The Arkansas soybean industry contributes $2 billion annually to the state. Every soybean farmer pays into the commodity’s checkoff program. Those funds are administered by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board (ASPB), which invests in research, promotion and education.
Annually, the ASPB’s largest investment is in research projects in the state. Research investments by ASPB yield data that improves the profitability of grower operations across the state. Our specialists leveraged secondary research from the United Soybean Board (USB) in the form of a survey titled USB Winter Survey. The survey showed Arkansas farmers have little awareness about research projects and want to know how checkoff dollars were invested. The USB Winter Survey included information that showed farmers like to consume data via short videos. Our specialists obtained primary research through a research-funding meeting that included an input session with soybean farmers from across the state. The guest farmers discussed issues on their farms that were of concern and provided topic areas that they wanted to see covered by the research.
As a result, our specialists developed a digital film series for Arkansas soybean farmers that focused on communicating in-state research investments and, ultimately, the ROI on their checkoff dollars.
During the annual planning session with the board, we identified the need to find more opportunities to communicate the benefits of the soybean checkoff to Arkansas soybean farmers. We wanted farmers to realize there are meaningful research investments made on their behalf. Our specialists took the topics from the meeting and developed a list of funded projects to feature in the series.
We planned and budgeted to feature six university-based scientists in the state who were working on board-funded research projects. The objective was to capture and highlight priority research investments, with a goal of distributing the videos to at least 4,000 soybean farmers, roughly half of all soybean checkoff contributors. In addition, we wanted to drive traffic to the ASPB website, and the video series gave an incentive to visit (and re-visit) the site. The creative concept was simplistic to reflect the academic nature of research results.
The call-to-action was to visit the board’s website or YouTube channel to watch the entire Field to Film: Featured Research series.
The Field to Film: Featured Research digital video series was developed as a public relations tactic. A challenge with using the USB Winter Survey and research-funding meeting for the series was making sure the information was organized.
As a result, our specialists developed a content outline to use during production, which ensured consistency in the series and kept the board’s objective at the focus of every interview. We led each researcher through an interview that focused on 1) a description of his or her research project 2) a summary of the expected outcome of the research project and 3) research results that a farmer could immediately apply on his/her farm. We spent a day with each featured researcher to video them working on-location and filmed each interview. The series was produced and distributed during 2016.
The distribution plan was based on ASPB’s YouTube channel, and we used embed codes to add the videos to the board’s website for efficient view tracking. Each video was embedded under the Research section, and the entire series was archived there. We promoted the Field to Film: Featured Research series through the board’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels to drive views and website traffic where we hosted the series on the board’s homepage. We distributed the Field to Film: Featured Research series as a YouTube playlist so county extension agents and other industry professionals could reference the videos if a farmer experienced a specific issue covered in the series. This overcame the challenge of searching through the YouTube channel for a specific video.
The budget for the entire series was $15,000, which included creative concepts, video production, editing, social media support and web development.
Based on feedback we have received at trade shows, from farmers across the state and the researchers themselves; the video series was well received. The team has even received requests to cover certain topics in the series. The board voted this tactic as the most successful form of communication to farmers. Website traffic from new visitors accounted for 71 percent of all visits. The Research section of the website ranked as the fourth most visited page during the fiscal year. The feedback we continue to receive following the launch of the series shows the farmers have a better understanding of how their money is spent. With these results, we learned we need to continue monitoring farmer feedback with the 2017 winter survey. We also learned quick access to the series provided farmers opportunities to be more involved with solving crop issues.