Project case study: When, to sell your product, you first must change mindsets

The problem: The fresh produce and floral industry is facing a talent crisis. To be sustainable, to better meet our supply chain needs and to connect with consumers, we’ll need different skill sets than we have traditionally employed – from science and technology, to data analytics, to marketing communications. Yet generally, our industry’s HR capabilities aren’t up to the task to attract, develop and retain talent who doesn’t even know about us unless she or he grew up in our industry. In short, we aren’t strategic.

The solution: To help our industry elevate its strategic HR game, in late 2018 the nonprofit Center for Growing Talent by PMA launched an ambitious initiative called HRvest. This industry-specific HR assessment tool can guide companies to transform their HR capability, and is the foundation of a new bevy of retention-focused resources that join CGT’s existing talent attraction and development resources. But before CGTbyPMA could explain this extraordinary new tool enough to “sell” it – it’s free to our industry, and comparable to what Fortune 500-type companies pay many thousands of dollars for – first CGT must educate industry on the value of strategic HR. Clarity helped CGT to develop and execute a launch communications plan to do just that.

What YOU can learn from this project:

  • Patience, Grasshopper: If you’ve got a groundbreaking new idea, position, product or service, take a long-term view about building the market for it. That can be a radical concept at a time when instant gratification is the expected norm. But changing mindsets or behavior takes time and effort; you can’t expect to get dramatic results overnight. That said, you can watch your benchmarks to make sure you’re in fact progressing toward your goal on some sort of realistic schedule. If you’re not, then adjust your plan.

To promote HRvest, first CGT has to change industry behavior to embrace strategic HR. So, we spent about six months just laying initial groundwork to teach industry the value of strategic HR before we introduced the HRvest assessment tool. We used nearly every tool in the communications toolbox, even briefing key trade media to help them report on talent topics.

That’s what we did just to support HRvest’s launch; it will take much longer to bring about a significant industry behavioral shift.

  • Know your target audience(s): While it seems obvious, organizations often struggle to speak to their customers. How can you expect to succeed if you aren’t talking to the right people? Once you’ve IDed your target audiences, that should drive the rest of your communications plan, including what you say to them (aka key messages), and the comms channels and vehicles you use to reach them.

For CGT’s HRvest launch project, we knew that demand for a strategic approach to HR and HRvest would have to come primarily from the top down, so we used communications channels and developed communications tools that we knew would reach the C suite as well as industry HR pros.

  • Relentlessly focus on delivering key messages: Once you know your key audience(s), then you can craft key messages to reach them… and repeat and reinforce them relentlessly. While you might get a little bored by this, in today’s crowded communications environment it is absolutely necessary to cut through that clutter to be heard and remembered. (Me, I’ve gotten quite good at casting the same content 5, 6, 7 different but equally interesting ways.)

BTW, those key messages must speak to the needs and interests of your target audience(s) – that will get their attention, not a sales pitch that serves only your purposes.

For this CGT launch project, strategic HR is a new topic for many in our industry. So, as we developed each of CGT’s communications tools, we constantly referred to our key message guide to ensure we were hitting on all our key messages.

  • Get maximum mileage from your communications materials: As I’ve written before in this blog, no communications tool should be single-use. To borrow a phrase, “Reduce, re-use, recycle”. A small set of well-designed communications materials will serve you best. Then you can splash a communications vehicle in its entirety – say, a white paper or research report – and then chunk its content out into pieces through various channels to extend its shelf life.

For example, CGT wrote a series of thought leadership articles about strategic HR for key trade media outlets. We then brought more eyeballs to those articles by posting them and parsing their content throughout CGT’s website, emails, social media feeds and more.

It was an honor to work on a project that’s integral to our industry’s very future. Click here to learn how you can tap into CGT’s resources, and to support their important work to help the fresh produce and floral industry to attract, develop and retain talent.