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Communicating Through Challenges at the AMSA 2016 SLC

Apr 14, 2016
Are you good at telling your own story? Do you have a passion for what you do? Have you ever communicated through challenges? 83 students from 11 different universities received insight from leaders in our industry at the 2016 Student Leadership Conference (SLC) held March 11-12 at the Kansas State University Campus in Olathe, KS. This conference was sponsored by the AMSA Student Membership, AMSA Education Foundation, Merck Animal Health and Smithfield Foods. “This was a great op2016SLC2smallportunity to give students a chance to try out their communication skills by jumping in and doing some radio and on-camera interviews. As student studying in the Agriculture industry it is important for us to work on our communications skills and become advocates for our industry and tell our story when to opportunity arises,” stated Morgan Neilson, Director for the AMSA Student Board and student at Oklahoma State University.

2016SLC3smallMany students arrived in Friday morning to take part in the tours prior to the start of SLC. The students were able to tour Bichelmeyer Meats, a family owned business is a custom processing plant and also features a retail counter since 1946 and UltraSource, LLC. a company that provides equipment and industrial supplies for the food industry. Students were taken through both plants and given a behind the scenes look at the day to day operations of both facilities. After a day of tours students were in for some great BBQ and networking as they headed into the Friday evening activities. There was a mix of disciplines within Smithfield Foods key leadership team that joined the students and provided some great insights on exactly what it is like to work in the meat industry, and the journey each of them took to secure their current position in the company. The evening concluded with a lot of laughs and even a little sass from the students who were hypnotized by Dr. Al Snyder during the student mixer.

2016SLCSmallSaturday, started with an excellent keynote message from Katie Pinke who is mom of three kids and lives on the North Dakota prairie, 97 miles from a Starbuck's. Her passions include consulting, speaking, writing and primarily, juggling family life. She provided background and perspectives on why it is so critical for each one of us “muster the courage to make a change in how we communicate” and share our story. As a fellow Ag blogger she encouraged the students to take it one day at a time and to put all their interruptions into perspective. But as young professionals who like to engage in social media remember that good content always wins and just take it one day one topic at a time. This set the stage for the rest of the afternoon as students were divided into groups and had the opportunity to rotate through different sessions focused on interview techniques and tips for camera, print and radio as well as do and don’ts for engaged in social media.

Wendy Feik Pinkerton is a nationally recognized communications expert in food, agriculture and other science-based issues. Her public relations skills and scientific knowledge make for a rare combination that is ideally suited for today’s marketing environment. For the past 30 years, she has developed, implemented and evaluated crisis management, communications and marketing programs that she was able to share with the students as she guided them through print and on camera interviews. Wendy guided students through the tailoring their communications to fit their audience, perfecting their elevator speech and measuring your success rate, by asking yourself if you told a compelling story in 30 words or less. A key take away from this session, which really hit home with a lot of students, was "not to use a $5 word when a $1 word will do" especially important in an industry where we use a lot of words people really do not understand.

Susan Littlefield has been a farm broadcaster since 1990, starting out at WXCE in Amery, Wisconsin then making the move to WNAX, Yankton, SD. In 1998, she joined KZEN/Farm and Ranch Market Network, Columbus, E with her extensive background in radio she was able to shed some light on the tricks of the trade and key things to remember when preparing and giving a radio interview. Students appreciated the opportunity to participate in a live radio interview and pull together many of the skills they learned throughout the day.

In her afternoon sessions Katie dived right into all the different social media platforms and gave them some advice on things to remember as they engage and useful websites, such as TheMeatWeEat.com, that they can use. She challenged the students to pick two social media platforms and develop a SMART social media strategy. This is something that is specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based and once this is in place start sharing. Share personal stories, share daily adventures, share pictures, share resources and share all the great information that is at your fingertips. This was an exciting and engaging sessions as students were able to break into groups and generate ideas and messages to share. A final thought she had for the students was something her own father always told her, “don’t wrestle with the pigs cause you’ll both get dirty in the end and the pig loves it.”

“At the 2016 SLC students were able to refine their skills that can be directly applied to their current school, future career settings and role as advocates for our industry. SLC is always a good time for students to polish their leadership skills and catch up with friends from around the country who all share an interest in meat and animal agriculture,” stated MaryAnn Matney, Director for the AMSA Student Board and student at Kansas State University.

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