Farm Credit Mid-America – a $21 billion agricultural lending cooperative serving farmers and rural residents of Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee – is a well-known entity, but is was perceived by growth-oriented farmers as a stodgy, conservative operation trying to apply 20th century lending solutions to 21st century farming.
In light of this, Farm Credit needed to show that it has the expertise and agility to help these farmers succeed. They worked with Exponent PR to develop a reputation management program to make use of its wealth of expertise, improve customer service and drive them to action.
The organization defined three objectives: Grow overall loan volume year-to-year; Build awareness among current and prospective customers; and drive year-to-year engagement with current and prospective customers.
Planning began by defining an overall strategy to create and deliver interesting and useful content to demonstrate the shared purpose Farm Credit and its customers had in advancing rural America. Farm Credit developed key themes focusing on the Business of Farming, the Future of Rural America, and Curating Innovation. Farm Credit identified storytelling guidelines to keep content aligned with program goals and objectives, and identified top channels for targeting its content externally.
These included a two-day conference aimed at top farmers, endemic and programmatic digital media buys, paid radio spots, targeted e-blasts, sponsored text messages, print inserts and a cohesive media relations program that raised the credibility of Farm Credit experts to regional and national media. The team broadly defined executional timing, from creation to distribution, and developed a phased approach to bringing various channels to life.
Farm Credit also created process workflow and governance plans, capturing all activities and timing within a master editorial calendar. By adopting a “create once, publish everywhere” philosophy, the agency leveraged the content across its multiple distribution channels for maximum impact.
As part of the campaign – and a strategy that also earned them a Bronze Anvil – Farm Credit developed Insights Reports, a series of printed and digital reports consisting of bylines from Farm Credit’s executives and subject matter experts. More dynamic than a whitepaper, stories leveraged internal expertise to demonstrate the organization’s unique level of agriculture and agriculture financing knowledge to help its audience achieve its goals.
The report series was printed and emailed every three months to customers and prospects and was also available on the company’s website. Additionally, a microsite was created that housed all the reports and included a “contact us” button for more information or to inquire about getting a loan from Farm Credit.
Despite a down agricultural economy, Farm Credit reported growth in it loan volume in 2016. Media relations efforts resulted in 840 clips and more than 140,000,000 earned impressions which exceeded the goal of 400 clips and 50,000,000 impressions. Additionally, the campaign resulted in 57 interviews conducted, and an average clip quality score of 15.03 (out of 20), which exceeded the goals of 25 interviews and an average clip quality score of 14.
These numbers, and other positive metrics, demonstrated not only the value of Farm Credit’s insight and content to target audiences, but also underscored the compelling nature of the content. The success of the program reinforced the ability of Farm Credit to stand out in a crowded agricultural marketplace and establish a strong foundation for future success as a capable lending partner to 21st century farming enterprises.
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