The National Farmers’ Union, which describes itself as The voice of British farming, is as keen to get its hands as dirty as its 47,000 farmer and grower members who work the land. It is a highly active organisation that adopts a range of strategies and channels, such as online blogs and Twitter, to promote the interests of its members with its Back British Farming campaign.
Over the past year, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) has developed a multi-media strategy that has seen it march in London’s Lord Mayor’s Show, lobby political parties ahead of the General Election with its new 47 point manifesto, and produced a report that highlights the importance of food production. It also used the campaign’s strapline to commemorate the centenary of World War One, when the NFU produced a video paying tribute to its members who died and those who worked the land to feed the nation.
Its 12-person communications team has worked to protect and enhance the reputation of Britain’s farmers. In doing so, it has highlighted the challenges faced by the community, such as the threat to holdings posed by the construction of HS2 and a supermarket price war that saw retail milk prices drop to just £1 for four pints, causing thousands of members to operate at a loss.
Britain is currently just 62 per cent self-sufficient in food. In other words, if Britain only relied on domestic produce, the larder would be empty by 14 August every year. Yet farmers are willing and able to produce more food. The key to solving this conundrum is to galvanise consumers into buying British produce.
Knowing Facebook is the most widely used social media platform in the UK, the NFU took the decision to switch its primary video platform away from YouTube and used target and segmented audiences to distribute a series of videos telling the story of farming.
For example, three 30 second films show how milk, cake and a roast dinner all start life on a farm, while five British farmers were filmed explaining the measures in place to help the environment.
Within one year, NFU’s videos were watched more than 450,000 times on Facebook and 150,000 times on YouTube.
Accompanied by eight young farmers (one from each region in the UK) and the Worshipful Company of Farmers, the NFU drove a combine harvester, adorned with vinyl graphics that showcased the countryside, through the streets of London in the Lord Mayor’s Show, producing a series of live Vine videos that trended in the top slot on Twitter with more than 30,000 views.
The project took five months, from conception to delivery. Each farmer received media training: sheep farmer Sophie Barnes was interviewed live on BBC
Two during the parade, while the others featured on regional BBC radio stations and in local media.
Membership satisfaction with the in-house team’s work in raising awareness about the importance of food and farming has increased by 14 percentage points over the past two years.
And the NFU’s annual survey, conducted by OnePoll, provides clear evidence that its strategy is working. Almost seven in ten (68 per cent) members of the public had a favourable or very favourable view of UK farmers in May 2015, up six percentage points since 2013, while 75 per cent believe it is beneficial to the environment, up three percentage points.
The latest survey also revealed that more than 90 per cent of those polled believe agriculture is important to the UK economy, against 83 per cent in 2013.