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 team leveraged secondary research from the United Soybean Board (USB) in the form of a survey titled USB Winter Survey. The survey showed that Arkansas farmers have little awareness about research projects and want to know how checkoff dollars are being invested. The USB Winter Survey included information that showed farmers like to consume data via short videos. The PR team obtained primary research through a research-funding meeting that included a session with input from soybean farmers from across the state. The guest farmers discussed issues on their farms that were of concern.
As a result, our team 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 being made on their behalf. Our team took the topics from the meeting and developed a list of funded projects to feature in the series.
We planned 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 simple 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 team developed a content outline to be used 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 2017.
The distribution plan was based on ASPB’s YouTube channel, we used embed codes to add the videos to the board’s website for efficient view tracking. Each video was embedded under the Checkoff 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 entire series included creative concepts, video production, editing, social media support and web development.
Based on feedback we’ve received at trade shows, from farmers across the state and from the researchers themselves, the video series has been 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. The videos added to the series in 2017 drew more than 6,000 views. Website traffic from new visitors accounted for 88 percent of all visits, and we recorded a 7 percent increase in unique users. The Checkoff Research section of the website ranked as the sixth most visited page during the fiscal year. One video from the series was the highest played organic video on the board’s Facebook channel in 2017. 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 will need to continue monitoring farmer feedback with the 2018 winter survey. We also learned quick access to the series provided farmers opportunities to be more involved with solving crop issues.