AUSTIN, Texas — The second day of the United Fresh Produce Association’s BrandStorm conference covered topics from crisis management and sustainable packaging to video and podcasting.

In one session, Christopher Ranch executive vice president Ken Christopher discussed how the Gilroy, Calif.-based garlic grower navigated two significant and unusual incidents for a produce industry company. Two years ago, Netflix portrayed the company negatively in a documentary series, and last year, there was a deadly shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

The first experience prompted Christopher Ranch to begin proactively telling its own story. Ken Christopher said the company has made investments in internal media production — a green screen, lighting, microphones — to create videos that show the company’s process. Christopher Ranch has also embraced social media as a tool to connect with consumers.

“Before a couple years, we severely discounted the value of it,” Christopher said. “I thought it was kind of a joke, I thought it was superfluous. Occasionally we’d post a recipe video or an update about the festival — just didn’t really think about it.

“In the last couple years, post-Netflix, post-garlic festival, we’ve learned the extraordinary power of it, and we’ve learned to respect that,” Christopher said. “And so we give it the appropriate amount of resources and attention that it deserves. And so now we’re able to in-house design campaigns in order to get our message out.”

In addition to seeking to tell the company’s story, Christopher Ranch also seeks opportunities to be included in articles on current events, such as the trade war with China. Christopher calls this “hacking the news cycle.” 

While Christopher Ranch has spent money on video production, Christopher notes that companies don’t have to spend anything to get started.

“My recommendation would be, for every small farm out there, for every small produce company out there, find a member of the family that’s authentic, get out your iPhone, start recording stories, because people care about that kind of authentic, human-related content,” Christopher said.

Later in the day, a conversation-based session delved deeper into the power of video and ways it can be used in fresh produce marketing.

Industry members in that discussion talked about how to make the most of video investments by using footage in multiple ways and for various platforms. Other topics included captioning, length of videos, what kind of editing software to use, the potential for 360 videos, influencer video, and more.

Another BrandStorm session covered podcasting, a rapidly growing medium nationwide but often difficult to monetize.

Lori Taylor, founder and CEO of The Produce Moms, suggested companies consider whether hosting a podcast is a worthwhile endeavor for them or whether seeking guest spots is a better strategy. Because a produce-specific podcast is a niche podcast, reach is limited, but the additional exposure to the right audience can be powerful.

“It is the ultimate storytelling platform,” Taylor said. “You control the narrative. You are the human element of what is a very big business.”

Taylor noted that an essential element for a podcasting plan is the commitment to post at least once a week. She suggested having five episodes recorded before starting to provide some cushion to get the next set of guests booked and next set of episodes recorded.

She described podcasting as well worth the investment for her organization because of the opportunities it has created.

“It’s the most important thing my business does because of the power of networking and the importance of networking when you are doing this type of marketing that we do at The Produce Moms and when you’re crafting your brand to be an industry thought leader,” Taylor said.

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