Repeat After Me: I Believe In Florida Citrus
When several new tools to combat citrus greening were approved for use in March, the Florida citrus industry rejoiced.
These long-awaited tools — foliar treatments aimed at slowing the growth of bacteria in the trees — offer a chance for growers to survive another year and buy researchers time to develop longer, more permanent solutions.
As we wrap up another season of decreased production, these tools offer hope that next year won’t be the same. However, tools are only part of
As scientists continue to develop new and innovative ways to combat this disease, we must keep consumers in mind as well. Unfortunately, there is a deep disconnect between the realities of the industry and the awareness of consumers. In fact, many Americans — even those living in the heart of citrus country — have never heard of citrus greening and are unfamiliar with the devastating effect the disease has had on Florida citrus. This disconnect can lead to a misunderstanding on the reasons behind the use of new tools.
That is why it is more important now than ever to tell our story.
At the Department of Citrus, our mission has long been to promote and protect the Florida citrus industry. Often, those were two separate tasks — offense and defense.
In order to earn and keep the support of consumers, we must align our reactive and proactive programs in a way that not only educates, but inspires in ways that create trust and show authority. Much of this can be accomplished through small changes to our current programs, which have already taken on the challenge of combining both offense and defense in the nutrition arena.
On the reactive side, we must respond, when appropriate, to coverage of citrus greening and biotechnology. As technology continues to develop, we must be prepared to respond to consumer concerns over the safety and future of Florida citrus. Using the same method currently in use for the coverage of sugar, we assess each story or inquiry to determine whether a response is necessary then pinpoint message priorities and spokespeople.
A vital component of this reactive approach includes close monitoring of the social media sphere — an endless forum for information and misinformation — where issues tend to appear first and have the potential to become trending topics quickly.
The reactive strategy is essential, but it cannot be used alone. Proactive content and placement are required to credibly reach consumers with our unique story.
All Together Now
Our positive messages are focused on increasing awareness of the state of the Florida citrus industry and educating consumers on citrus greening. Much like we have done with nutrition, we are aligning with key spokespeople and influencers who can help us connect with consumers and share stories with our target audience of millennial moms in meaningful ways.
For this task, growers are the stars. By highlighting stories from our growers and their families, we help consumers understand the challenges citrus greening poses and why it is important that we combat this disease. These stories are featured in our digital advertising programs alongside our current roster of nutrition-focused outreach.
Through this combination of offense and defense, our programs are more streamlined and allow us to effectively reach consumers with the same story through multiple avenues — and for fewer dollars.
While those of us who eat, breathe, and sleep Florida citrus know that the hopes of our industry likely rest in labs and nurseries and test groves. Our consumers may not.
That is why we must be prepared, and we must tell our story.