Rural Route Opinion Column: Amy Eckelberg
Our public relations team at Wisconsin Farm Bureau helps promote our organization’s member benefits. Ironically, one benefit that we don’t always showcase is the communications efforts WFBF works on behind the scenes.
Social media, 24-7 news and mobile devices have changed how our society communicates. As your public relations team, it’s our job to make sure Farm Bureau is keeping up with those communication changes.
As communication has adapted, so has WFBF’s public relations and communications efforts. Four people carry out the work on the public relations team. While each person has niches, the team works together to keep members, media and others informed of what Farm Bureau is doing. Even though our team is small, and resources are limited, we effectively set goals and follow through with the organization’s initiatives.
One of our biggest projects, and most visible, is what you are reading: Rural Route. The membership magazine is published six times per year and is sent to voting members. The summer issue is sent to the full membership and includes more member highlights than any other issues. A large focus is on Farm Bureau members because that is what makes us a unique organization. The goal is to have a member front and center on the cover. As a team, we do our best to find interesting stories while making sure we are showcasing different types of agriculture from around the state.
Another membership publication you receive is newsletters. In 2018, we started a newsletter pilot program. This was implemented to see if we could make some much-needed changes to our well-established newsletter program. We transitioned from black-and-white to full-color and made the newsletters multiple-county focused. Voting members receive newsletters three times per year that include local news to their district. Associate members received newsletters twice a year as part of this pilot. These full-color pieces include recipes, member features and an article from Rural Mutual Insurance. During the fall of 2019, the newsletter pilot will be evaluated to see how the program will proceed in 2020.
In 2018, the public relations team redesigned wfbf.com. The organization’s website was in dire need of an upgrade for functionality and navigation. Now, the site is mobile-friendly and includes an online membership form. The website also showcases the voices of members in the blog section.
Ag Newswire also has made an evolution in recent years. The weekly e-newsletter is sent to a list of nearly 5,000 people every Friday. Anyone can subscribe. It’s emailed to members, legislators and media representatives. This spring, after conducting a survey of readers, Ag Newswire was redesigned to better match our new website and provide a format to easily digest Farm Bureau news.
Because social media is continuously changing it takes considerable time and a lot of attention. While Facebook is where WFBF has the most prominent presence, the organization also is active on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Snapchat.
An extensive portion of daily work includes taking media inquiries from reporters. WFBF gets hundreds of media calls a year. The public relations team provides media training for members so they feel comfortable when talking with reporters. We also send media releases and monitor news stories.
The things listed above are only some of the things your public relations team covers. The best thing you can do is connect with members of the public relations team if you have questions or need help. Don’t forget about this member benefit, because it’s one that is working for you while you are busy farming.
Amy Eckelberg was raised on her family’s dairy farm near New London in Waupaca County. As an active member of the Sandy Knoll 4-H club, Eckelberg grew up showing hogs and dairy animals at the Waupaca County Fair and was a New London FFA member. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay in 2012. Amy is the Executive Director of Public Relations for the Wisconsin Farm Bureau and resides in DeForest with her husband and daughter.
This column originally appeared in the August|September 2019 Rural Route.