How to handle social media in a crisis


Photo #1 Fire.jpg

Photo source: Farmer Bright 

Something has gone terribly wrong on the farm or at your ag business and suddenly your social media channels are under fire. You’re flooded with questions from concerned people and others who are quick to attack you. You’re not only dealing with a crisis situation, but now you have to figure out how to handle your farm or company’s online presence.

But wait. How do we even know it’s a crisis? 

You could argue that when you’re in a crisis, you’ll definitely know. But, there’s a big difference between a crisis and an issue. You need to first determine the severity of the situation before progressing because while we often refer to crisis and issues as the same thing, they have different execution plans.

Ask yourself these four questions to determine if you have a crisis on your hands.

  • Does the situation negatively impact the reputation of my farm or company?
  • Does the situation effect your bottom line?
  • Does the situation have a high-risk of going viral?
  • Does the situation negatively impact consumer trust in the industry?

If you’re nodding your head to more than a couple of these questions, it would be time to activate your online crisis management plan. Let’s talk about what you can be doing now to make sure your plan is ready to go.

1.Identify all potential crisis situations.

Have you thought about all the potential crisis situations that could happen on your farm or at your company? Food safety recalls, an accident on your farm, or maybe a sudden halt in operations because of a natural disaster. The first step is to identify the crisis situation and potential responses for each. How will your farm respond to an accident on the farm? Do you know what you would say? Write that message down because having this drafted message will save you a lot of time during the crisis.

Now where are you going to keep all those messages? A binder or a bunch of sticky notes is NOT your best option. Remember a crisis doesn’t hit when you’re at your desk. You need to be able to quickly access the messaging on multiple devices, and share with your team. Try Evernote – it’s a free note taking mobile and web application that will help you keep everything organized and easy to find.

Photo #2 Evernote


2.Create a list of supporters. During a crisis, you can’t stand alone. Think of this as the emergency list you leave on the fridge for your babysitter. Here are some considerations for people to add to your crisis-call list.

  1. Ag Experts: These are the people that have experience dealing with a crisis (Checkoff programs, Coops, Farm Bureaus, etc.)
  2. Online Advocates: Who are your people online? Your online community can be your biggest support during a crisis situation. It might be your farm or company page followers or members of your online groups.
  3. Third-party Experts: You’re not always the best person to talk during a crisis. Identify knowledgeable and credible third-party experts that have your back. (Vets, Scientists, Dietitians)
  4. Consumers: Your online fans. If you have a strong online community of friends and followers, they’ll step up and defend you during a crisis situation.

Where are we going to keep all this information? Again, Evernote is a great place to keep all this information.

Write down names and not organizations. You should have a specific contact person within the organization and it’s good to revisit the lists annually since roles change often.

3.Be prepared to respond. 

Your online community is waiting for a response. Now it’s time to determine when and how to respond. It’s a sensitive time for everyone so make sure you take proper steps when responding.

Photo #3 Response Phases


When you get a comment or question about the crisis:

  1. Investigate: Do not respond to anyone without first seeing who they are. While you can’t see the person screen to screen, you can easily investigate who they are by clicking on their profile or doing a quick google search. Why is this important? During a crisis your time is valuable and you should spend thoughtful time responding to people who are willing to engage and listen. Don’t waste your time responding to hateful and vulgar comments. Our advice is that you should block and delete.
  2. Ask Questions: It’s ok to ask clarifying questions to make sure you understand what the person is saying and where they’re coming from. It’s okay to say, “Hi Mike, can I ask where did you get your information?”
  3. Respond with Empathy: If you get defensive, you lose. Yes, you are the expert about how you farm. Now just imagine you are explaining it to someone you care about. Use first names in your response and consider starting with, “Thanks for reaching out, Mike, and I understand why you’re concerned. This is what happened…”
  4. Take it offline. In a crisis situation, like a food recall or people getting sick, try and take the person offline. Get them to a hotline. Make sure you’re getting people to the right information, and fast.

4.Practice. Practice helps you identify gaps and then adjust. Spend time with your team reviewing the messaging, updating your crisis-contact list and practicing for each potential crisis situation. It’s not a one-time deal and you can check the crisis-preparedness box. It’s ongoing. As a team, commit to practice annually (or more) and set dates to follow through.

Now is the best time to get ready for a potential crisis. Want more practice? Or do you need help developing crisis resources? The best place to start is your local checkoff programs as most have crisis materials for your farm or you can always reach out to me at or Don at and we’ll figure out a way to get you what you need.

PS. Since 2001, Dairy Management Inc along with local dairy checkoff programs have developed and executed industry wide crisis drills. These drills bring together the entire value chain (farmers, co-ops, promotions, processors and retailers) and test our crisis preparedness as an industry. If you are interested in learning more about our industry crisis drills, please contact myself or Don and we can tell you more about it.

“Your Success Does Not Tarnish My Success”: Reflections from 2016 Cultivate & Connect

The post below has been re-published with permission from Darleen Sichely and

This past year has been all about connections for me. Forging new ones, building on old friendships, I have really come to value the connections I have walked away with from the numerous events I was lucky enough to attend in 2016. Cultivate and Connect Conference was no different!

Cultivate and Connect ConferenceThe two day conference is the AgChat Foundation’s yearly national gathering. As one speaker put it, it’s the world series of agvocacy with all the biggest names in the room. It was the first time attending the national conference as my schedule has only allowed for two of the western regional meetings before. The caliber in the room definitely did not disappoint. It was so fun to meet so many people in real life that I had been following in social media for some time!

The opening keynote speaker Vance Crowe probably had my favorite message I took home from the Cultivate and Connect conference. Vance said “if you can grow up to be anything then you have to be something!” In this day and age of endless opportunity we need to capitalize on what makes each one of us a unique individual. While building your core tribe, the very heart of who you are, is important. Letting your curiosity lead you to the edges of your interests will open you up to whole new tribes of people. Connecting with them on shared values will in turn align your loyalties. Once you have this place of trust and commonality of your new tribe you can bring them back to connect with your agriculture tribe. Long story short as 2% of the population we as farmers have to be connecting with the consumers on their levels. The easiest way to do that is to connect on those levels that are not connected to agriculture. Don’t preach to the choir, build your non-Ag tribe!

That message really resonated throughout the whole conference for me and gave me the drive and motivation to really focus my attentions on my focus audience. Leah Beyer – Beyer Beware really hit home the idea of reaching out of to your non-Ag tribe by showing the topics that were closest to food in social media conversation. Guess what, agriculture and farmers are on the complete opposite side of the food conversation! That was eye opening to me, as fashion & beauty were the next closest to food, then wine & beer and parenting.  Missy Morgan from Common Ground really highlighted the parenting conversation importance for me with the reminder that Moms are making 86% of household food decisions. With my energy renewed I am ready to engage with my Mom tribe in impactful conversations. Those conversations really take place and make a real impact when there’s trust. Trust isn’t built on facts and figures but inclusive, positive, credible and real stories.

Another of my favorite general sessions was hearing Greg Peterson from Peterson Farm Bros. These awesome agvocates are best known for their fun music parody videos. Video is by far the most effective mode of engagement currently and it is awesome to see their success. But beyond sharing their success, Greg had a very important message he brought back from all his travels around the world, Diversity. Diversity is one of the stories of agriculture, (in fact one of my favorites) but it is also the story of consumers. There are so many choices in the American grocery stores and so many personal and cultural drivers to each individuals buying preferences. All the diversity in agriculture is something there is plenty of room for all to support. Conventional, organic, GMOs, no-till, intensive farming, that diversity is something to celebrate and support no matter where we stand. He really brought it home though that “all over the world the farm family is the same”. At the core of all the diversity and choices is the farmers feeding the world.  And we got to enjoy him perform “I’m Farming and I Grow It” in person! :-)

Shifting into that consumer gear we enjoyed a good food consumer panel with two dieticians, a chef and a food blogger. They shared great insights into how consumers preconceived notions really do piece together their thinking. I loved for the dieticians and the blogger that their biggest turn around came after visiting farms in person! Really sank in the importance of how it really does make a difference to take the time for people to see first hand your operation. Even better are those consumers who already have a following and can share their experience with their readers, amplifying your own story. Cara Harbstreet – Street Smart Nutrition gave us all a good laugh when our discussions turned to consumer choices and definitions of clean eating “My definition of clean eating is anything that doesn’t have dirt on it… clients have a different definition” Dieticians role in the young science of the nutritional world is really meeting clients where they are at. While they try to present the science behind tough subjects at the end of the day it is really emotional and personal choices that drive consumers buying decisions.

Our second panel was on issues in agvocacy with Leah Beyer – Beyer Beware, Krista Stauffer – The Farmer’s Wifee, Cristen Clark – Food and Swine and Chef Alli – Farm Fresh Kitchen. Leah hit the nail on the head with the statement “your success doesn’t tarnish my success”. A general theme of being proud of yourself, your story and not bringing negativity into your conversation or others really shined through the entire panel. There’s not room to be unsupportive of each other when we are such a small percentage of the conversation that is taking place!

Cultivate and Connect Conference

Lastly the breakout sessions were also top notch. I learned about Snapchat, video tips and advise for success, engaging with and building relationships with the media and apps and ideas to let your pictures really help tell your story. Erin Brenneman – Sow Momma who led the photography breakout that I attended left me with an important reminder of why I am agvocating in the first place. “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” My Story, the History of our farm and all the Passion behind it really is the Why that I need to be sharing as an agvocate.

Overall I left Cultivate and Connect Conference refreshed and ready to dive back into agvocacy with a full cup. Sometimes it is so important to take the time for the thing we need for ourselves. Selfish has long been a bad word, but as I get older I see the value in it so much more. The conference even included some much needed fun and laughter that just deepened the connections. I really appreciate all the hard work the AgChat Foundation puts in to support those of us sharing our farm stories. Even if PDX weather kept me in Missouri for 36 extra hours, I really did have an amazing experience.

Cultivate and Connect Conference, I came home understanding what an appropriate name that was for the event!

Passion over Perfection: Reflection of 2016 Cultivate & Connect

This is a guest post from ACF volunteer Hannah Neuenschwander, who has granted permission for her post to be re-published on

At AgChat’s 2016 Cultivate & Connect Conference I expected to learn how to become a better advocate for agriculture. As usual, my expectations were blown out of the water. I learned many valuable things about engineering networks, telling my story, and effective ways to engage with the public, to name a few.

However, during my lengthy drive home from Kansas City I realized I also learned a few things I wasn’t expecting – deeper things that apply to life just as much as they do to “AgVocacy.” Here are some of the lessons I learned at AgChat:

1. Never give up

Of all the speakers I was looking forward to hearing from at the conference, Amberley Snyder was at the top of my list. She didn’t disappoint and the message she delivered for the closing keynote was an important one: never give up. Sure, we’ve all heard that before, but hearing it come from a person who embodies the very essence of perseverance and determination gave it a different ring. As she spoke, the room of over 150 people was completely captivated and I swear you could’ve heard a pin drop.

Amberley SnyderWhen Amberley was 19 years old, the competitive barrel racer was involved in an accident that left her paralyzed from the waist down. Against all odds, she’s not only able to ride again, but she’s out there competing and winning.

If you decide to say “I’m done,” you are.

No one gets to chose what obstacles life throws their way, but we do get to chose our attitude and how we handle them.  This clearly has implications in life, but in AgVocacy this means we can choose to take the high road, we can chose to be positive in the face of aggressive negativity, and we can choose to gracefully bow out of dead-end conversations with people who’ve already made up their minds. It’s easy to get beaten down and feel the situation is hopeless at times, but we can also chose to never give up. Indeed, I don’t think a single one of us can afford to. In the end, this does more to define us than any given circumstance ever could.

2. Pull each other along

On the second day of the conference, Leah Beyer shared a piece of applause-worthy advice during the Issues in AgVocacy panel:

We have to pull each other along and help each other out. Your success does not tarnish my success.

As advocates for agriculture, we have to recognize our shared values and come together on common ground like we always preach. During the live filming of the SharkWire podcast, Rob Sharkey pointed out there isn’t a monopoly on AgVocacy. There isn’t just one right way to do it and we should want all of our peers to be successful no matter what path they chose. It’s not about who can be the best voice or the poster child for agriculture because we need every single voice we can get. When it comes down to it, success for one of us is success for all of us.

I can’t help but think how true this rings in life as well.

3. Don’t minimize your role

You may not know it from my activity on social media, but sometimes I struggle finding my place in advocating for agriculture because I don’t farm and I wasn’t raised on a farm. It’s not that anyone has ever made me feel like I don’t have a place to speak up, it’s that I respect what farmers do so much I don’t ever want to misrepresent myself, or them. So I found myself nodding along as Leah spoke with a similar sentiment, saying she considered herself a farm wife, not a farmHer (a clever word like AgVocacy used to describe a female farmer.) However, Cristen Clark was quick to speak up:

Don’t minimize your role. I get absolutely distraught when women minimize themselves.

Issues in AgVocacy panel

I still wouldn’t call myself a farmHer, but Cristen’s statement gave me a gut check when it comes to minimizing myself in the AgVocacy arena. Farmers aren’t the only ones with a right to stick up for modern agriculture and they certainly shouldn’t have to carry that weight alone. My story may be different from theirs, but I can help pull them along. I can play a bigger role than just sitting on the sidelines cheering them on. And I will. Didn’t I just say agriculture needs every voice it can get?

4. Passion over perfection

This one should probably be taped to my forehead. As I listened to Barbara Siemen describe reinventing herself after a legal battle over her blog name, one thing she stressed was that she had to learn to strive for passion over perfection.

This one hits home for me, especially when it comes to blogging. I can’t tell you how many post drafts have never been published because I didn’t feel they were good enough. I tend to go over and over sentences, formatting, and wondering what people reading will think to the point that I get frustrated or burned out and never finish. Of course I don’t want to publish trash that isn’t meaningful or thought out, but I’ll be more successful if I concentrate on letting my passion shine through rather than accomplishing complete perfection. So thank you, Barbara. If it wasn’t for you this post would probably be collecting dust in my drafts with all the others.

As always, AgChat provided me with some great tips to become a better advocate for agriculture and I left the conference motivated and recharged. I’m grateful for the opportunity I had to meet so many inspirational members of my agriculture tribe and humbled by the bigger lessons I learned. While almost all of these lessons are meant to be applied to AgVocacy, there are clear applications in life as well.

Did you attend AgChat’s 2016 Cultivate & Connect Conference? Let me know some of your biggest takeaways below!

written by Hannah Neuenschwander

Farmer2Farmer, data and a football coach

Farmers Business Network (FBN) held their Farmer2Farmer conference in Omaha, NE this week. FBN is a startup company shaking up the world of farm data while making waves in how farmers can purchase inputs for their farms. A reception the evening before the conference was capped off by long time Nebraska head football coach and U.S. Congressman Dr. Tom Osborne. The first day of the conference was populated by a host of guest speakers and panelist with a Farmer2Farmer - FarmersBusiness Networkfocus towards farmers as entrepreneurs. Main stage speakers included the likes of Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts, Duck Dynasty’s Willie Robertson, and AOL founder Steve Case. FBN co-founders Charles Baron and Amol Deshpande offered their insights on FBN as a distruptive force in the industry.

Panels focused on farmers who are finding success outside the boundaries of raising crops as their sole income. Illinois farmer Jamie Walter spoke about his Whiskey Acres venture. In addition to farming Jamie started the second of only two distilleries in the country that are based on working farms. I happened to sit my by Jamie at breakfast the next day, and he was ecstatic about an article just posted touting his bourbon as one of the best bourbons to buy under $50 for the holidays. He was especially thrilled that his was the only one on the list not from Kentucky. Another panelist was Andrew Fansler from Shelbyville, Indiana. Andrew is a first generation farmer who started with 42 acres at age 14. Fansler spoke about how he felt confident in becoming a full time farmer because if he failed he would only fail himself and not generations of farmers before him. He praised generational farmers for what they have done to persevere their family legacy. Walter and Fansler were just two of many farmer innovators who spoke at Farmer2Farmer.

Managing-Family-Businesses-F2F16-PanelDay 2 focused on what FBN provides to member farmers. The basis of FBN is members submitting planting, application, and harvest data. Once a member submits data, access to all the crop data on FBN is opened. Farmers can then dig through yield, population, soil, temperature, planting date info, and more and see how their operations compare across the United States, their home state, or just the region closest to them. They can drill down through other filters like whether or not acres viewed are irrigated or not. FBN says most farmers only get 40 seasons worth of data from their own farms to work with. Through aggregation of data, FBN farmers can see how the varieties they plant perform across 10,000 seasons of combined data. This information can inform future decisions on the farm like what seeds perform the best on a particular soil type.

The other facet of FBN is price transparency and product procurement. This was the focus of the Farmer Business Network's Farmer2Farmer conference 2016second day. By uploading invoices for seed, fertilizer, and chemicals to FBN farmers will gain access to the range of prices paid for those same products by other members who have submitted their pricing. All the data submitted and seen by others is of course anonymized. And through FBN’s procurement program farmers can buy chemical inputs like herbicide and fungicide directly from FBN instead of through traditional retail methods. There are no volume discounts on these purchases meaning farmers large or small pay the same price for inputs. The members of FBN essentially form a large buying group. FBN calls this method of procurement and data analysis the democratization of farming.


This blog post is part of a sponsorship of the AgChat Foundation by Farmer Business Network. All views and opinions are those of ACF Board member, Brian Scott, who attended FBN’s Farmer2Farmer conference 2016. 

Why Do I AgVocate? – Kyndal Reitzenstein

What is your role in agriculture?

My role in agriculture is to inspire, teach and show what we do as agriculturists. It is important I do my best to describe how farmers create, care for and treat our nation’s food. My responsibility is to show society how important agriculture truly is in our everyday lives and the impact it makes on our nation as a whole.

What was your inspiration for becoming an agvocate?

My inspiration for becoming an agvocate is my family and the atmosphere that I surround myself in. I have grown up on a farm where we wake up in the morning and tend to our animals. Sometimes this is an all day task. It is hard to explain how much the agricultural industry has done for me and my family. It has allowed me to become involved in livestock judging and receive numerous scholarships to help me pay for college. My inspiration is the opportunities that await me and others in the agriculture world and it is my duty to agvocate about the industry that has done so much for me.

What is your favorite part about being an agvocate?

My favorite part of being an agvocate is working with kids. I enjoy helping young kids get involved in agriculture and helping them realize that their hard work pays off.

What is the most challenging part of being an agvocate?

The most challenging part of being an agvocate is dealing with the anti-agriculturalists. I understand there are some people out there that do not believe in what we do, which is how this world keeps spinning. It is hard for me to fathom that, but I know if I keep staying positive about what we are doing, then there is bound to be progress over time.

What advice for other farmer/ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy?

My advice for other farmers and ranchers who would like to become more involved in agvocacy would be to take baby steps at a time. Start off with a small goal that you have and keep working your way up to what is comfortable for you. It is hard to wake up in the morning and think of all the things that you use daily that do not involve agriculture. But, it is easy to list all of the things that you use daily that do involve agriculture. Any involvement in agvocacy is tremendous for our industry. The more we get the word out about what we are doing, the better.

What is your biggest takeaway or memory from an AgChat event or Twitter chat?

My biggest takeaway from viewing Twitter chats is to always keep an open mind about who your audience is and how they may view things. Not everyone has the same views on some of the topics being discussed, so it is very important to always stay neutral and never get defensive about other viewpoints.

What does the AgChat Foundation mean to you?

The AgChat Foundation is an organization that I have a lot of respect for. They provide connections between farmers and agricultural enthusiasts to help explain our role in the world to the rest of society. The foundation provides numerous conferences throughout the year providing information and facts about agriculture. The AgChat Foundation also uses social media to reach out to consumers and farmers. Personally I think it is amazing to have an organization that stands for agriculture and believes in describing the importance that it portrays to the world.


Kyndal ReitzensteinKyndal Reitzenstein is from a small, rural community in Kersey, Colorado. She grew up on a cattle operation where her family primary raises Angus cattle. Her parents, Mark and Kaye, and brother, Austin work as a family raising cattle and competing around the nation showing cattle and pigs. She is currently a senior at Oklahoma State University where she is majoring in animal science and agricultural communications. Kyndal plans on graduating in December with hopes of continuing on to graduate school and study animal reproduction.

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