Duane Towes and Jennifer Houston


(Duane) Duane Toews joining you once again, an opportunity while at the Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show in San Antonio. A chance to catch up with Jennifer Houston. She is Vice-Chair of the Federation Division within NCBA and Jennifer certainly a great time to come to Texas and a lot of folks that get together and talk about things that are important to the industry and the checkoff side of things. Certainly a lot of good news there from that perspective. (Jennifer) Oh absolutely, it’s a wonderful time to be working with the Beef Checkoff. Last summer we heard at summer meeting about the $11 dollar and 20 cent return on investment that our checkoff has done. So, this is our important time when we start planning for next year, our committee structure which is based on the long range plan is going to come together and they’re gonna set their priorities for this year. And then our contractors will take these priorities and they’ll develop throughout the year their AR’s that come to the operating committee this fall. So, it’s absolutely wonderful and imperative that our grassroots producers, and they’re here in force, to make their voice known and what they feel is the direction the checkoff needs to be going under the guide of long range plan. (Duane) Talking about the long range plan, things evolve over time and certainly the mediums that we’re using to reach consumers have changed some in focus on what we’re trying to do there, but many a consumer on their terms is pretty important. (Jennifer) Absolutely, our target audience now is the older millennials, aged 25 to 34, a lot with small kids. And they receive their information in a much different way, which is almost all digital. We know social media, we know smart phones are never far from their hands, so we made a strategic decision, the checkoff did, over a year ago to go to an all digital marketing medium. It was a tough decision. You know, a lot of us are really proud of all of those print ads and radio ads that we had and a lot of equity that we had in those and a lot of love for ’em. But we know if we want to sell beef to this group of millennials it’s going to be the largest group of consumers before too very long, that we’re going to have to meet them on their own terms. So we’re getting wonderful resorts from this first full year of interdigital marketing medium of the kind of interaction we’re getting. And that’s what it’s all about. They don’t want to be force fed information, they want interaction. For example, I was sitting there watching TV the other night and came across my Twitter feed that they’re having short ribs on The Chew. You know try this Beef- It’s What’s for Dinner recipe for Korean BBQ short ribs. That’s the way we can get this synchronicity with digital that we never could in very targeted marketing. We talked about we used to have a shotgun approach that reached the masses. And then we… our money went a little tighter and we said, why don’t we go to a rifle approach. Well, now we’re down to the money, we have a laser approach. But we do have to change. And another change we’re gonna be looking at in 2015 is a new long range plan. We have a new long range plan committee, that are gonna be looking at- are we still where we were, do we need to change some things? Not as much from a tactical level but from a very strategic, high level. Is this still the way we need to be going? We feel we’re in the right direction but we certainly can probably use some tweaking. And that’s what this long range plan committee is going to be doing over the next few months. (Duane) Well, to continue our discussion about the Federation Division within NCBA at the Cattle Industry Convention, we’ll have more on that topic after this.
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(Duane) Welcome back as we continue our discussion with Jennifer Houston, Vice Chair of NCBA’s Federation Division in San Antonio at the Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show. You reference the opportunity for the different segments within those different committees and structure that the Beef Checkoff is working on now. Have we had enough time with that new structure to start seeing some of the benefits now from it? (Jennifer) I think we have. We’re starting our fourth… we did have some growing pains, the first year as people got used to the committees. And they’re really strange, I’m on convenience when I used to be on retail. I knew what retail was. But when you started that, what is convenience? But because they’re sort of key to the demand drivers. But we’ve also evolved over the last couple years. For example, convenience and taste share a lot of the same strategies and tactics, so for part of the meeting, convenience and taste are actually gonna meet together, so that they can hear the same information. They’ll meet separately to make their priorities, but of the information applies to both. So, we’re continually evolving the committee structure to make it better for our producers. (Duane) And ultimately the biggest goal is to reduce repetition but make sure it’s a unified picture of beef that we provide. (Jennifer) We will. We want to hit as much as can, but we want all of our contractors to hear that unified message of what beef is- a safe, wholesome nutritious product that’s reaching our target audience. And so they’ve been very good. We had very… first time last summer, we had a new feedback system, where we actually not only scored, we asked them to put written comments. And at the operating committee, that was the most valuable tool we’ve had in years. To really see what the comments were and how our contractors responded between the summer conference meeting with their committees and what they presented in their final… you know they really responded and gave us much more of what we needed to make decisions on these dollars at the operating committee level. (Duane) And exciting things that the Beef Checkoff can be very proud of. The kind of innovation and research that’s been done in the past, building on that and moving with the future. (Jennifer) Oh absolutely. Research is a key to what we do. The bold study- we’ve tried to present that to dietary guidelines. It’s researched, it’s used widely. Research on sustainability, the life cycle assessments allow us to answer some of our nay sayers with sound science. And we believe that everything we need to do has to be built on sound science. And we feel that research is going to remain a priority. It’s not just going to be peripheral, it’s going to be the backbone of everything we do at the checkoff as we talk to consumers cause that’s one thing about millennials, they want facts. And they’re hard to reach some how. But they’re not gullible, they want to know the facts, and if you can get them those facts, then they’re gonna be on your side and they’re gonna buy in to what you’re trying to do them. And the relationship builds and builds. (Duane) And certainly another point too, that would be that they like a face and a name to go along with that. And that’s where producers really can help us in that regard as well. (Jennifer) Yea, we’re talking about telling our story all the time. And starting a conversation and getting a dialogue going because they do want to know who’s raising their beef, how they’re raising it, and that really resonates with them. That you’re up in the middle of the night pulling a calf. Or you’ve got a baby calf in the kitchen. That resonates with them because that shows the care and the time that you’re putting into the food that you’re producing for their children as well as for your own children. (Duane) And the biggest thing to remind producers is that we all have a choice in that checkoff that we pay. Your voice can be heard and take that initiative to talk to people and get that ball rolling. (Jennifer) Absolutely. That’s one thing about social media, we can all talk. And I’ve seen people on social media the last year or so that didn’t know a thing about it, but that’s still their story. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 85, you can tell your story and that’s the whole point. Ken Brecken, our chair of the Beef Board talks about elevator speeches. Have a few points prepared that when you’re sitting by someone on an airplane or you’re standing in the grocery store line, that you can tell them a little bit about beef and the checkoff. Not about the checkoff, but what beef can do for you nutritionally and how we raise it and how it is a safe and wholesome food. (Duane) Our thanks to Jennifer Houston, Vice Chair of NCBA’s Federation Division for joining us at the Cattle Industry Convention and Trade Show in San Antonio. I’m Duane Toews, have a great day.

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