How to Tell your Digital Story with Meaghan Malinowski, Content & Digital Marketing Strategist

Important:

We recorded this prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve been working remotely for the past several weeks to be able to share them with you while you have a little more time at home. These uncertain times have altered the way we’re all doing business right now, but that isn’t keep us from doing whatever we can to support our membership and communities. Head to mafc.com/update for resources related to your cooperative and the pandemic. From all of your friends at MAFC, stay healthy and safe. Thank you.

LISTEN TO MEAG'S EPISODE HERE OR FIND US ON YOUR FAVORITE PODCAST APP!
 

Jenny:

I'm very excited to introduce our guest today, though I might be a little biased. She is a team member of mine, Meghan Malinowski. She works in our Salisbury, Maryland, office as a digital marketing specialist. She's been with our association for about five years. She started out as an intern and has stuck with us since. We're happy to say that she's really been growing in this area of expertise and has been investing a lot more time and money and energy into digital channels to help us. You recognize new digital opportunities that will allow us to expand our reach. So in this episode, we're gonna talk about why it's important to take control of your brand digitally and how to do that in a few simple steps, while also discussing best practices on how to easily and clearly tell your farm story.Content & Digital Marketing Strategist Meaghan Malinowski MidAtlantic Farm Credit

Could you give our audience a little bit of background about you and your background in agriculture on and also what digital marketing specialist means and what you do in MidAtlantic?

Meag:

I graduated from Salisbury University on the shore, back in 2014 and before I came to MidAtlantic, I really didn't have a whole lot of background in agriculture. One of my cousins lived on a small homestead farm up in northern Baltimore County, and I would spend a lot of my time in the summer going up and chasing the chickens around. And she taught me how to ride her horse, and that was fun. It was more of a how to hold on, more than anything. But it was always fun, riding four wheelers and pal’ing around on the on the acreage and that was really fun. But that was really my only experience with agriculture. So, when I heard about Farm Credit and I started working with Farm Credit, I really had a very limited knowledge. But, I feel like I learn something new every day, and it's pretty cool.

Jenny:

Can you define for us what digital marketing is and how you implement our digital marketing strategy at MidAtlantic?

Meag:

I've had so much fun with my job just because I feel like it's always something new and always something different; trying new things and experimenting. But our digital world, and the things that I do every day really revolve around our digital messaging. That includes the emails that we send out to our customers or prospects; what kinds of content we have on our website; downloadable e-books. I try to put those together, and work with the rest of the team at Farm Credit - a lot of our sales staff, help me out with that. In addition, we've been doing a lot of videos and I do all of the shooting for those. And we have our awesome intern, Morgan, who does the photography. We use all of that media to really craft messages around how we're able to help farmers be successful in their operations and how our programs and services are conducive to that. So I really work on the digital side of that, mostly in website and social media.

Jenny:

Yeah, you mentioned trying new things and this podcast being one of them. This was definitely something that was a passion project of our teams. And I'm super excited to be able to do this and hopefully provide another avenue for education and advocating with our with our customer base.

Meag:

Yeah, I have to agree. I subscribe to so many podcasts, and I know you and I share them a lot back and forth. But, it's really nice to have something to listen to when you can't be actively reading or looking for something.

Jenny:

You touched on what digital marketing is, and there's a big gap to some about what digital marketing is versus the information age.

What are some things or trends that are happening [in the digital space] right now?

Meag:

I see the digital landscape just getting bigger and bigger, and we really try to encourage people to get active and take control of their brand online because we have shifted to more of an information searching kind of consumer. They want to do their research before they call us or they want to visit us online before they decide to come into the branch or even give us a call. I read on Forbes a couple of days ago that 90% of people actually go and try to find a brand online before they visit them in person. And so it's really important for people to have their information there and be available to answer questions or really clarify you know what, what kind of services and products they offer.

I would say the trend is that more and more people are gravitating towards the digital world and really being there, and they're starting to see the value in it. I think we're only going to have more information coming to us in the future, which is really neat, and it comes in all different forms. Some of the trends that that are very popular right now, a lot of social platforms are experimenting with video and different kinds of video. You know, Instagram TV, Facebook Live things like that. So I think we're kind of shifting away from the traditional, marketing messaging and the fluffy content. Even though I love a pun, we're shifting away from the punny kind of things and to being direct and to the point and really showing our authenticity through our digital messaging.

Jenny:

I remember when digital was strictly social media and, you know, that's one thing to get a grasp of. But digital's continuously evolving and getting a lot bigger. So I think for some people who might not be in that space yet, it could be quite daunting.

What is a common misconception about digital marketing that you hear?

Meag:

I think the biggest misconception with digital marketing among most people is that it's just for advertising. I see a lot of a lot of companies and brands that are so new to it, and they think that it's just a platform for them to yell their message at. And I would say that is definitely not what it is. And when you think about it, it seems so simple that social media was created to be social. Our networks are so much bigger now than they were 10 years ago. And we had MySpace 10 years. We're all in a different world where we could meet just about anybody. If you go on LinkedIn, you can see different connections and you might know a CEO of a company that is in your state, but you're only removed by two person connections. So you know somebody who knows somebody.

I think that the biggest misconception is that it's just for advertising, and that's all it's really good for. But it's not. It's a whole lot more than that. It's a really great opportunity to meet your customers and meet your prospects and meet the people that actually use your products and services. It’s about finding your community.

Jenny:

It's a whole community out there of connections and people just waiting to find people like you and trying to learn new things. So again, for those who might not be in that space yet but they know it's important. They know they need to be there for that exact reason to find their find their community and connect with consumers.

Where's a good place to start if you're not already [on social media] or getting comfortable in that space?

Meag:

If somebody is wanting to get into playing around with digital marketing and really starting to explore things, the hardest part is just getting started and being willing to make mistakes and learn from them as we go along. As long as we have good intentions as we start into these new journeys, it seems like a lot at one time, but if you pick one thing, say, you don't have a Facebook page for your operation, but you'd like to start one, a really great way to get started before you create a page for that, is to be on there personally. Start connecting with your own networks and talking to people and using the platform for what it's really made for. Seeing what kinds of posts your friends like to see, and then kind of replicating that over time.

I think it's really good to just get started and go ahead and create that page for your business. Fill out the profile to the fullest extent with everything. There so many opportunities to learn, just like what we're doing here, trying to educate whoever's listening. They’re looking for this information and using your resource and what is already out there. You can go on YouTube and find all kinds of tutorials to start things or just googling. If you know what your question is about marketing, there's so many resources that I think a lot of times people make it more difficult than it has to be. It's really just a matter of reading a couple articles and saying, “You know what? I'm gonna try it. I'm gonna give it a go.”

Jenny:

So say they make the Facebook page. They make the Instagram account. Maybe they even have a website or a blog, but they don't think they have anything to say. What would you tell them?

Meag:

I would tell them to put themselves in their customer’s shoes and think about why their customer is actually coming to them. So, if you operate a farm market on the side of Route 50, that's my favorite example because I drive by so many all the time, put yourself in your customer's shoes and say, “What are they coming to me for?” And once you start thinking about the journey that they're going on, you can start figuring out what kind of content they're looking for. One of my other favorite examples, I love the idea of CSAs or community supported agriculture. When I do research on these things. I see all kinds of interesting vegetables that I would never buy outright. But there's one, kohlrabi I've never tried before. I don't even know if I'm saying it right. Telling people how to cook that because that's not a common staple. You go into the grocery store and you pick up tomatoes and bananas and we know where they come from. And we know how to cook them because they're just classic staples. That's what everybody eats. Really starting with your customer and saying, “what kinds of questions are they going to be asking as they use my product and service? What can I answer for them before they even have to come to me and ask?” So definitely putting out content that educates your customers and even people that aren't your customers yet. They're going to be asking questions, and if you're there to answer it for them, they're going to remember you later when they have to go and buy something. That's a great place to start with content.

And another important piece of that, too, is sharing your story about your business and why you're in that business. How you started and giving people a background and something for them to be a part of and to decide, “ I'm making a good consumer decision.” People have very strong opinions about what kinds of fruits and vegetables they should buy or what kind of meat they should buy. Paint that picture for them and tell that story about how you started and how important it is to you, and let them see themselves in that picture, and see how much they have in common with you and your business.

Jenny:

And my favorite brands are the ones that I feel like I'm a part of. I love that analogy of inviting your consumers into your story, whatever that may be. And everyone's is different. I think we were reading an article not too long ago about how consumers today are bombarded with 4,000 commercial messages a day. How can we differentiate ourselves from those other messages?

Meag

There's always a different reason. I think that's one of my favorite things about agriculture is that there are not two farms that are the same. I mean every one of them is different, and the people that run them are different, and what they believe in is different. And it's a very cool thing to be a part of that story and hearing those stories. I think we're all storytellers.

Jenny:

Yeah, storytelling really is the oldest form of communication. And it's one that definitely compels human action from a strategy perspective, I think that's a really great place to start and going back to your earlier point about providing that value and educating. I just think, as a consumer myself of roadside stands on Rt 50, and farmers markets. You know what? I do Google, And it is things like how to cook kohlrabi or how to make broccoli casserole Exactly those you don't want to know how to do things to best way possible.

Jenny

What are some best practices when telling a story? You mentioned the content, but, aside from content writing,

What are some other ways that farms can tell their story?

Meag:

Today's consumer is not only information driven, but visually driven. Sharing compelling images, even if you don't think it's compelling, it's going to be compelling to somebody who wants to learn more but doesn't know where to start. Just sharing your day to day routine with your customers on your Facebook page or your Instagram, that's a great place to start telling your story. Again, you have to fill out the whole profile: make sure your address is on there, what your hours are. If you're running a farm stand, you should mention if your cash only or if you work with PayPal. You know all those details that people are going to want to know. You want to make sure they understand how to do business with you and how to how to come and buy your product. That’s a good place to start, making sure your information is good and being consistent with sharing the messaging.

A lot of people like are like myself and don't have an agricultural background, but we want to know where our food come from, and really what goes into it. You know, the blood, sweat and tears that have to come from generations of families that are growing it. Sharing whatever feels most comfortable and most authentic to you - snap that picture and post it and say what's happening today. Ask, “What do you guys think?” or “what is your biggest question?” Asking questions is always a great place to start too - telling a part of the story and then saying, “What do you think about this?” People will always interact;  they want they want that that excuse to have a conversation, especially about their food.

Jenny:

And going back to the community point you made earlier. You know, it's a great way to engage with your consumers out there and give them that immediate feedback and ongoing conversation.

Meag:

Exactly. And other people will see that too, and see how responsive you are. Seeing how you really care about having conversations with your customers and that just puts a good taste in people's mouth. It's It's really just a good place to start.

Jenny:

One thing I think we do a good job of, just to brag a bit, and one thing that drives me crazy with brands I follow, is them not being responsive.

Meag:

That’s one of the worst things you can do. Social media and digital channels were made to be interacted with, Facebook was made so that we could connect with people. I feel like the world has gotten so much smaller because of social media, but it's such a good thing because it's connecting people that wouldn't typically meet or have the opportunity to talk. That's all part of the information age. But it's also super important that if you're going to be there, that you need to engage with people and find different ways. to make a conversation. That's what people are there for. So that's what you want to give them, right? Nobody likes to say hello to somebody and then hear crickets. Nobody wants to be ignored if they're trying to engage. Responsiveness is important when [the feedback] is great and responsiveness is even more important when [the feedback is] not good. That's something that I think drives me nuts, is when I see other brands getting comments from people that that might disagree with something that they do or have had a bad experience and writing a bad review and nobody acknowledges it. And it's like, well, you're not giving them an opportunity to explain themselves and you're not opening it up for a conversation.

Jenny:

What do you advocate for in agriculture?

Meag:

This is my favorite question, I've been waiting for and I don't want to get on my soap box too much. I think, for us working in marketing at MidAtlantic, it's very important that we appeal to all kinds of agriculture. It doesn't matter what you believe. We want to support agriculture and rural America. And I think the most important part of agriculture is that there is an option for everybody.

No matter what you believe in as a consumer, you have a choice. If you don't want to eat meat, you don't have to eat meat. If you don't want to eat leaves, you don't have to eat leaves. You should, because I think it's good for you, but my point is that everybody has a choice. I think that a more educated consumer is really a good trend for agriculture because we all have choices, and agriculture gives us that choice of how to support them. We really are able to show that through the products that we buy and the farms that we that we get our food from. I advocate for an educated consumer and being able to make your own choice when it comes to food.

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