One of the speakers at the QMS Sharing Best Practice conference was instantly recognisable to the delegates, having been on their TV screens every evening for a week last March.
Hamish Dykes and his family played host to the BBC’s Lambing Live on their South Slipperfield Farm at West Linton, and at the conference Hamish shared some of his thoughts on how farmers can embrace PR to help promote their businesses and the Scottish livestock industry.
Hamish does not claim to be an expert on PR, but he enjoyed the Lambing Live experience and reckons it has made him more aware of the relationship between farmers and the general public.
He said: “Before being involved with the TV programme, I did not give PR much thought, but now I believe it is important. There is no other industry where the public has so much access to the workplace. It is imperative that the public appreciate and understand what farming is all about and are on our side.”
Hamish believes that, despite the work of organisations such as the Royal Highland Education Trust (RHET), the public has become more disengaged from farming and what goes on in the countryside around them.
He added: “There are fewer people working on farms now, so cottages are rented out to people who are not interested in farming.
“A change in shopping habits has also made a difference, with the demise of butcher’s shops in many villages and towns. Consumers expect meat to be vacuum-packed and available online, removing them even further from the rearing and production process.”
Since dipping his toes in the water of PR and media, Hamish now believes strongly that all farmers have a responsibility to promote their industry if they want consumers to support them by buying their produce. He said: “These are our customers, so it is important to create a positive image and build trust.”
On a personal note, he said that his family had all enjoyed the experience of Lambing Live.
His dad John, mum Kate and wife Susie are all involved in the farm business and Hamish and Susie’s two children found it enjoyable when the TV crews were present. Hamish believes that farmers have a responsibility to follow their produce through to the end process and one of his proudest moments during the filming of Lambing Live was when he persuaded the BBC to film the lambs at the abattoir.
“It was not on their agenda, but I felt it was important to show the whole story and we received some very positive feedback.”
The Dykes family believe they were fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved with Lambing Live. However, Mr Dykes did have a word of warning to farmers regarding the media.
“We were lucky, but I would advise anyone who gets the chance to contribute to the media to make sure they are aware of exactly what they are signing up for. It’s important to be sure you know what message the article/programme is aiming to convey and trust the people producing it. If you agree with that message and feel it is the right message for the industry, then support it.”