Posted by: admin on July 9, 2024

Posted in: Newsletter

Adopt an open mind to mistakes

By Lori Hallowell, ARC president

I’m excited to be president of the Agricultural Relations Council (ARC). I have more than 35 years of ag public relations experience, with 30 of those years at Bader Rutter. At Bader Rutter, I am a vice president/account group director and I co-lead our PR Department. I’m also a fifth-generation rancher and I look at the world with a practical approach. And I have fun along the way. Work never feels like work.

ARC has given me so much inspiration and I look forward to continuing to help shape it, along with a fantastic and dedicated board of directors. I’d also like to thank Sally Behringer, our outgoing president, for all she has done over the last three years. And she will continue to serve on our board to help us with a smooth leadership transition.

ARC is a group filled with lifelong learners. I’ve heard some members say that they have a goal of learning something new each day. That’s awesome.

But have you ever thought about how much you learn and from where? For me, it is by doing. And I learn the most from mistakes. Think of how closely aligned success is to our willingness to make and grow from mistakes. It’s nearly inseparable.

Mistakes are impossible to avoid and failing is part of the human experience. But the key is to learn from a mistake and move on – to understand and believe that mistakes are chances for feedback and learning, and might even make us more creative.

As your president, I know we can benefit from adopting an open mind to mistakes. We won’t be defensive. We won’t be afraid to use a fresh perspective. We’ll laugh and smile along the way. And we’ll know that none of us is as smart as all of us.

As we start long-term planning with the goal of repositioning our organization, please dive in. We need all your smart brains to help us progress. And we need to make a few mistakes and learn from them. Here’s to another great year for ARC.

Thanks for your support.


‘Show up and be brilliant’

By Lucia Plagge, ARC Intern

The Agricultural Relations Council (ARC) inducted Daren Williams, senior vice president of public relations and reputation management at Curious Plot, into the Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame on June 19. This recognition is presented to agricultural relations professionals who have made lifetime contributions to the industry. Williams is the 43rd inductee, including the 26 pioneers in the profession who founded the organization in 1953.

An ARC member since 1988, Williams joined as both a member and staff member, writing for the ARC Light newsletter and planning meetings while at Agri/Washington, the Washington, D.C.-based agricultural public affairs firm that managed ARC and other ag trade associations. Later, Williams served as an ARC board member, moving up through the officer chain to become president from 2015-17.

Daren Willams (center) joins an elite group of agricultural professionals – all ARC Hall of Fame members. From left to right, Mace Thornton, Jean and Carroll Merry, Janice Person, Deron Johnson and Lynn Henderson.

Williams began his career on Bob Dole’s 1988 presidential campaign, joining Agri/Washington when the campaign fell short of the White House. From there, Williams continued to make waves in the world of agriculture, holding positions at FleishmanHillard, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Almond Board of California. Currently, he leads the public relations and reputation management team at Curious Plot from the agency’s Modesto, Calif. office.

Williams’ advice for crisis management is simple: “PR is no substitute for doing the right thing.” Actions speak louder than words and people notice. In the case of Farmland Industries’ oil spill crisis, a case study Williams cited in his acceptance, this was the key message in all communications. “How long will this take? As long as it takes to do it right. How much will it cost? As much as it costs to do it right!” said Williams, recounting the story.

In a video tribute from several of Williams’ former colleagues, they teased him about his proclivity to forgo planning and provide counsel in the throes of crisis. “It’s true,” said Williams in response. “I prefer to show up and be brilliant.” 

Over his 35-plus-year career, Williams has forged lifelong connections across the industry, as shown through the numerous testimonies shared by colleagues throughout his career in his Hall of Fame induction ceremony. This parallels with Williams’ own advice, “It’s not about championing yourself; it’s about championing those around you. One person can only accomplish so much, but you can find joy and fulfillment in teaching others to do what you do and watching them succeed.”

Williams encouraged ARC members to nurture relationships with their colleagues and peers in the profession. “They will return more to you than you can ever give,” said Williams.

The Agricultural Public Relations Hall of Fame is sponsored by ARC and AgriMarketing magazine.

Curious Plot takes home the ‘Gold’ – the Golden ARC de Excellence award

Curious Plot, a Minneapolis-based marketing, communications and consulting agency serving the food, agriculture and companion animal care markets, won the Agricultural Relations Council’s (ARC) 2024 Golden ARC de Excellence Award. This award recognizes the best all-around entry in ARC’s Communications Contest Campaigns Division. Curious Plot’s “Curious Plot Food Thought Leadership Campaign” organization and corporate reputation campaign entry achieved this top honor. All Golden ARC Award winners were announced during ARC’s Annual Meeting, held June 18-20, in Cincinnati. The Golden ARC Awards contest has recognized exceptional work created by public relations professionals in the agricultural industry since 1990.

This year’s Golden ARC Awards contest drew 59 entries from 16 organizations. In addition to the Golden ARC de Excellence Award, ARC presented 29 Golden ARC awards and 13 Merits. Those awarded Golden ARC Awards are listed below. For a complete list of winners go to

CategoryContestantEntry name
Campaign Organization or Corporate ReputationCurious PlotCurious Plot Food Thought Leadership Campaign
Campaign Brand ReputationPadillaNorwegian Seafood Council – An Epic Saga of Taste, Sustainability and Success
Campaign Corporate Social Responsibility and SustainabilityPadillaAgoro Carbon Alliance: Accelerating the Global Transition to Conservation Agriculture
Campaign InternalOBP AgencyUSB Soy Innovation Challenge
Campaign Marketing Communications for Agricultural AudiencesPadillaAgoro Carbon Alliance: Accelerating the Global Transition to Conservation Agriculture
Campaign Issues ManagementGrant CompanyProducer Profitability Initiative
Tactic Annual Reports: Non-financial Annual ReportsAmerican Farm Bureau Federation2023 AFBF Impact Report
Tactic Digital & Social Media: BlogsAmerican Farm Bureau FederationThe Zipline
Tactic Digital & Social Media: PodcastsKansas Farm BureauInside Ag: Rural Childcare
Tactic Digital & Social Media: PodcastsPadillaU.S. Highbush Blueberry Council: The Business of Blueberries Podcast Hits High Notes with Industry Listeners 
Tactic Digital & Social Media: VideoFarm Credit EastSupporting Northeast Rural Communities
Tactic Digital & Social Media: WebsitesCultivateMAYA Corn Heads Website
Tactic Digital & Social Media: Social MediaFilament now broadhead.Purina Chatbots
Tactic Feature WritingCurious PlotAgronomic Advice from the FMC Technical Corner
Tactic Feature WritingFarm Credit EastLooking Forward: 2023 Insights and Perspectives
Tactic Editorial/Op-Ed ColumnsSwanson RussellBeef Producers Must Share Their Environmental Stories
Tactic Print Media Relations: Agricultural AudiencesBader RutterRebuild Pastures Before Rebuilding the Herd
Tactic SpeechesAmerican Farm Bureau FederationAFBF President Zippy Duvall’s Convention Speech
Tactic Print Publications: Magazines and NewspapersCurious PlotRefreshing New Holland ACRES Publication
Tactic Print Publications: Newsletters (print or digital)American Farm Bureau FederationFBNews Digital Newsletter
Tactic Print Publications: Newsletters (print or digital)Kansas Farm Bureau  Farm Leader Letter
Tactic Collateral/LiteratureFilament now broadhead.McLanahan Manure Management Regulations eBook
Tactic Radio Broadcast Media Relations: Agricultural AudiencesBader RutterYield Record Breaker Audio News Release
Tactic Events and ObservancesCultivateState Fair of Texas Social Media Coverage
Tactic Special EventsG & S Business CommunicationsGreenLeaf Hosts Winterfest Event for Customers
Tactic Media Events and News ConferencesBader RutterWake Up to Peak Performance: Farm Progress Show Media Breakfast
Tactic Video or FilmBader RutterBeer with a Breeder Video
Tactic Unique Tactics and Executions Open CategoryOBP AgencyWestBred Wheat Tiller’s Toast
Tactic Open CategoryStratovation GroupPartnerships and Brand Building Through Timely Foundational Research
Front row: Lucia Plagge, Curious Plot; Cyndie Shearing, American Farm Bureau Federation; Sheridan Wimmer, Kansas Farm Bureau; Deron Johnson, Curious Plot; and Carmen Fenton, OBP. Back row: Mace Thorton, Stratovation Group; Daren Williams, Curious Plot; Stephanie Moore, G&S Business Communications; Casey Mills, Swanson Russell; and Laura Evers, Rooster Strategic Solutions.

ARC names Goodman Volunteer of the Year

In recognition of his dedicated service to the Agricultural Relations Council, Ryan Goodman, Certified Angus Beef director of communications and community engagement, received the 2024 Volunteer of the Year award. He serves on the ARC board of directors and was a member of the ARC Annual Meeting Planning Committee and Golden ARC Awards Contest Category Development Committee. Goodman’s vision played a significant role in creating the new advocacy category. Congratulations, Ryan!

Certified Angus Beef Director of Communications and Community Engagement Ryan Goodman accepts the ARC Volunteer of the Year award from Past President Sally Behringer.

Jordan Anderson receives the 2024 ARC scholarship

Jordan Anderson, University of Wyoming

Jordan Anderson, a junior at the University of Wyoming, won the 2024 ARC/C.O.nxt Scholarship. Worth $1,500, the scholarship is generously funded by an endowment to the ARC Foundation from Lyle Orwig, a founder of Charleston|Orwig. Anderson is studying agriculture communications with a minor in agriculture business.

At the University of Wyoming, Anderson is a member of the meat judging team, Campus Ventures Ministry, National Society of Leadership and Success, Wool Growers Club and Food Science Club, and serves as the Collegiate Farm Bureau president. Additionally, she serves as a College of Ag Ambassador and Cowboy Coach (student mentor to freshmen students on campus). She grew up on a family farm in Centre Hall, Pa., where her family raises dairy show heifers and markets livestock through 4-H and FFA.

To complement her college studies, Anderson gained hands-on skills through several jobs and internships, including Center for Dairy Excellence communications intern, Premier Select Sires communications intern, The Branding Iron (school newspaper) photographer and journalist, University of Wyoming Athletics & Rodeo social media intern and Cowsmopolitan (magazine) event staff intern.

When accepting this scholarship, Anderson wrote, “I am thankful for the support of the Agricultural Relations Council toward my education and support of my future endeavors.”

Anderson plans to pursue a career in ag communications and marketing where she can be an advocate for agriculture and help bridge the gap between producers and consumers.

Artificial intelligence jockeying for position within ag PR

By Stephanie D. Moore, G&S Business Communications

The race to figure out the smartest and most beneficial uses of artificial intelligence (AI) is well underway. And it was a race that prompted Casey Mills with Swanson Russell to start using AI. Before ChatGPT existed, he was on a mission to correctly predict the Kentucky Derby winner.

An interest in winning a Kentucky Derby bet inspired Casey Mills to explore the use of AI (artificial intelligence).

During his presentation at the Agricultural Relations Council Annual Meeting, Mills shared insights on how AI is impacting ag public relations. “There is a long history of innovation in ag. The first use of AI in ag was 40 years ago. The integration of AI in the ag space will certainly continue, so it’s a ‘no brainer’ to integrate AI into ag PR.”

Mills discussed the myriad of ways AI can be useful to PR practitioners, such as assisting with writing, editing, brainstorming, media pitching and image creation. A critical piece to remember is that AI is only as good as the information it has been given – the quality of output is directly related to the quality of input. “AI doesn’t have a lived experience or inherent knowledge to pull from. It relies solely on the data and content it has been fed,” said Mills. “It needs to be trained well. Treat it like you would a new employee.”

AI needs good information and clear direction to be successful, so concise prompts and queries produce better results. Although it can be tedious and frustrating, Mills advised to build on threads and continue to drill down until it produces the information needed. In addition to creating content, AI is also good at taking an overwhelming amount of information, evaluating it and helping identify priorities.

Mills demonstrated AI capabilities by walking through how to build publication-specific pitch angles based on a news release, drafting a blog based on the news release and developing social media posts to amplify the new release. In addition, he showed what happened when AI was asked to develop a logo, which uncovered some of AI’s current limits.

While the opportunities with AI are vast, there are still aspects that need refinement – like how to avoid bias when creating materials, how to deal with potentially nefarious activity and how to balance journalistic integrity. For now, Mills’ best advice is to approach AI as a tool to improve work quality and speed, rather than a tool to replace human thinking and reasoning. After all, he admitted he lost all the bets he placed in the Kentucky Derby this year.

Working with creators for ag public relations

By Lucia Plagge, ARC Intern

When it comes to making purchasing decisions, Gen Z craves information. Specifically, they want to hear from people they trust who have experience with the product or brand. They turn to influencers and creators for this information. Consumers prefer influencers who impart new skills, recommend items from experience or share common beliefs and values.

Experts on both ends of the creator partnership spectrum came together to share insights in an “Ag Public Relations in the Creator Economy” panel. Jessica Travis, director of communications and public relations for Certified Angus Beef, brought her experience in partnering with creators to share their stories, while Brandi Buzzard of High Bar Cattle Company shared her perspective as a creator and advocate for the beef industry. Ryan Goodman, director of communications and community engagement for Certified Angus Beef, served as moderator.

Brandi Buzzard and Jessica Travis share with Ryan Goodman, moderator, and ARC Annual Meeting attendees their perspectives on fostering successful creator partnerships.

Both panelists stressed the importance of finding authentic partnerships. Since consumers are looking for experiential information and genuine reviews, partnerships with creators who genuinely trust the brand will be most effective. For PR professionals, this means researching potential influencers before reaching out. An understanding of influencers’ beliefs and values ensures an effective partnership. Finding a creator with the right balance of a dedicated following and one that your brand will resonate with is the goal.

Buzzard remains authentic by staking her promotions on products she uses on her ranch. If she already uses a certain product, she won’t promote a competitor’s product. Likewise, she won’t work with a brand that goes against her personal values. Buzzard shared that she prefers the term “creator” over “influencer.” Her goal is not to influence people, but rather to share her story about the products she uses and trusts.

Travis aims for a collaboration that is enjoyable for both parties to work on. Her goal is to leverage the influencer’s natural passion and creativity in a space that aligns with brand goals. The result is content that fits naturally with the influencer’s other posts, which sometimes leads to continued promotion from the creator.

Audience is a key factor to consider. When selecting creators to work with, it may be tempting to look only at those with the highest follower counts. Indeed, this may sometimes be the best strategy. However, Travis pointed out that smaller creators usually have more dedicated followers. Consider if quantity or quality is more important to your strategy and choose accordingly.

At the end of the day, it is important to remember that this occupation has evolved to become a business. Clear communication is crucial for a smooth working relationship between creators and public relations professionals.

Unraveling the mystery dairy disease

By Cyndie Shearing, American Farm Bureau Federation

There are currently more questions than answers when it comes to the mystery dairy disease confronting farmers and researchers, according to Sherri Nuttle, DVM, with Bovine Regulatory Consulting, LLC. Nuttle provided insights about the ongoing highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) outbreak in dairy cattle to attendees at the 2024 Agricultural Relations Council Annual Meeting held June 18-20, in Cincinnati.

While questions still abound regarding highly pathogenic avian influenza in dairy cattle, Sherri Nuttle assures ARC members that U.S. milk, dairy foods and beef remain safe to eat.

“There is still so much to learn” about HPAI, said Nuttle, including what caused the initial jump of the disease from birds to cattle and why humans got infected.

To date, only lactating dairy cattle have been affected. Speculation continues about HPAI and beef cattle – are they not affected or has the disease not been discovered in the nation’s herd?

As new HPAI outbreaks in dairy cattle continue to be reported, there is hope on the horizon. Researchers are working to develop more than two dozen HPAI vaccines – for cattle and humans. Other research projects related to the virus aim to improve understanding of the virus and ensure the safety of milk and meat products.

And, according to Nuttle, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) recently announced Voluntary Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program will provide incentives for unaffected dairy farms to conduct bulk sampling to test for HPAI. Gathering more data through testing will help USDA better understand the outbreak.

When it comes to consumer concerns about the outbreak in dairy cattle, “There are a lot of steps in place to protect the public,” Nuttle said. This includes food safety protocols that mandate sick animals not enter the food supply and pasteurization during milk processing, which deactivates the virus. She advised against drinking raw (unpasteurized) milk due to the potential risk from disease.

‘Hands-on’ crisis communications exercise gives ARC Annual Meeting attendees a strategic workout

By Sally Behringer, MustangRED Communications

Another highlight of the ARC Annual Meeting was a “live” crisis communications exercise led by our new Hall of Fame member, Daren Williams. Assisted by ARC/Curious Plot intern Lucia Plagge and a support team of his Curious Plot colleagues, Williams presented attendees with a crisis scenario based on “That’s Amore,” a fictitious cheese company.

Meeting attendees divided into teams to create a communications response to the crisis. As part of the exercise, each team had to assign members a specific role to play: CEO, VP of sales/marketing, communications counsel, QA/QC director, director of human resources or legal counsel.

The teams crafted an initial response statement and created key messages to help them respond to the crisis. Throughout the two-hour exercise, Williams and his team unveiled a series of “plot twists” to which the teams had to respond. These included:

  • Dealing with an anonymous “whistle blower” report claiming the company had been negligent in maintaining required safety and cleanliness levels for cheese production
  • Responding to an influencer post circulating misinformation about the cheese recall
  • Preparing for a media interview regarding the product recall

The exercise sparked a lot of creative group thinking and attendees were excited about the “live action” nature of the event.

“It was a good way to involve several people at the table to gather different ideas and plans of crisis communications,” said Sheridan Wimmer with Kansas Farm Bureau. “It really emphasized that understanding the details of a crisis event is imperative. Also, asking yourself, ‘What is the right thing to do?’ generally guides you to the right place in terms of actions and messaging.”

The crisis communications exercise was the culmination of the “learning session” portion of the ARC Annual Meeting. Participants in the session were encouraged to use knowledge they had gained from earlier sessions in the day – on topics such as influencer marketing, content creation and using artificial intelligence in ag communications to prepare their crisis response strategies.

Agriculture contributes $124 billion to Ohio’s economy

By JoDee Sattler, National Mastitis Council

Tracy Intihar, Ohio Department of Agriculture (ODA) assistant director, kicked off the Agricultural Relations Council’s educational program with an overview of ODA and the important role it plays in protecting consumers. From amusement ride inspection to animal disease response preparedness to farmland preservation, ODA oversees the Buckeye State’s $124 billion food and agriculture sector. With 76,000 farms and 450 wine manufacturers, Ohio boasts a diverse agricultural economy.

Ohio Ag Stats

  • Top exported ag product: soybeans
  • 303 million acres of corn
  • Top U.S. state for Swiss cheese production
  • Number 3 U.S. state for egg production
  • Number 8 U.S. state for turkey and hog production
  • 1.3 million head of cattle

ODA’s work revolves around 5 basic pillars

  1. Safeguard the food supply
  2. Protect consumers
  3. Safeguard plant and animal health
  4. Conserve and protect resources
  5. Support rural Ohio and promote agriculture
With a passion for Ohio agriculture, Tracy Intihar discusses agriculture’s significance to the Buckeye State.

Intihar shared the importance of the state’s H2Ohio program. Currently, this Northwest Ohio water quality program targets the Western Lake Erie Basin (WLEB). (Lake Erie lies north of these 24 counties.) About 1 in 3 farmland acres are enrolled in H2Ohio and about 2,400 producers participate in this program via voluntary nutrient management plans, which cover 1.4 million acres.

Why is water quality a top ODA priority? Lake Erie suffers from significant algae bloom, with excess phosphorus playing the villain role. ODA is striving to decrease phosphorus runoff by 40 percent into Lake Erie.

Looking ahead, Intihar explained that producers outside WLEB will also be eligible to enroll acres in the H2Ohio program through voluntary nutrient management plans. “Our goal is to enroll 500,000 acres across Ohio and build capacity and education at the Soil and Water Conservation Districts to support and implement H2Ohio,” she remarked.

In addition to the H2Ohio program, Intihar listed ODA’s other top issues. They include animal disease response preparedness, new veterinary diagnostic laboratory, farmland preservation and marketing agriculture.

Intihar noted that Ohio had one dairy cow infected with highly pathogenic avian influenza. Fortunately, this was an isolated incident for Ohio but reinforced the state’s commitment to animal disease response preparedness.

Regarding the promotion of Ohio agriculture and its diverse product portfolio, Intihar described how ODA supports rural Ohio. The Ohio Proud Program’s mantra is “Made in Ohio. Grown in Ohio.”

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