Megan Gaul (back) enjoys hair bows rather than cross bows, but like Sally, she has become an integral part of CAST’s move into social media. As Administrative Assistant for Membership and Marketing, Megan uses her skill at design and fashion to good effect while creating photo collages or web page formats for CAST—see story below for more about her input. Megan danced around with several majors in her first year of college, but this ISU sophomore has settled on communications and event planning as her academic interests.
Talented Interns from the Smartphone Generation Help CAST
Reach New Audiences
I still visit with farmers and haunt the rolling acres where I grew up on a grain and livestock family farm, so I know that some of the best communication comes face-to-face---at kitchen tables, implement stores, or the local feed store. But many farmers are using Twitter, Facebook, and blogs as enthusiastically as their urban cousins, and the organization I work for knows that digital techniques help convey the science-based information that policymakers and the public need to know about food and those who produce it.
Along with the traditional print publications, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology has been producing videos, a website, and an e-newsletter for several years. The response has been good as visitors from the United States and around the world learn about science-based agriculture.
Social media adds another layer to these options, and at CAST, the digital charge has been led by young people. The small CAST staff benefits from a steady infusion of enthusiastic, talented interns from Iowa State University, and several of the students have initiated programs that add to CAST's communication tactics.
Elizabeth Burns-Thompson led the charge with her passion for ag and communication. She understood how Twitter and other movements would influence the way agricultural sectors link up. Elizabeth moved on to law school and ag/communication work, but her ideas started the social media movement at CAST.
During the past year, two younger interns have continued the trend. Sally Gorenz grew up riding horses and feeding cattle on an Illinois farm, but she also is part of the generation that thinks of smartphones as a natural evolution of humans and their opposable thumbs. Sally keeps CAST involved with Twitter; she contributes net links to CAST's e-newsletter; she is starting a CAST presence on Google+; and she is the face behind CAST's Facebook site. As Sally points out, "Facebook is still the number one social media outlet, and through it you can reach many different audiences. By getting involved you open yourself and your organization up for many different possibilities." Sally has successfully instituted the "CAST Catch of the Day" feature on our Facebook page--a daily item of interest that often gets retweeted.
Sally keeps up with other trends also. "Social media is always changing in one way or another. Staying on top of it helps you put a name to your organization, expand your network with the click of a mouse, and keep you on your toes for the next social media outlet that is coming your way."
Another ISU intern calls on her experience as a communications major--and as a former dance team member--to keep on her digital toes. Megan Gaul uses her talents at design to format collages on Photoshop, and she has created a Pinterest page for CAST, with a special focus on food safety and other issues that are both informative and visual. She explains the new format. "We have recently started using Pinterest as a way to get people looking at CAST. This popular new form of social media is a virtual bulletin board that allows users to organize and share their interests with others. People use it to plan weddings, decorate homes, plant gardens, and share recipes, among many other things. Viewers can browse through other people's boards to discover new products and ideas. We've started boards that focus on food and food safety, plants and gardens, animals, and the always entertaining ag humor. As Pinterest continues to explode in popularity, we hope that it draws the younger generation's attention to CAST and what we do here."
Other staff members stay plugged into the tools needed to keep ag and science information flowing, but the students who serve as administrative assistants help CAST broaden its audience and deliver its message. by dan gogerty