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. Our firm’s work with the board includes conversations with many agriculture advocacy groups like the FFA and 4-H. Over the last seven years, the leaders of these organizations have reported students becoming less interested in careers in agriculture. In turn, we began developing a strategy with the board that would approach the issue.
We conducted primary research via interviews with agriculture educators and an electronic survey with high school counselors in Arkansas. Ag educators revealed a steady decline in the number of students planning to pursue careers in agriculture, including students who belonged to pro-agriculture organizations like the FFA. The educators told our team that parents of these kids failed to see agriculture as a viable career option for their children. In fact, parents whom held jobs in agriculture actually felt that an ag career was a step down for their children.
Survey results from high school counselors revealed that students were asking about ag careers less often. In fact, the research showed that guidance counselors rarely think to recommend agriculture careers unless they were asked. Furthermore, guidance counselors almost never suggest agriculture as a career to high school females. The team also conducted secondary research for ideal video length to effectively communicate with the target audience. We found the optimal length was less than six minutes and edited each video accordingly.
These results gave the team a solid foundation from which to build the Field to Film: Career Snapshots series.
The series objective focused on communicating career opportunities in the agricultural industry to Arkansas high school and college students. The goal of the Field to Film: Career Snapshots digital video series was to develop a communication tool that highlighted young, successful professionals in agriculture careers ranging from the field to the laboratory. We planned to distribute the videos to high school counselors and higher education agriculture departments for ag student organization conferences via social media and using the board’s website to reach at least 1,000 students.
We planned to produce six videos. The featured professionals included a farm manager, crop consultant, FFA program coordinator, county extension agent, a grain services manager and an agriculture loan officer. The objective was to demonstrate the variety of opportunities in agriculture careers. The team also planned to use the site MyMajors.com to pull salary and other key information to include in web copy when publishing each video.
We developed a content outline for use during production to ensure consistency in the series and keep the board’s objective as the focus of every interview. We led each young professional through an interview that focused on a description of their daily duties, a summary of their education path and a compelling story about why they chose a career in agriculture. We began publishing the series in the fall to drive a greater impact for reaching the target audience. To better connect with the high school and college students, no professionals over the age of 35 were selected. We featured female professionals in a third of the series to overcome the lack of counseling to females for ag careers.
The Field to Film: Career Snapshots series demonstrated to Arkansas students that working in the agriculture industry doesn’t just mean “going back to the farm,” but can be a career path that requires many different skills. Our team recruited and showcased young professionals in the series based on research that noted high school students related better to professionals close in age. A challenge we faced was parents discouraging their children from pursuing agriculture because blue-collar dress codes were interpreted as unsuccessful among them. We overcame this by featuring professionals who were contributing to agriculture through a variety of work environments, including white-collar.
The distribution plan focused on ASPB’s YouTube channel because data showed that YouTube reaches more 18 – 49 year olds than any cable network in the United States. We embedded each video on the board’s website under the Students section and archived the entire series there. We promoted the series through the board’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels to drive views and website traffic, where we featured the series on the board’s homepage. Finally, we distributed the series as a YouTube playlist to FFA state administrators for easy sharing with students and faculty via their own digital channels. The entire series included research, creative concepts, video production, editing, social media support and website development.
The career snapshot series is the most successful student communication tactic the board has implemented to date. In total, the six videos produced in state fiscal year 2018 for Field to Film: Career Snapshots clocked more than 4,000 views in the first nine months of the fiscal year. One of the videos ranked as the third most visited page on the entire website in state fiscal year 2018, with the homepage for the series ranking at the eighth most visited page on the site. This project was a complete success; the series is approved to move forward in the next fiscal year. We learned video is a great medium for educating digital natives about careers in agriculture, as well as, that sharing the videos on social media allowed us to inadvertently reach the target audiences’ parents and educate them on diversity within agriculture.
Ultimately the videos demonstrate that in agriculture, there is a career path for everyone.