Today I have 5 minutes with Australia’s dairy elders

If you were given five minutes to address the Australian Dairy Conference, what would you say?

I have that honour today and was asked to speak about my experiences with social media. It’s not a lot of time, so I’ve opted for the “shock and awe” approach, beginning with a real-life case study showing how ordinary dairy farmers brave enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves won new friends in the face of scandal. I’ll close with a yet to be revealed threat and an offer to attend my social media workshop on Friday so we can deal with it together.

Before I take the podium, Neilson’s Courtney Sullivan will tell the conference that dairy has a great reputation in the wider community. Australian dairy foods are safe, nutritious and pure. That’s a priceless position of trust we should treasure and protect because it took decades to build and could be lost in the blink of an eye. If you’re not convinced, ask a beef farmer.

Farmers typically only appear in the media during drought, fire, flood, plague…or when a horrific case of animal abuse is uncovered. It’s hardly surprising then, that we are considered whingers and, in turn, city folk (including policy makers) have “no idea”. No longer. The rise of a new, grass-roots media (Twitter, blogs and Facebook) means we can tell our own stories. And what has amazed me is just how many ordinary Australians want to hear them.

Now, back to that question for you. If you had five minutes to speak at the ADC, what would you say?

18 thoughts on “Today I have 5 minutes with Australia’s dairy elders

  1. HI Marian, my dot points would include:
    We can no longer complain about the job our peak bodies or industry groups do in representing us as the power is in our hands to be proactive and reach out to the community.
    Let’s take control of how our industry is portrayed!
    No-one can tell dairy’s story better than us.
    Social media enables us to overcome our geographic isolation and connect with urban communities and consumers.
    You don’t have to be a skilled writer to participate in social media – Twitter only requires 140 character posts – the equivalent of an SMS, and you can all do that.
    It’s quick, easy and you can do it at any time of day.

    Good luck!


    • Thanks Victoria. All really great points. During the panel discussion, I was asked whether it was Dairy Australia’s role to advocate on behalf of farmers. It is but, as you say, no organisation can tell the personal stories of farmers or start up conversations with other Aussies in the same way.


  2. Well having had the luxury of reading and making some edits /suggestions to your talk I do know what you are going to say!

    But I really hope that more people are open to the idea of trying to engage. I really think that is the key, to be engaging. They need to remember what is everyday to them on farm, is very interesting to them “city folk”


    • Thanks again for your help, Sam.

      We had some cousins from the city stay with us last weekend and it’s really refreshing to see what we do from their totally different perspectives.


  3. Looking forward to hearing you this afternoon, Marian!

    I have sat in meetings where the farmer said exactly the same thing as industry, but the farmer was “heard” by the audience, while when industry spoke, the audience heard “blah blah blah”. Companies and industry associations are valuable, but they are not you. To you and your fellow producers – you have a highly trusted voice – it just needs to be heard! Thank you for taking a lead.


  4. Dear Marion, Good luck with your 5 minutes today. I am looking forward to the workshop on Friday. Not being a dairy a farmer I’m not sure how best to use your 5 minutes, however things like promoting that impeccable Australian dairy products reputation to the local markets, overcoming the urban-rural divide via communicating freely and truthfully, and perhaps using this media to dispel incorrect impressions that the environment is fundamentally at risk from cattle industries. – Libby Lambert


    • Thanks for coming to the workshop, Libby. Look forward to more comments from you here and also to seeing you make a stir on Twitter. You have a great perspective to offer on how beef farming can be at one with the environment.


  5. Marion, I was thinking of you today and I hope all went well.
    I agree with Sam about not underestimating the interest non farming folks take in what you do. I am sure that consistent interesting information from a genuine person like yourself wins hands down in the end as a reliable source of trustworthy information. It is about establishing relationships with people who show an interest in what you do, who will then go away with a positive impression of the industry. It is very hard not to be impressed by someone whose passion for their industry shines through what they write.
    Your blog stands out as a consistent source of thoughtful information on an industry which you are obviously so proud of being in. You also have the knack of finding common points of connection between farming/non farming folks. You never dodge the “hard” issues and your sincere approach is an asset to all within the dairy industry.
    I wish you all the best for the big day on Friday.


  6. You did really well Marion – Shock and awe worked a treat! The power…and the risk….were displayed most eloquently! The thing that wasn’t stated, and understandably so, is the importance of having not only willing, but highly literate and pashionate champions of dairying such as yourself on the job. I love reading your blog even though I generally leave it to Ron to respond, and time and again you impress me with the succinct, timely responses to issues as they arise in the industry – well done!! Kath Paynter (silent?? partner of payntercow)


  7. Did not like your opening comments at dairy conference on wednesday. Though you did redeme yourself in pannel discussion. I wanted to find out more about the how tos on the fast track. I see now I am at home you are running a work shop right now on just that!
    Damn how can I get the info u r doing now???

    Thanks doug


    • Dear me, Doug. I am sorry if I caused any offence. I agonised long and hard over how I should address this multifaceted topic in just five minutes. I decided the only thing to do was to show real life examples of how social media could work for and against farmers and, yes, they were pretty uncomfortable.

      If it’s okay with you, I’ll pass your email address on to the whizzes at DA who have lots of really interesting tips and, if I can help, please do drop me another line.


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