It's time for your brand to start paying you back

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You've spent decades investing in your brand—nurturing that brand, extending that brand, rethinking, repositioning and even reinventing that brand. You've kept that brand alive through the most turbulent decade in b-to-b media history. If you stayed true to your mission while adapting your business to new audience needs, your brand may be more unassailable than ever before. In our case, we are blessed with one of the legendary brands in b-to-b, the 134-year-old Farm Journal, which has had a significant influence in shaping both farm country and agricultural policy. Every industry has its brand leaders with a similar influence and, if you're creative and think big, you can use your brand to advocate for the industry you cover; to help marketers reach your audience in new and effective ways; and to build your bottom line in the process. At Farm Journal Media, we're using our brand strength to create advocacy and educational programs that address two of agriculture's biggest problems. First, our Farm Journal Legacy Project confronts the lack of succession planning for an aging farm population. Second, we've formed the Farm Journal Foundation to help fight hunger and to change consumer misconceptions about modern agriculture. To some degree, these programs were invented by necessity, a necessity driven by how the business media industry has been transformed over the last decade. Today, print media represents only about 35% of Farm Journal Media, down from about 70% a decade ago. Digital is more than 30% of our business. Despite the changes in our business, print has grown slightly in the past decade. We achieved 22% organic revenue growth in 2010. We anticipate 20% organic growth again in 2011. About 80% of that growth stems from products developed in the last three years, and our industry advocacy programs are the biggest individual drivers of that organic growth. The Farm Journal Legacy Project, which is funded in part by a grant from DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred unit and to a lesser degree by government grants, recently won the Grand Neal Award from American Business Media. The project is envisioned as multidecade, multimedia commitment to providing awareness, education and practical tools to hundreds of thousands of farmers who are grappling with transferring their acreage to the next generation. The average age of the American farmer is 58. They typically are the third generation farming their land and they want to pass the farm along to the next generation; yet only 20% have an adequate plan to do so. Farm Journal has reams of research, educational materials and other information addressing the complex issues surrounding estate planning for farmers. With significant funds coming from grants, the program is fueled by sources of funding other than traditional advertising and promotion budgets. There must be similar issues facing your industry that your brand could take the lead in addressing. Another of our new projects is the Farm Journal Foundation. The organization is a public charity, a nonprofit 501(c)3 corporation. The organization's first program has been Farmers Feeding the World. The program's mission is “bringing together disparate anti-hunger efforts across agriculture to directly fund anti-hunger and educational programs.” Our ultimate goal is to raise $100 million annually from farmers, agribusinesses, government and consumers in the fight against worldwide hunger. At the same time, we will address misperceptions about modern agricultural technology, which is by far the best tool in the fight against world hunger. We see the Farm Journal Foundation as another multidecade advocacy commitment. In addition to aiding hunger-fighting programs such as Heifer International, the foundation runs ads in Farm Journal Media properties as well as competitive agricultural titles to raise funds and support its mission. We also run ads in brands that reach Washington, D.C. and other influencer groups. Additionally, we have a consumer-focused exhibit that will make appearances at such events as the Indianapolis 500 and Taste of Chicago. The exhibit is designed to educate millions of consumers and also to support fundraising. The Farm Journal Foundation can help feed millions of people, advocate for our industry and strengthen our brand while generating new growth for our company. It is a win-win-win scenario. If tackling those problems works in agriculture, I believe advocacy programs using strong business media brands can work just as well in your industry. Andy Weber is CEO of Farm Journal Media. He can be reached at [email protected]
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