Marketing Tool: Publicity and Community Relations
There are many ways to spread the word about your business using alternative, free methods of getting publicity. The possibilities for drawing people in are endless, but here are some ideas to get you started.
First, look back at your earlier work and think about your brand. If the brand that you are working to communicate is based on sophistication and luxury, then having a presence at the county fair may not be the best way to further your brand. If your brand is homey and family-oriented, then the county fair is probably a great opportunity. Think about your target audience and the sorts of outreach that is likely to reach them. And, finally, think about your own skills and resources.
Events and Festivals
- Participate in community events to introduce yourself to new customers. Have a booth at town fairs or have a float in the town parade.
- Use a film to get people talking and as a jumping-off point to tell your farm’s story. Hold a screening at your local library of a film like King Corn or The Real Dirt on Farmer John.
- Work with the schools to reach kids through school visits or field trips.
- Large harvest festivals can be a great way to get people to the farm and to build goodwill. They can be quite draining, so focus your efforts on one or two a year. See CISA’s guide, Creating Successful Agritourism Activities for Your Farm.
- Some farms have had success by partnering with other local businesses, such as renting out the farm to a local restaurant for a farm dinner or hosting a local wine and cheese tasting.
- Offering classes on the farm can help build relationships with customers and position you as a local farming expert. Topics such as chicken care, composting, and food preservation, have been very successful on farms. See our Tipsheet for Workshops and Events for more detailed tips on offering a successful class.
- Day-to-day events, like chicks hatching, can mean a lot to people who don’t live on farms. Invite them to participate!
Spreading the Word
- If you have kids in school, you can send postcards home with their fellow students.
- If you’re selling to a local restaurant or retailer, talk to them about how you can work together to spread the word about your partnership.
- Be available to local news sources. Especially in an agricultural area like the Pioneer Valley, media outlets run stories throughout the year about how the weather is affecting local farms, how the harvest looks, and so on. If you get a call from a reporter, respond right away and do your best to be available for an interview. Once reporters know that they can count on you to be available, you’re likely to be the first farmer they call, and this mutually beneficial relationship can mean some great free publicity for your business.
- Send a letter to the editor on a topic that is relevant to your business. See our Sample Letter to the Editor for an example.
Case Study #1: Robin Hollow Farm
With a crop as sensitive as cut flowers, harvesting and doing sales at the farm every day would lead to a lot of lost product and would require expensive staff time, so Robin Hollow Farm doesn’t have a farm stand. This means that many of their customers never see the farm, but having an open-door policy can create real distractions on the farm. In order to create an opportunity for customers to connect with the farm in a way that works for her, Polly organizes several on-farm events each year, including an annual plant sale and a few holiday events. They are also available by appointment for garden club tours. Polly notes, “this way, we get to choose the terms under which we’re open to the public.”
Case Study #2: Crow Farm
Crow Farm is known locally for hosting school field trips. Each fall, groups of kids pour into the farm for a tour, and they all leave with an apple they picked themselves. The walls of one of the storage buildings are papered with thank you notes in childlike print. The schools pay a couple of bucks per child, but Paul says that this offering is more about positioning the farm in the community. Parents come in, curious about the farm that their child just visited, and, Paul says, “a lot of our customers
remember coming here as kids.” Paul is moving towards doing more on the farm to attract publicity and shoppers. He planted a Pick-Your-Own orchard, which is a feature that many customers have asked about. It would be a unique offering in the area, and would serve to extend the feeling of connection that the community has with the farm. He is also interested in the possibility of hosting a farm to table event with a local restaurant. There are a few potential restaurant partners in the area, and Paul has the perfect field to host a party (in fact, his wedding was in that field in 2005!).
This material is based upon work supported by USDA/NIFA under Award Number 2010-49200-06201.
In accordance with Federal law and US Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
To file a complaint of discrimination, write USDA, Director, Office of Civil Rights, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410, or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (TDD).