Top 4 Trends Impacting Agricultural Communications

Chuck Zimmerman

Are you worried about the direction that agricultural communications has taken in the last year? If so, you’re not alone. I’ve had many conversations with friends in the industry who are having trouble understanding all the changes. I have thought about it a lot since the trends or factors impacting these changes have also affected my business. I’ve come up with a top four list. I’m sure you can think of others and if you do, please feel free to comment and add your thoughts on this.

So, here are my top trends that are having big impacts on agricultural communications:

  • Continued explosion of media disintermediation – technology (new media) allowing everyone to directly communicate with everyone else in the whole world without a gatekeeper like traditional media (print/radio/tv). This includes agribusiness employees and farmers, some of whom are now being considered “media” themselves and getting paid to do social media. More and more of these folks are sitting right alongside reporters in press rooms and participating in press conferences. Of course, a lot of farm reporters farm or grew up on farms but I’m talking about farmers who have taken social media to heart and are very talented writers (for the most part).
  • Boom in mergers and acquisitions causing change and uncertainty – decades old relationships are being fractured as people are retiring or being moved and new people without benefit of historical connections are making critical communications decisions. You can probably think of at least one major communications decision a company has made that just leaves you scratching your head and wondering, “What are they thinking?”
  • Agencies growing as content creators/publishers for clients – agencies have been starting stand alone production companies or investing in internal resources to perform media production which used to be outsourced to freelancers and traditional media. This is directly related to the next point. In order to just stay even financially, much less grow, when dollars become more scarce smart companies look for new ways to generate revenue, even if it is what we used to call “incremental” dollars. Hey, they all add to the bottom line!
  • Commodity prices sliding downward and budgets shrinking – even with lots of optimistic financial forecasting talk, budget cutting is real and hitting all participants in agricultural communications hard and forcing some major changes in staffing, capabilities and growth plans. In the last year I’ve seen more people looking for new opportunities than I can remember.

What is your company doing different when it comes to public relations, advertising, marketing, communications? Doesn’t matter if you are an agribusiness, farm, print publication, broadcast, web publication or all of the above. How are you handling the current market factors? I’d love to hear your thoughts for a follow up to this soon. Thanks.