Strengthening the Dairy Industry Through Issues and Crisis Programs

By Jordan Manning on 09/26/2019

Tags: Dairy Farmers

Sometimes it takes a catastrophic event to realize how unprepared you were for a situation. Reflecting on what could have been done to respond sooner and more effectively is helpful, but it’s often too late to ease the blow of a crisis. This is why Dairy MAX, along with key industry partners, has adopted a comprehensive crisis preparedness effort to stay ahead of a crisis and protect dairy image.

Dairy MAX’s issues and crisis plan enhances response and provides resources for telling the dairy story. This includes training and workshops for dairy farmers, industry partners, staff and students.

“Studies show that organizations who prepare for a crisis recover two to three times faster,” says Bill Keating, senior director of issues and crisis for Dairy MAX. “With this in mind we continue to prioritize crisis readiness and work together across the industry to ensure preparedness.”

Telling Your Story is the flagship communications training for dairy farmers and industry professionals in the Dairy MAX region. Participants work in small groups to increase their communication skills and take a deeper dive into how communication in a crisis is different, yet critical. Trainings are held several times a year for various groups offering storytelling techniques, suggestions for handling difficult questions and tips for managing an on-camera interview. Once the training is complete, participants can confidently deliver messages about modern dairy practices and share dairy’s story in today’s changing media landscape.

Over 180 farmers and stakeholders have been trained through Telling Your Story. Participants of these trainings receive Dairy MAX Issue Alert emails informing them of a crisis related to the dairy industry and provide key messages and next steps.

Dairy MAX has expanded Telling Your Story by moving into the university environment and working with agricultural colleges across the region. One of the goals is to create college-aged dairy advocates who connect with consumers in a positive way. This program has been kicked off at six universities across the region with plans to expand.

Industry-wide preparedness is another key component of Dairy MAX’s issues and crisis plan. Coming together with organizations from across the value chain for crisis drills is one example of this effort. Crisis drills combine skill-building workshops with an interactive, fast-paced scenario designed to test crisis readiness.

Last year Dairy MAX partnered with Dairy Management Inc. (DMI) and the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy to host the Dairy Industry Regional Crisis Drill in Arlington, Texas which joined over 70 people from across the supply chain. Farmers, co-ops, processors, retailers, checkoff organizations and state government officials gathered in one room to learn and put their skills to work on a food safety scenario. In the last five years over 1,100 industry leaders have been trained on a national level.

Dairy MAX also works alongside national dairy checkoff, industry groups, co-ops and brands to ensure the industry speaks with one voice in a time of crisis. Since 2001 an industry-wide risk management plan has been in place to protect the reputation of U.S. dairy at home and abroad through strategic communication, cross-organizational engagement and coordinated action.

“Our goal is to continue building consumer trust, especially in the event of a crisis,” says Marty McKinzie, vice president, industry image and relations for Dairy MAX. “The evolution of our issues and crisis programs has helped prepare our industry and farmers for success.”

With the reputation of dairy products and livelihood of dairy farmers at stake during a crisis, Dairy MAX is prepared with a trained team, powerful partners and tested messages in place. If you are interested in attending a future Telling Your Story Training or learning more about Dairy MAX issues and crisis programs, contact Susan Allen at allens@dairymax.org.