The Sheraton Crown Center in Kansas City is the Dolby Theatre for agri-marketers. Each year, the industry comes together at the Best of NAMA Awards Ceremony, sponsored by the National Agri-Marketing Association, to elevate good work that moves hearts and minds for the betterment of agriculture. And at this year’s Best of NAMA Awards Ceremony, our team at Padilla had the honor of taking home Best of Show for public relations for our work with Sound Agriculture.
(Quick project summary: Sound and Padilla worked together to launch SOURCE, a revolutionary chemistry approach that works in the soil to activate beneficial microbes at the root zone, release the soil’s full potential and ultimately reduce a farmer’s reliance on fertilizer. Building off research, we developed compelling messaging, ramped up a digital experience, and executed a multi-channel communications campaign – including paid, earned, shared and owned media – to introduce SOURCE to the ag world. Ultimately, SOURCE sold out for the 2020 growing season, web traffic increased by 245% following launch, and 257 stories helped spread the news.)
So, in a national competition of nearly one thousand entries, what does it take to emerge among the best of the best? And more fundamentally, what drives the kind of brand success that is worthy of an award in the first place? Here are three principles that helped set us up to win:
- Ground yourself in research. We all know our industries like the back of our hand. But to create a strategy that will move an audience to action, we need to take the time to dive as deep as we can. In setting out with Sound to help launch SOURCE, we needed to understand the challenges facing farmers and what they thought about them in their own words. Through research, we uncovered that in an ag input space filled with “snake oil” promises, farmers wanted to understand more of the science behind a product to know it will work for them. They needed the science first to believe it. With this audience insight in hand, we began planning what to do next.
- Create a clear message tied to a fundamental company truth. Sound Agriculture was an industry newcomer. A startup, Sound came onto the scene with a different approach compared to traditional ag companies. Doing things differently and leading with science is who they are. So, when it came to launching SOURCE, we wanted to keep our communications true to the company while also honoring our audience insight. The creative output was a message platform that farmers would appreciate and Sound could uniquely own:
“When science and modern innovation take hold, it leads to a more environmentally sound solution for better production and more efficiency. It’s not magic, just science.”
- Show up in trusted places. If a tree falls in forest and no one’s around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a message doesn’t reach an audience, does it even matter? On the first: who knows…that’s too philosophical for this Buzz Bin. On the second: of course it doesn’t. Our words “Sounds Like Magic, Works Like Science” did nothing for us unless we got them in front of our audience.
So, we amplified our message across paid, earned shared and owned channels. We revamped Sound’s web presence. We ran social ads and posted organically where farmers spend their time. We took out ads on trusted news sites. And we strengthened Sound’s relationships with crucial agriculture journalists by mailing them a Nice-To-Meet-You box with swag and information about SOURCE; hosting a virtual press conference; and securing one-on-one interviews. Sound’s network of brand ambassadors felt the love, too, having received a welcome gift, invites to exclusive events at trade shows and private learning sessions with the team at Sound. All of this let us connect directly with growers with a consistent, coordinated content experience, reaching them at the right place and the right time.
Thanks to our communication efforts, we turned skeptical farmers into immediate converts. SOURCE sold out for its first season, and we drove new levels of web traffic and secured tons of positive press. Our results spoke for themselves to us, and they meant real growth to Sound. Now, coming out of Kansas City with a Best of NAMA win, they mean more hardware for the awards shelf, too.
(Photo source: ZimmComm)