Greenpeace gets noticed. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is heard. The Sierra Club has a voice. What’s their secret? Activist groups are well-organized, well-funded and skilled in the art of championing a cause.

But agriculture can be equally as effective, claims Michele Payn-Knoper, a professional speaker that caters to the ag market. Her new Web site www.mpk.info provides “how-to” tips to help agriculture, from producers to the associations and businesses that serve them, sharpen communication and sales skills.

“Studies show that farming is among the more respected occupations in the United States,” Payn-Knoper says. However, 75 percent of consumers in a Roper study rated agriculture’s communication efforts fair to poor.

“Each of us can play a significant role in promoting a positive image of our industry,” she continues. “Waxing eloquent about how we feed the world is not enough. We must work together to connect our cause in a way that will make consumers stop and listen.”

Click on the “Learning Resources” button at www.mpk.info and you’ll receive free step-by-step advice on improving communications. Payn-Knoper has customized training materials from her speaking programs to reach a wider audience, emphasizing the need to “champion agriculture.” 

“Not enough people speak up for agriculture,” Payn-Knoper says. “They know it’s a priority, but believe they don’t have the necessary skills or time.”

Successful communication begins with identifying a target audience’s “hot buttons.” These are things that are important to your target audience. Is there a topic or issue that will immediately grab their attention?

“Each person has a hot button – something they care deeply about,” she says. “Take the labeling issue for genetically modified foods. Some consumers are passionate about knowing exactly what’s in their food. Conversely, most members of the agri-food business feel GMO products are safe, and are concerned about additional labeling costs.”

She says don’t try to persuade others from your own point of view. “Relate to a concerned consumer’s hot buttons by providing information that will appeal to his or her passion.” This will help you break through the clutter and connect with them.

Michele Payn-Knoper is a professional speaker based in Lebanon, Ind. Her free monthly newsletter, full of commentary, sales and communications advice, is available at her Web site.