Two weeks ago I read a wonderfully written story in the October 23, 2009 edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Entitled, The Cursed Class of 2009, the piece captures the challenges faced by college seniors who graduated last spring. The majority have not yet found jobs and those who have landed positions, have in many cases had to settle for salaries significant less than previous graduating classes.
After reading the compelling story about the class of 2009 and the author's own experiences, I thought it would be appropriate to reach out to her and ask her to share some additional views about what she thinks it means to be a brand champion during these challenging times. Here is what Stephanie Johnson says about being a brand champion.
"Since I became a college graduate last May, the recession has taught me a number of things, most of them not so pleasant. But one lesson I'm glad I learned is this: sometimes the place you want to leave is exactly the place you need to be.
"I started a reporting job after graduation with a 30,000-circulation agricultural newspaper called Tri-State Neighbor in Sioux Falls, S.D. Though I grew up on a cattle ranch in West River, S.D., I had big dreams of writing hard-hitting news in Miami, Chicago or New York.
What I ended up doing interviews at local dairies and stories about tractors left me unsatisfied.
"Unsatisfied, that is, until a few months ago. I wrote about my job-hunting experience and had the wonderful opportunity to publish my essay in The Chronicle of Higher Education. I had an amazing response from readers, most of whom reminded me that life isn't hinged on one's job and that opportunities never cease to appear. Even though I want to take my writing to the highest level possible, I'm content these days promoting an industry that I love deeply: agriculture.
"This is where branding comes in. Agriculture as a whole needs to brand itself in a way that Americans, namely ³city-folk,² can understand. Now that people are two or three generations away from the farm, they've forgotten what agriculture means and how it works. Sometimes being a brand champion isn't about sending new messages, but reminding people about messages they already know.
"Take livestock production, for example. Treating animals humanely, whether it's on a family ranch or a large-scale feedlot, is a producer's number one priority. Treating them poorly neither makes economic sense nor satisfies a producer's moral responsibility as a caretaker (and most do feel moral duty in their hearts). Livestock producers need to remind people of our innate love and respect for our animals because, if the growing support for extremist animal rights groups is any evidence, people don't see us as we are.
"Agriculture has nothing to hide. We don't need some fancy message or a windy PR campaign to brand our daily work. All we need to do is emphasize the truths of our industry and tell them over and over. I'm tired to hearing lies about how America's ethanol industry is causing deforestation in South America and how eating meat is equal to promoting animal slavery.
Can our industry improve itself? Of course. By working to brand people in agriculture as stewards of the land and its livestock animals, we can also better our practices to include more sustainable energy, less fossil fuels and additional protection of the environment.
"It feels awesome to help the farmers and ranchers in my state by delivering the ag message every day. And if I can inspire others to promote this industry, then I know I've done my job as a brand champion."
Stephanie, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to share with us your take on what it means to be a brand champion. You are a fantastic writer and someone who will go far in her career. I anticipate you are rapidly gaining champions for your brand. I know I am, and as a result, you are the Brand Champion of the Day!