|I totally want a hat like that|
Tomorrow I'm speaking to the Animal Agriculture Alliance at their annual stakeholders event, this year headlined "Activists at the Door: Protecting Animals, Farms, Food and Consumer Confidence." There has been a lot of talk lately about the new wave of "Ag-gag" laws in several states - laws designed to prevent "undercover" video of farming operations. I expect that's at least part of the reason for the title of the event. But farms face all sorts of regulatory challenges - GMO labeling, cages, antibiotics, waste runoff, and so on.
I'm not really there to talk about any of that. I'm going to talk about the issue they really need to fear - isolation. There's a tendency in all communities that feel under siege from "outsiders" (in this case, animal rights activists and some public health advocates) to close ranks and talk only with each other. As I've written before, doing so only radicalizes your own positions and makes you seem more extreme to the rest of us. Social media, for all its technological magnificence, has a tendency to make online communities even more insular.
I think a better way to address controversy is to reach out - to be even more transparent, more forthcoming of one's shortcomings and more committed to listening and responding with respect and relevance. Not necessarily with activists who will never afford them the same courtesy (though that's not such a bad idea either), but with their true stakeholders - consumers.
That's why I'll be there with two really smart people who truly understand the perspective and priorities of smart consumers - Joanne Bamberger and Sarah Braesch. Both are brilliant, entrepreneurial and dynamic. They're effective speakers and more importantly, they're bridge figures - they understand the concerns of companies and brands and they have the credibility to convey those concerns effectively.
I've been doing online outreach for a number of years now and there aren't many people I've seen who do this better than Joanne and Sarah. I'm really looking forward to the discussion, and I'll share more details when I can.