Real world point-of-view from R+K

Real World Point-Of-View From R+K

R+K CEO Diane Martin recently provided her perspective on agency life to first-year ag communications students at the University of Illinois. She offered the students advice on recruitment and current generation gaps. Her presentation also featured a video with insights from R+K staff on what agency life is really like.

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R+K creates FS Nutrient Management website

R+K Creates FS Nutrient Management Website

A new website developed by R+K, www.FSnutrientmanagement.com, is helping FS better connect with their customers on the benefits of nutrient management.

Proper nutrient management plays an important role in farmers achieving their yield goals. As consumer concerns about nutrient run-off in watersheds and environmental regulations increase, more farmers are seeking a trusted advisor to help them develop nutrient management plans that maximize nutrient utilization for higher yields and at the same time minimize environmental impact.

FS, the highly respected agriculture and energy retailer and part of GROWMARK, Inc., has been instrumental in leading the development of best practices and nutrient management programs in collaboration with government and local agricultural agencies. FS saw their nutrient management experience as an opportunity to continue expanding their agronomy consulting services. For the initiative to be successful, FS knew it required a web solution to serve as a resource for the FS retailer and their customers.

FS turned to R+K because of its knowledge of the FS brand, experience developing other FS websites including the new fssystem.com, and digital expertise with B2B customer-facing websites.

“R+K has been a long-term strategic partner with FS and GROWMARK. Collaborating closely with FS, we led the creation of this website and its valuable nutrient management content. The work captures the essence of the FS brand to deliver forward-thinking solutions,” said R+K Senior Account Supervisor Laura Findling, who managed the project.

The website launched in June. It features extensive content on the benefits of nutrient management, best practices, resources and the nutrient management program N-Watch. In addition, video content includes insights from highly regarded nutrient management experts including Dr. Howard Brown, Director of Nutrient Management and Environmental Stewardship at GROWMARK. “Initial reaction to the site from our client has been very positive. We are looking forward to the next step – supporting this new website through a content-driven communications plan,” said Findling.

“We have been very pleased with the feedback from our FS partners and customers on our nutrient management website. Rhea + Kaiser’s lead on the overall development of the site, including design and content, align strategically with our commitment to our customers, keeping them at the forefront of this increasingly important issue,” said Bev Long, GROWMARK Marketing Communications Manager, Agronomy.

This website is the latest example of R+K’s industry-leading strategic and digital capabilities. Visit www.rkconnect.com for more on Rhea + Kaiser, its capabilities, staff, award-winning work, industry insights and career opportunities.

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Back to school

Back To School

It’s that time of year … time to go back to school. No, not the kids, but us here at R+K. Time to dig deep and learn more about the trends affecting our industry and the industries of our clients.

Recently our agency held a “Stories from the Road” session for all off our staff. In it, several R+Kers shared takeaways from the seminars, conferences and workshops they recently attended.

One nice piece of information that our SVP Jeff Walter shared was that a number of millennials who grew up using mobile devices are now in getting into decision-making positions (in marketing or procurement departments). These millennial decision-makers rely on mobile devices to search for potential contractors, including agencies. Since 93 percent of decision-makers on the client side begin their agency search of prospective agencies online, it points to the importance of having a mobile-optimized website (for that mobile device-obsessed group) that shows off your agency’s capabilities, personality and, maybe even more importantly, its ability to resolve clients’ problems.

Which gets me to a point our President/CEO Diane Martin brought up, when meeting a new business contact don’t necessarily talk about “you the agency.” Make the conversation about them. Engage them on what their issues and challenges are then integrate what the agency does well and how the agency has developed solutions for those facing similar situations.

As a PR practitioner, I am always seeking out more how my profession continues to evolve. When I started out in the agency world, the media was a primary source of information for clients’ target audiences. They still are but many times to a lesser degree. Now clients’ are publishing their own content driving customers to their own channels and bypassing the media. Part of this process involves social PR. Social channels are now sources of media for clients’ customers … and even media, too. Another part is search. It is critical for us to understand what the intent of the searcher is, because those folks are seeking out news about our clients and their brands. We – and our clients – need to provide valued content the audience can find easily. Moreover, as our VP of PR Rob Merritt noted during our session, search outlets have now surpassed media in terms of trustworthiness, making search an essential element of any communications plan moving forward.

I appreciate that Rhea + Kaiser holds these “Stories from the Road” sessions. Not only is great information shared, but it also builds teamwork and enhances communication. If your agency, business or organization does not conduct these learnings sessions on a regular basis, I would wholeheartedly recommend it, because going “back to school” can provide a fresh perspective, a friendly reminder and a few new ideas that you can integrate into your communications efforts.

Greg Lammert is a PR Senior Account Supervisor who enjoys listening to stories just as much as he does telling stories for his clients.

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Farm progress show aftermath

Farm Progress Show Aftermath

The 2015 Farm Progress Show (FPS) has come and gone. For those with clients at the show, you spend the week after FPS catching up on missed emails, checking in on projects and following up on client requests from the show. Sometimes in the immediate aftermath of FPS you don’t have much time to think about any trends you saw. But in that week or so after FPS winds down, you should find time to digest the bombardment of the show’s marketing messages and have a few conversations with colleagues. That’s when trends start to emerge.

The R+K team plans their expedition.

My colleague Laura Findling had an interesting perspective on FPS exhibits … there didn’t seem to be much innovation. Exhibits hadn’t changed much from the previous year or two. Visitors come to shows like FPS with some level of expectation about brands they use or have interest in, but doubt can creep in when exhibitors don’t meet those expectations. Laura made a great point in our conversation. She said exhibitors must have a plan on what experience they want to provide for customers and the desired reaction from customers who visit the exhibit.

R+K SVP Jim Haist mentioned a number of exhibitors set up stations around their exhibit. The visitors would go from station to station and gather or provide information in order to be eligible for a prize. Yes, this can be a good strategy for capturing customer leads, but don’t make it so complex that customers get frustrated. Jim said sometimes keeping it simple works best. After all, you want to make that customer experience a pleasant one, something that positively stands out as they drive home that day or when they sit down in their office to plan out their year.

To take Laura’s and Jim’s thoughts a step further, there should be specific metrics built into trade show plans to measure customer engagement at these events. You want the customer to leave your exhibit feeling good about your brand and that they learned something. And having a clear-cut plan and measureable goals can help you get there.

Speaking of engagement, social and digital engagement continues to grow at FPS. Our Digital Account Manager Brian Stack attended his first Farm Progress Show. Aside from the obligatory “it’s big” or “it was hot,” he noticed right away exhibitors’ efforts to get show visitors engaged in social conversations. Brian said a number of exhibitors created show- or issue-specific hashtags encouraging visitors to join the conversation. Then the exhibitors used video walls in their exhibits to livestream these conversations on their social channels. Even a few exhibitors and organizations had staff wearing t-shirts with hashtags printed on them in an effort to stimulate social engagement.

One of the time-honored traditions of attending Farm Progress Show is to walk through all the heavy equipment exhibits. You want to see what new pieces of equipment the major manufacturers are introducing. Maybe even climb into the cab of a next-generation combine, tractor or sprayer. However, this year seemed different in those usually packed exhibits. Perhaps it was the incredible heat, but R+K President and CEO Diane Martin had a different insight … the overall ag economy. Unlike five or so years ago when the farm economy was strong and farmers were making large capital purchases, Diane said, this year farmers are feeling the pinch of low commodity prices and rising production costs. This has caused farmers to fine tune their operations with smaller capital investments like specialty equipment and in selecting crop protection and seed products that maximize ROI. Such seemed the case as Diane noticed increased farmer traffic at the exhibits of specialty equipment manufacturers and crop protection and seed companies.

So as we put another Farm Progress Show in the books, remember the aftermath shouldn’t be about the weather, all the work you missed or the next hot project. It should be about what you learned like the trends and observations that stood out, both good and bad. Spend some time reviewing the farm show. Do it over lunch with a colleague, maybe even one who was there with a different client. Have conversations with your client. Then capture that information. You’ll likely discover how much of a learning experience a farm show can be, and then carry that knowledge forward as you help clients maximize their customer engagement opportunities – and budget – at farms shows.

Greg Lammert is a PR Senior Account Supervisor who enjoys getting out to farm shows – no matter how hot or muddy it gets – because there is always something to learn there.

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