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Transparency Key in Anxious Times

I’m an eternal optimist. Even amidst the new COVID-19 wave, and continued political, social and economic upheaval, I try to focus on the bright side as we kick off 2022. But I think I speak for most when I say it can be challenging – as we teeter between cautiously optimistic and anxiety-ridden.

If only we could have assurances that those calling the shots when it comes to our healthcare, economy, livelihoods, food supply and the like are making the best decisions on our behalf.

The Center for Food Integrity urges the food and agriculture industries to communicate early and often to provide clarity – even when things may not be so clear. Everyone is navigating these times the best they know how. While the U.S. food supply is the safest, most abundant and affordable in the world, the ongoing pandemic continues to present unknowns, including the safety, supply and cost of food, and the stability of the labor force.

Transparency is key to effective communication and the tenants of earning trust come into play. There are six steps you can take to help allay fears and provide assurances during times of uncertainty.

  1. Listen: Monitor the conversations of your client base – online and anecdotally. Listening can help you tailor any correspondence to address their specific questions and fear
  2. Empathize: First and foremost, all communication should express empathy; acknowledge the uncertainty and anxiety. Consumers want to feel that their concerns are validated.
  3. Share: Engaging with values is important. While facts are essential in times like these, connecting on what your audiences value most is more important: health – personal and that of family and friends, a safe food supply, responsibility and accountability. Values first, facts second.
  4. Be Transparent: Be upfront about how you’re navigating the situation, acknowledging challenges and how you’ll continue to monitor and adjust.
  5. Communicate Frequently: Communicate often, without inundating. The public is likely feeling overwhelmed, so use your best judgment and provide updates and assurances when new information becomes available.
  6. Provide Avenues for Engagement: Make it easy for audiences to ask questions, offering a phone number, online form or live chat, and have processes in place to reply quickly with values-based responses and relevant facts.

While we continue to navigate unchartered territory, tried and true communications fundamentals still work. Without communication, people fear the worst. It’s important for the food and agriculture industries to help put their stakeholders’ minds at ease.

If you have questions about your communications approach, feel free to reach out. CFI provides strategic guidance, and in-person and online shared-values webinars and training. We also have some resources and videos on our consumer-facing website Best Food Facts regarding how pork, beef, chicken and turkey get from farms to our plates. I encourage you to check them out and share with your audiences, who simply want credible information from people they can trust.

Let us know how we can help!

Terry Fleck
CFI Executive Director