By Daren Williams, ARC Board President

I woke up earlier this month and checked my news feed on Facebook and Twitter (like I do every morning!) and one particular headline caught my attention: “Drink To Your Health: Study Links Daily Coffee Habit to Longevity.” As a coffee drinker I was thrilled to learn that I have a “lower risk of [death] from cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurologic disease [such as Parkinson’s] and suicide,” according to the study’s lead researcher, Dr. Walt Willett of the Harvard School of Public Health.

“In our study, we found people who drank three to five cups of coffee per day had about a 15 percent lower [risk of premature] mortality compared to people who didn’t drink coffee,” said Willett.

Clearly, given these proven benefits I should drink more coffee (I usually top out at three cups). After all, this is the Harvard School of Public Health, so it must be true. Right? Well, maybe, possibly, but maybe not. The studies cited in the article, the Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Care Professionals Follow-up Study, are observational studies, also called epidemiological studies, which show possible correlations, but do not prove causation. These are the same types of studies reviewed by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) which determined that bacon causes cancer (Well, Sort of. Not Really. Ish.).

The problem is that researchers like Willett will make statements that sounds as if the research is conclusive and that the benefits (or harm) from a given food are absolute. “We’re not sure exactly how coffee is [linked] to all these benefits,” said Willet. “The coffee bean itself is loaded with many different nutrients and phytochemicals. And my guess is that they’re working together to have some of these benefits.”

You’re not sure? Your guess? In other words you don’t really know! It might be helpful if researchers like Willet would take time to explain that observational studies don’t really prove a cause and effect relationship exists. The other problem is the media uses these studies to create sensational headlines. “Bad Day For Bacon: Processed Meats Cause Cancer, WHO Says” read the headline of the National Public Radio’s blog post on the IARC report. No, that is not what the WHO said, but you’d have to read the whole article to understand the nuance of what they did or did not say.

Throughout my career I’ve dealt with a number of these types of observational studies (which I affectionately call the “study du jour”) from Alar and apples to red meat and cancer. The potential for the sensational headlines to cause confusion and panic (as was the case with Alar and apples) is why we must work hard as ag PR professionals to educate consumers on how to interpret these studies and put them in context in their lives.

In the case of the IARC report we worked hard to achieve balance in the media coverage. I had the pleasure of escorting Dr. Shalene McNeill, executive director of human nutrition research for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, around to every major network studio, including CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC and even Al Jazeera, on the Monday that the WHO/IARC report came out (watch the CNN story here). In between these live, in-studio appearances, Dr. McNeill conducted interviews with The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Reuters and a number of other major media outlets, at least 15 interviews in one day, by my count.

Fortunately, it appears that consumers read beyond the headlines and heard what we were saying. “Cancer is a complex disease that even the best and brightest minds don’t fully understand,” said Dr. McNeill in the official checkoff response to the report. “Billions of dollars have been spent on studies all over the world and no single food has ever been proven to cause or cure cancer. The available scientific evidence simply does not support a causal relationship between red or processed meat and any type of cancer.”

So, Enjoy your morning coffee with a couple of eggs and a slice or two of bacon. Have a slice of salmon on your salad at lunch. Grill up a nice juicy steak for dinner with a sweet potato, wild rice and a glass of red wine. All have benefits in your diet and will fuel your morning workout!enjoy your morning coffee with a couple of eggs (cholesterol is off the naughty list), a slice or two of bacon and whole wheat toast. Have some smoked salmon (also a processed meat) on a salad at lunch and grill up a nice, juicy steak for dinner with a glass of red wine (the dietary guidelines recommend moderate alcohol consumption!). As my Registered Dietitian friends always say, all foods fit in a healthy diet (variety and moderation are the key). If you want to reduce your risk of cancer and every other chronic disease, maintain and healthy weight, get some physical activity every day, and please don’t smoke!


Den Gardner Headshot

2016 ARC Meeting Set for St. Paul!

“St. Paul and ARC – The Times They Are A-Changin’

ARC Annual Meeting June 21-23 at Intercontinental Hotel

By Den Gardner, Executive Director

The 2016 ARC annual meeting is taking shape and, as our own Bob Dylan would like to say: “The Times They Are A-Changin’. And that’s what ARC is all about as we continue to grow and provide great value to ag PR professionals everywhere.

The 2016 annual meeting is less than six months off and the program committee has put together a fabulous agenda. Thanks to PR pros from many Minnesota organizations, the agenda will focus on a crisis communications case history involving the Avian flu and turkey growers, the farm to table PR opportunities for international companies like CHS Inc., and Syngenta, what PR challenges retail crop dealers and farmers have in this major agricultural state and much more.

The June meeting is downtown St. Paul at the Intercontinental Hotel (just $185 per night) – right on the Mississippi River. For those members looking for more professional development, two years ago the format was changed as an extra half-day was added to the agenda. Here’s a brief look at how the agenda is constructed:

Tuesday, June 21 – Board meeting and dinner. (Any members are allowed to attend board meeting.)

Wednesday, June 22 – Registration at 8:30 a.m., with the meeting beginning at 9 a.m. Meetings will run throughout the day. ARC business meeting will be held at lunch this day. The Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame banquet will be Wednesday evening.

Thursday, June 23 – Twin City-area tours will feature Syngenta, CHS Inc., and one other stop yet to-be-determined. Upon returning from the tours, the evening banquet will feature the Golden ARC Awards presentation,

For more information on the meeting, contact Den Gardner at: Following is the tentative agenda for the general sessions Wednesday and Thursday. Your ARC staff is excited to host you in the Twin Cities.

Wednesday, June 22

9-9:30 a.m.          Welcome and Introductions – Intercontinental Hotel – Daren Williams, ARC President, NCBA

9:30-11 a.m.         Crisis Communications/Case History: Avian Flu and Minnesota Turkeys – Moderator: TBD

  • Representative of Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA)
  • Representative of Jennie-O Foods
  • Representative Turkey Producer
  • Minnesota State Department of Ag or Health

11-11:15 a.m.     Break

11:15 a.m. -12:30 p.m. Ethanol Industry And Marketing Communications Challenges, Moderator: TBD

  • Representative of Minnesota Corn Growers Association
  • Representative of Minnesota Farm Bureau
  • Representative of Cooperatively-Owned Ethanol Plant

12:30-1:30 p.m. Lunch/Annual Business Meeting

1:45-3:00 p.m.   Drones and its Impact on Consumers/Farmer Attitudes, Moderator: TBD

  • Representative from a manufacturer
  • Representative from U of Minnesota

3-3:15 p.m.         Break

3:15-4:30 p.m.   The Information Chain – Meeting the Information Needs of Farmers in a New Age of Communications Tools, Moderator TBD

  • Representative of CHS Communications
  • Local Farm Retail Dealer
  • Farmer Representative(s) – selected from local retail dealer.

6:00 p.m.             ARC Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Dinner

Thursday, June 23

7-7:30 a.m.          Breakfast, Intercontinental Hotel

Tours to be set up at (not necessarily in this order – with lunch sponsored by one of the tour stops):

  • Syngenta Seeds expanded research facility in Stanton, MN, (about one hour from St. Paul)
  • Tour at CHS facilities in Inver Grove Heights (Twin City suburb). CHS is largest ag supply cooperative in the world.
  • One yet to-be-determined location with farm-table consumer focus).

4-4:30 p.m.         Return to Hotel

6-9 p.m..              Golden ARC Awards Reception and Dinner , The Honorable Daren Williams, ARC President, presiding


Applications Due March 15 for New Inductees of Ag PR Hall of Fame

Nominations are due March 15 for the Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame, an award program honoring agricultural public relations professionals who have made lifetime contributions to the industry.

The program, sponsored by the Agricultural Relations Council and Agri Marketing magazine, will recognize its fourth group of recipients at the June 2016 ARC annual meeting in St. Paul, MN.Steve and Barb Drake

Previous winners have been:

  • Don Lerch
  • Lyle Orwig
  • John Harvey
  • Paul Weller
  • Richard Howell
  • Gary Myers
  • Steve Drake – Pictured to the left with his wife, Barb.

Nominees must be current or past members of ARC to be considered. Inductees will be selected based on criteria including:

  • Years of membership in ARC;
  • Service to ARC (president, board member, committee chair, etc.);
  • Professional accomplishments/achievements in ag communications; and
  • Awards/Recognition in service to ag communications within ARC and also outside of the organization.

For 2016, up to two inductees will be chosen. Nominations will be reviewed and chosen by a committee of ARC members.

We hope all members of the agricultural communications community will consider nominating a deserving individual. Recognition of this type not only honors the individual, but validates all of the professionals who work in agricultural public relations every day.

For additional questions, please call the ARC office at: 952/758-5811. The 2016 nomination form is on the web site Or E-mail ARC at for more information.


The 2016 Golden ARC Awards Contest Updateeventbrite-image-amy-addie-620w

By Adelita Tyson Bell

The Golden ARC Awards Committee is currently seeking volunteers. This group of volunteer ARC members will offer insight and direction on how we can improve the contest for the upcoming year. Past entrants are strongly encouraged to participate, as their experience and knowledge of the contest will provide much valued insight into the contests procedures. Improvements may possibly include a newly designed website and restructuring of categories. If you would like to be a part of this committee please let us know.

The next ARC webinar, Developing a Winning Entry for PR Award Programs will be January 21st at 12:30 pm EST. Hosts Amy Keith McDonald and Adelita Tyson Bell will offer specific actions to help ARC members develop their winning entries for media, marketing, and/or PR award programs. Information will include how to organize an entry, how to develop strong objectives, and what judges are looking for in a winning entry. We hope this information will help our contestants better understand what is expected from their submissions. These webinars will be open to all current ARC members.

The 2016 Golden ARC Awards Contest announcement will be in January 2016.

Additional information can be obtained by calling Amy Keith McDonald or Adelita Tyson, the Golden ARC Awards Contest co-managers, at 254-445-4333, or by visiting the website,


ARC Starts Year Two of Scholarship Program for University Students Studying Ag Communications

The Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) is pleased to announce year two of its reinstated scholarship program for college students studying ag communications. The organization, through its foundation, will grant one, $1,500 scholarship for the 2016-2017 school year. Last year’s program had 23 applications.

ARC conducted a scholarship program up until about 10 years ago, then reinstated it last year. Through the financial contributions of 2014 Hall of Fame recipients Richard Howell and Gary Myers, along with pledges from several others in the organization, ARC is now back in the scholarship business.

The board is also looking at reinstating our internship program as well. A career in public relations can be satisfying and rewarding. Scholarships and internships are ways to show college students the value of pursuing jobs in this area.”

Notices of the scholarship program will be sent to universities now and January announcing the program. Students will have until March 1, 2016, to submit their applications. Among those contacted will be Ag Communicators of Tomorrow (ACT) students through its state chapters.

Please direct all questions to the ARC office; email ARC at, phone: 952/758-5811.

DEADLINE: The 16 ARC Scholarship Program Application and all supplemental materials must be emailed no later than March 1, 2016. Application materials should be emailed to:

Barb Ulschmid, ARC


ARC Accreditation UpdateBob Giblin

By Bob Giblin, APR

Now is a great time to get started on earning Accreditation.  The Accreditation process can be summarized in four steps:

  1. Review and complete the Examination for Accreditation in Public Relations Application.
  2. Prepare and sit for a Readiness Review.
  3. Study for and complete the computer-based examination.
  4. Demonstrate a commitment to lifelong learning through maintenance.

The readiness review is conducted by a panel of Accredited PR professionals, to help determine whether candidates are prepared for the computer-based exam, and to make recommended courses of action before taking the exam.  Readiness reviews can be arranged through local chapters of any of the participating PR organizations, and it would be feasible to arrange readiness reviews in conjunction with the 2016 ARC annual meeting.

The computer-based exam recently was revised to reflect updated competencies of PR professionals with the 5-10 years of experience normally recommended for those seeking the APR credential, based on an updated practice analysis that looks at Knowledge, Skills and Abilities (KSAs) of PR practitioners.

The test covers six objective areas:

  • Researching, Planning, Implementing and Evaluating Programs
  • Applying Ethics and Law
  • Managing Issues and Crisis Communications
  • Understanding Communication Models, Theories and History of the Profession
  • Leading the Public Relations Function
  • Managing Relationships

Check out the Accreditation website ( to discover a wealth of information about the APR credential, and its value, the application and preparation process, study resources, and details about the KSAs.

If you have any questions, please contact Bob Giblin, APR, by phone at 920-397-6408, or email at


Webinars Update

This last quarter ACR held two webinars on PR awards programs and how social media can help PR.

On Nov. 5, Bob Giblin, APR, offered best practices people should be doing in advance of submitting to an awards program, in a presentation titled “What Is Needed To Develop Winning Entries For PR Award Programs?”

Key takeaways: Look at the award program’s judging criteria as a doctrine for planning, and focus on outcomes and outgrowth.

PDF of presentation:


Video access code: ARCPR7827

(case sensitive)

And on Nov. 17, David Wescott of Wescott Strategic Communications shared insights to help demystify the new social tools, provide case studies, and provide information on best practices in PR. The presentation: “How Can Social Media Help Agriculture Public Relations?” highlighted the challenges communicators have and the impacts social/digital tools can have on PR. David’s key points focused on understanding the audience you want to impact, and finding the intersection of what you think is important and what interests them.

PDF of presentation:


Video access code: ARCPR7827

(case sensitive)

Coming up Jan. 21 is the next ARC webinar, titled “Developing a Winning Entry for Public Relations Awards Programs.” Amy McDonald and Adelita Tyson Bell will offer specific actions needed to submit your project or campaign to Public Relations awards programs, like the Golden ARC Awards. Registration is now open and is free to ARC members.

Registration link:


ARC Silent Auction at AMS is a SuccessG&GItems

The ARC Silent auction at the Ag Media Summit raised nearly $4,000.  The funds benefit youth programs and are split between ARC and AMS.  In total, 44 generous items were donated, and a big thank you to all ARC board members, each of whom contributed at least one item to the auction.

The Ag Relations Council receives an incredible amount of visibility from the auction at AMS, which adds to the monetary value it produces for our youth initiatives.

Items receiving the highest bids included techie gadgets, university apparel and gift baskets. Oklahoma State had the highest bid of $350 among ACT chapters for their silent auction item.

The 2016 Ag Media Summit takes place at the Hyatt Regency St. Louis at The Arch and we look forward to receiving your 2016 contribution. Take a look at the 2015 ARC AMS Silent Auction Booklet if you are looking for 2016 contribution ideas.

Thanks in advance for your consideration.


Holly & Spruce

Winter Calendar of Events

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

March 1, 2016 – ARC Student Scholarship application deadline

March 15, 2016 – Ag PR Hall of Fame application deadline

March 31, 2016 – Golden ARC final entry deadline

June 22-25, 2016 – ARC Annual Meeting,

Intercontinental Hotel, St. Paul-Riverfront, St. Paul, Minnesota

Hotel Reservations: 1-800-628-2112 (Indicate you are with the Agricultural Relations Council group for the $185 room rate.)


WELCOME! New ARC Members, 1st Quarter 2016

Susanna Elliott, Alltech, Inc.

Ann Hess, Alltech, Inc.

Lori Hallowell, Bader Rutter

JoDee Sattler, Gardner & Gardner Communications/National Mastitis Council

Steven Kilger, IDEAg

Pam Debele, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation

Kristin Harner, Minnesota Farm Bureau Federation

Ashley Craft, National Crop Insurance Services

Deb Gangwish, PG Farms, Inc.

Beth Holz, Seaboard Foods


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