President's message

"A good story trumps facts every time"

On a recent trip into Washington, DC, I was listening to a public relations vice president (VP), who works for a 300-member Chicago law firm, tell about his job and what he needs to accomplish in his work. He said something that caught my attention. He said, "You have to tell a good story, because a good story is compelling and will trump a truckload of facts every time." Of course, he was talking about getting the attention of the public on issues that mattered to his represented law firm. It made me stop and think about our profession and issues that frequently get us "lathered up."

How do anti-meat organizations (e.g., People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) raise so much money? They tell a story the public wants (and in some cases needs) to hear. They appeal to the soft side of the human spirit. After all, who can't be for taking better care of the animals on the earth! The point made by the law firm's public relations VP is that when we prepare to communicate information to the public, we should remember that a story told well is much more effective than just facts.

All this brings me to a recent activity where I represented AASV. The official launch of the Swine Welfare Assessment Program (SWAP) was held on August 5, 2003, at the John Kellogg farm in Illinois. I was there to be available for questions from the media. The purpose of the event was to give the media a first-hand view of SWAP and how it is to be implemented in the swine industry. The setting for the media day and the launch was ideal. We had a great story to tell and the media came away with many excellent stories to pass on to their readers and listeners. I was interviewed several times. Most of what I said was retold well. Maybe some of you saw my comments in swine publications. Many thanks to Tom for helping me with the press release and preparation for that day. The AASV, and the many fine veterinarians it represents, had a strong role in SWAP development and the evolving role we play in swine welfare. Kudos to Drs Anna Johnson and Paul Sundberg and the staff at the Pork Board for this well-planned event.

The story we tell daily is important to the work we do. Rarely am I asked about food animals when someone finds out I am a veterinarian. The assumption is (I think) that all veterinarians treat companion animals. Of course, I go on to explain what I do and how the food they eat is wholesome, secure, and safe (I'm appealing to something near and dear to them). This seems to engage them in a better conversation than if I try to explain how we raise and manage pigs. I guess that is what the VP of marketing was trying to make me understand. We must appeal to consumers at their level, hence "A good story trumps facts every time".

Here is hoping your summer was filled with family, friends and rewarding work.

-- Rick Sibbel