June 14, 2010
Just returned from a whirlwind trip to Des Moines, Iowa; Marshall, Mo. and Omaha, Nebr. It was a very interesting and productive week. Some random observations:
Too much moisture is definitely a problem in central/southern Iowa and northern Missouri. And this observation comes before the torrential rains of June 10-12! The crops in this area need a good stretch of hot, dry weather to get back on track.
The World Pork Expo is alive and well! I recall last year's Expo was a pretty somber affair in the midst of the H1N1 flu virus which decimated exports and market prices. One year later, exports have resumed with major buyers, and market prices have rebounded nicely for the swine industry.
The Expo trade show seemed much more upbeat with plenty of traffic and several new exhibitors that I've not noticed previously. Another key indicator: advertising sales reps that I talked to were very busy meeting with advertisers and planning for the balance of the year — always a good sign of an improving economy.
A Paulsen client exhibiting at the show indicated that international visitors were way up, especially from Asia. This client also had numerous meetings scheduled to discuss their products with show attendees.
Sara Steever, VP, Interactive Services; Kristi Moss, Media Director; Susan Janos, Marketing Specialist and I met with our new client, Mid-State Seed, in Marshall, Mo. Mid-State Seed is an impressive company that contracts with soybean growers in a large geographic area to produce soybean seed for a number of the leading seed company brands. It was an excellent initial meeting capped off by a stuffed pork loin dinner superior to any meal you would find in the finest of white-tablecloth restaurants — prepared in the Mid-State Seed company kitchen! Special thanks to Steve, Sherry, Craig and Sara from Mid-State Seed for such great hospitality.
During our whirlwind tour we met with two editorial groups representing the leading national farm publications serving our ag industry today. The purpose of these round table meetings was to discuss the future of agricultural communications and what trends are emerging that will change the ways farmers seek and use agricultural information.
Admittedly there were more questions than answers: In the realm of social media, what is relevant and meaningful to farmers, and what's not? How are farmers' media and information usage patterns changing? Where is this convergence of traditional media and new media taking us? What does all this mean to ag publishers, farm broadcasters, businesses marketing products and services to the ag market, and marketing communications firms such as Paulsen? Plenty of food for thought, but no easy and obvious answers.
A single comment stood out from these discussions that gave me an entirely new perspective on all of this. One of the senior editors made the analogy of our drastically changing communications industry as similar to the emerging space program in the late 50s and early 60s. He explained that one of the key criteria for selecting the original seven astronauts for NASA's Mercury and Gemini space programs was the applicants' ability to deal effectively with ambiguity.
Dealing with ambiguity was a critical asset, as it was extremely important for those astronauts to respond quickly to unknown and unexpected challenges as they arose.
Sounds like a desired trait for all of us trying to figure out "what's next?" in this uncertain, unpredictable world of marketing communications. No doubt about it, we all have plenty of ambiguity to deal with right now.
Until next time, see you "On the Road."