Authentic storytelling has the power to influence

Alison Brown | Group Account Director Communications, Media, People Leave a Comment

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about what some are calling the rural-urban divide.

Farmers and other hard-working rural folk feel they are being unfairly labelled as ‘environmental vandals’ for farming practices that contribute to climate change and the degradation of New Zealand’s waterways. Coupled with this are claims that dairy farmers mistreat their animals through winter grazing or by removing calves from their mothers within hours of being born in the paddock. Criticism is rife every spring despite the fact that cows and calves must be separated in order for cows to be milked to meet customer demand for dairy products, such as cheese, ice cream and milk for the city-dweller’s daily flat white.

With nearly half of New Zealand’s greenhouse gases coming from agriculture, farming is under the spotlight but some farmers feel the country has turned its back on them. They want more people to acknowledge the sector’s contribution to the economy and the positive work many farmers are doing to protect waterways, through things like riparian planting, for example – a practice of growing plants next to streams and rivers to mitigate nutrient loss and erosion.

The primary sector’s issues are complex and problems won’t be solved overnight. That’s why, in the wake of criticism levelled at farmers, it’s great to see organisations and media still trying hard to educate the negative Nellies about the special role that agriculture plays in our regional communities.

A fantastic example is a campaign from Dairy Women’s Network (DWN). It has launched a new website, Instagram page and online visual storytelling project called ‘Our People. Their Stories’.

With a focus on video, the campaign is wanting to “create deep emotional connections” by featuring stories from the rural community, and it has already attracted positive television coverage.

The first story features nine-year-old Lucy O’Reilly, who prefers the latest dairy farming catalogues to children’s books. We learn that Lucy has her own herd and loves nothing more than helping out on the farm near Tirau.

It’s hard to not to fall in love with Lucy’s enthusiasm for farming and this was no doubt one of the reasons why Hilary Barry from Seven Sharp visited the O’Reilly’s farm to spend a morning filming Lucy for a segment on the show.

Lucy’s story is real, authentic and is from the heart. It also reminds us how much farming families care for their land, their animals and their community.

DWN is now rolling out a full series of short, motivating visual stories over its various platforms to continue to engage with its members and the dairy industry.  They want to highlight how women, especially, are making a “substantial difference to the success of dairy businesses that contribute to a better New Zealand.”

The campaign is proof that stories told well provoke emotional responses and have the ability to touch people, inspire, educate and engage.

When the farming community desperately needs more vocal advocates, Lucy’s story and the DWN campaign couldn’t come at a more important time.

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