Lights, Camera, Dairy: Creating All-Star Advocates

Mar 3, 2020
woman interviewing a man on camera

From its unique nutrient package to the role in sustainable food systems, dairy brings a lot to the table. But with people generations removed from farming and the overwhelming number of beverage choices and activists, spreading the truth about dairy foods and where they come from is more important than ever.

Dairy MAX invests in creating amplifiers of the dairy story by hosting communications trainings for dairy farmers, leaders across agriculture and health and wellness. Participants are empowered with the education and tools necessary to share the dairy story in their own areas of expertise, and ultimately to consumers.

Telling Your Story is Dairy MAX’s flagship communications training program. Trainings are designed for dairy farmers and industry professionals, and the health and wellness influencers that include dietitians and physicians. While different, both have the same mission to provide positive dairy messaging and the confidence to present information in a way that makes the most impact.

“Connecting with people takes new skills and insight, especially when it comes to where their food comes from,” said Bill Keating, senior director of issues and crisis for Dairy MAX. “Telling Your Story is about giving farmers and stakeholders the tools they need to share their story and answer difficult questions.”

Among dairy farmers and stakeholders attending Telling Your Story are regional and national partners and industry professionals. Over 250 previous attendees have come from roles across extension, departments of agriculture, veterinary medicine, communications and more. Nationally-known communications coach Joan Horbiak, MPH, RDN, is the primary training facilitator. Over the two-day training she helps participants understand how to confidently communicate their dairy story, while also sharing key messages about modern practices and nutrition.

“Through Telling Your Story we’ve had the opportunity to prepare farmers and key stakeholders to speak on behalf of dairy and answer difficult questions,” said Keating. “By training stakeholders from organizations like the Animal Agriculture Alliance, we’re able to build relationships with industry experts who in-turn help serve our dairy farmers in crisis situations.”

Dairy MAX has also moved Telling Your Story into the university environment. Dairy MAX’s issues and crisis team leads a customized version of the training within agricultural colleges across the region to empower the next generation of dairy advocates.

Horbiak, a registered dietitian nutritionist, is also the facilitator for Dairy MAX health and wellness communications trainings. Horbiak equips leading health professionals with the skills to translate the latest dairy research into messages that resonate with the public. Attendees put their learnings into action by participating in on-camera interviews followed by on-the-spot feedback and review. Horbiak uses her nutrition background to help participants communicate more effectively with their patients, thus providing better patient care.

“Consistently, participants have said they wish they would have received this training at the beginning of their careers because no one teaches them how to communicate,” said Lana Frantzen, vice president of health and wellness at Dairy MAX.

Dairy MAX has hosted workshops with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Academy of Pediatrics. Attendees are made up of thought leaders who will make a difference when it comes to nutrition and education with their patients.

“The concept is the dietitians and physicians will have an even greater impact because of the volume of patients they see,” said Frantzen. “And when they are a post-graduate of our communications trainings, they will have the knowledge to answer dairy-related questions because they have invested time with us.”

Dairy MAX has been hosting communications trainings for over 10 years and has seen the long-term impacts of building relationships and establishing trust, all while furthering the dairy story.

“Some of our best relationships started at a communications training,” said Frantzen. “It is evidence of the trust we are building with those stakeholders, and they now come back to us for information.”