How Land O’Lakes Found a Mission Greater Than Sales

It was a highly effective second. A CNN+ interviewer asks Beth Ford, “What is the purpose of your life?”

She replies: “I hope I will know success by the number of lives I’ve touched. I hope by changing somebody’s story, by helping them succeed – if that’s what my life is and ends up being, that is going to be the best joy of my life.”

Beth is CEO of Land O’Lakes, a farmer-member-owned firm with companies targeted on agricultural manufacturing and shopper meals, together with the well-known butter.

She shares with CNN+ what she sees past enterprise in that rural panorama: “I can not inform you how painful it’s to look at a household should wrestle or to listen to that they’re doing their hardest and to fret how they’re going to feed their very own children.

“Seventy-eight percent of the counties in America that index as food-insecure are in rural America … And it’s just not right. I don’t see why we say it’s someone else’s problem. This is an American issue. It leaves us less secure.”

How did Beth and Land O’Lakes change into such fierce advocates for the American farmer? And how did that result in the CNN+ interview? That story was informed by Kim Olson, Land O’Lakes chief communications officer, at Content Marketing World.

Let’s rewind and begin from the start.

Brand position, model function

While the work in earned media and communications began as quickly as Beth was named CEO, it extra just lately has been amplified and framed in enterprise function work led by Chief Marketing Officer Heather Malenshek.

Kim explains: “Less than 1% of the population is involved in agriculture, but 100% of us have to eat. We used to talk about farmers around the dinner table. Someone had an uncle or cousin that was out on the farm. Not anymore.”

Land O’Lakes decided the next:

  • Brand perception: Farmers are the entrepreneurs who actually change the world for the higher.
  • Brand position: Magnify and champion farming’s true potential by relentless cooperation.
  • Brand function: Put farmers and retailers on the coronary heart of making a higher world.
  • Brand affect: Sustainable futures, vibrant rural communities, and protected and plentiful meals provide.

Create a persona of the model

To personalize the model function and make it extra tangible, the corporate created a persona – Maverick Advocate.

Maverick Advocate portrays bravery and resiliency, utilizing its model voice for good. The character doesn’t destroy a system however makes it higher. Kim says Maverick Advocate leads with the kindness and compassion that resilient, form, and family-oriented farmers admire.

Beth, who grew to become the president and CEO in July 2018, in some ways embodies the Maverick Advocate character. A couple of months after she began, she dined with farmer members who talked about their day-to-day lives. Beth requested how they made use of alternatives for added financial, instructional, and health-care digital assets. To her shock, the farmers mentioned they typically didn’t have alternatives as a result of they don’t have entry to web connectivity.

@LandOLakesInc CEO heard farmers didn’t have access to the internet, prompting the brand’s American Connection Project according to @BethFordLOL via @kim_l_olson @dshiao @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

Further analysis revealed over 42 million Americans lack entry to broadband web, Kim tells the Content Marketing World crowd.

Land O’Lakes had discovered its communications platform, closing the digital divide by increasing broadband entry.

Develop a multi-year technique

Kim helped conceive a three-year plan round this digital divide initiative. Beth served as the trouble’s main voice:

The first yr targeted on constructing consciousness of Beth as the brand new CEO and the Land O’Lakes model. The second yr centered on driving advocacy for closing the digital divide. Building on the success of years one and two, the third yr targeted on efficiency – increasing the robust CEO halo to enterprise and govt affect.

Let’s discover every part additional.

Year 1: Awareness

The consciousness part targeted on high-profile talking occasions, media alternatives, and op-ed articles, Kim explains. In considered one of Beth’s first appearances, she spoke on the Economic Club of Chicago. Beth found individuals had been receptive to her message and largely didn’t know concerning the subject.

On the communications facet, Kim targeted on forming a robust, unified, and constant message throughout media placements in native, regional, and nationwide retailers. She says when working with the media, momentum is essential. A couple of preliminary placements result in extra, often extra high-profile placements.

@LandOLakesInc @kim_l_olson says momentum is key in media placements. That’s what eventually brought CBS’ @60Minutes @LesleyRStahl to them, says @dshiao via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

CBS News correspondent Leslie Stahl heard Beth converse. Her employees contacted Land O’Lakes to ask Beth to look on 60 Minutes.

Kim labored with Beth to persuade the broader management crew concerning the alternative. (After all, a story on 60 Minutes isn’t all the time that flattering for a firm.)

They invited 60 Minutes to a member’s farm in Pennsylvania to see the dairy operation. They concerned Land O’Lakes chief know-how officer Teddy Bekele to debate broadband and the digital divide. The crew helped 60 Minutes inform the story of what’s taking place to farmers in rural America.

The program aired in October 2019 and it was a massive success. It generated a lot of consciousness and opened the door to extra alternatives.

Year two: Advocacy

In yr two, Land O’Lakes launched the American Connection Project (ACP) initiative to generate consciousness and advocacy to deal with the digital divide. An ACP coverage coalition included 177 firms from a number of industries that each one agreed to the significance of broadband entry for rural communities.

Joining with the 140+ orgs within the American Connection Project Broadband Coalition, we despatched a letter to @POTUS + congressional leaders urging them to spend money on broadband to shut the #digitaldivide and be certain that we #ConnectAllStudents:

— Common Sense Media (@CommonSense) January 29, 2021

Member organizations embrace Cleveland Clinic, Microsoft, and Purdue University. In this part, Land O’Lakes generated notable earned media placements. Sample headlines:

  • Land O’Lakes Played Key Role in Securing $65B for Federal Broadband Funding
  • Land O’Lakes, Inc. Teams up with Center on Rural Innovation To Launch American Connection Communities
  • Wolf Leads Bipartisan Effort in Calling on President, Congressional Leaders To Invest in Broadband Internet Access

These efforts culminated in November 2021, when Beth joined others on the White House garden when the president signed the historic infrastructure invoice:

This is a historic second for our nation, @LandOLakesInc farmer- and member-owners and their communities. Thank you to everybody who labored collectively on a bipartisan foundation to get these important investments in roads, bridges and #broadband to the President’s desk.

— Beth Ford (@BethFordLOL) November 15, 2021

Year 3: Action

During the pandemic, broadband entry grew to become extra important, heightening the seriousness of the digital divide. The Land O’Lakes crew and their members, companions, and the coalition took motion. Tina May, Beth’s chief of employees and vp, rural providers, led efforts to develop the American Connection Project.

Many offered free Wi-Fi entry to their networks of their parking tons. The American Connection Project members and different Land O’Lakes companions rallied to supply free Wi-Fi entry. In all, individuals might entry free Wi-Fi at 3,000 places.

The motion didn’t cease there. The American Connection Project added extra initiatives. American Connection Corps brings in younger fellows who return into rural communities to speak about digital connectivity and assist staff enhance their abilities. The fellows additionally present planning and consulting to those staff. The first initiative occurred in Aberdeen, South Dakota.

Follow-on part: enterprise-wide growth

In a follow-on part, Beth and members of the chief crew elevated the collective voice and affect of Land O’Lakes to the broader world of enterprise. Their earned media protection featured quite a few members of the C-suite, with placements in MarketWatch, EnterpriseBeat, National Rural Business Summit, and.

Beth now sits on The Business Roundtable, a nonprofit affiliation eWeek based mostly in Washington, D.C., whose members are chief govt officers of main U.S. firms. Beth has earned protection in broader enterprise publications, similar to Fast Company and TED.

Be the following Land O’Lakes

At first blush, you would possibly suppose, “This is a great story, but Land O’Lakes is a Fortune 500 company and this doesn’t apply to me.”

But it does. You can apply a number of issues from this story to communications in any-sized firm.

Land O’Lakes technique was concerning the viewers, not gross sales. How are you able to assist your audience’s lives?

Land O’Lakes didn’t execute its mission alone. It partnered with over 175 firms to hitch the trigger. What companies, organizations, and folks might assist you obtain your audience-focused mission?

The different key to being like Land O’Lakes? Remember, they took over three years to execute it. Create a detailed plan however be sure it’s long-term.

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Cover picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute