When Kristin Brekke Vandersnick came onboard as the communications director for the South Dakota Farm Bureau, one of the first things that caught her eye was the organization’s magazine. “The publication had served South Dakota Farm Bureau well, but it had remained largely the same for at least 20 years,” Kristin explains. “It was definitely time for an upgrade.”
Central to the process of reimagining the publication was determining how to address the significant shift in the publication’s audience that had occurred over that two-decade time span. “We mail our magazine to more than 13,000 member families across the state of South Dakota,” Kristin states. “Our readers are farmers, ranchers and, increasingly, Farm Bureau insurance policy holders.”
In fact, Kristin discovered that roughly two-thirds of their readers are now associate members—affiliated because they hold Farm Bureau Insurance policies. “Our content was heavily focused on an agricultural audience, so we had to ask the question, ‘If I am a teacher in Mitchell or a dentist in Pierre and I get something in the mail called Ag Leader, am I going to read it? Probably not.’”
Creating a roadmap
With that in mind, Kristin and the Farm Bureau leadership committed to creating a fresh look and content that spoke to both their producer and associate member audiences. The first step was sitting down with VistaComm to talk big picture and create a roadmap for the redevelopment of the publication.
“Even though this was a huge project for us, VistaComm made it easy,” Kristin says. “Everyone at VistaComm was great to work with. They laid out the steps for us in an orderly way, kept to the timeline, put their creative team to work, and worked with us to create a great product.”
A new approach to editorial content addressed the need to stay true to the Farm Bureau mission while effectively communicating to different audience segments. “We used to speak almost exclusively to our producer members, discussing how South Dakota Farm Bureau was addressing farm policy issues,” Kristin says. “Now we’re featuring two farm and ranch families in each issue, helping to tell their story and the story of agriculture to an audience that isn’t as familiar with the rural lifestyle. We want this to be an easy and informative read. We want our entire audience to get to know these farm and ranch families.”
The news about farm policy and Farm Bureau activities that their traditional readers look for is still there in its own dedicated section following the feature stories. “Our readers will be able to easily find exactly what they want in every issue,” Kristin says.
As Kristin admits, change isn’t easy. But when a clear path to change is established and followed, the end result is worth the effort. “I’m glad our board was receptive to a change of this scale,” Kristin concludes. “We basically started over, and we achieved what we set out to do. Personally, I absolutely love the new magazine. It’s modern, fresh, and really friendly, and we have received very positive feedback from our members.”
View the pdf version of SD Farm Bureau’s Town and Country Connection.