BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — As with any other business, print and broadcast media compete for revenue — and scoops — but there is a peer organization where those same folks set the competitive environment aside to collaborate toward professional development.
The National Agri-Marketing Association is comprised of 22 professional chapters in six regions nationwide and 33 student chapters at universities across the United States and Canada.
NAMA members include professionals in agribusinesses, advertising and public relations agencies, commodity associations and faculty, staff and students.
Amy Bradford, Growmark corporate communications manager, who served as NAMA president in 2017-2018 and has been active in both the local and state organizations for several years, received the organization’s President’s Award this past spring.
“I was totally surprised and honored to receive that. It was for dedication to the association and your work in the association, whether it’s at the local or national level,” Bradford said.
She has been involved in the local Heartland Chapter for 15 years, served as president of that organization and then become involved at the national level, serving on its executive committee before become NAMA president.
“There are chapters across the United States. The Heartland Chapter and Chicago Chapter collaborate on programming a lot of times,” Bradford said.
“One example is the chapters collaborated to tour the McDonalds corporate headquarters, seeing how they put their new food products together and how they market those to consumers. Or, there’s a Case IH production plant just outside of Chicago where we talked to them about the products that they make and how they market those to farmers.
“It really is a good place for people who are involved in helping promote agriculture and a place to get together and network with each other. There have been questions — ‘OK, so you go there and our competitors are also there?’ Yes, they are, but when I go there you don’t have on your company hat, per se. You are all in the same club and all have the same target — promoting products and services for farmers to buy.
“It’s an opportunity to even collaborate with your competitors, but in a really non-threatening environment.”
There also are student NAMA chapters with over 1,300 members. Those chapters participate in marketing competition at the annual NAMA conference. Chapters prepare and present a complete marketing plan from concept to execution.
“It’s a really competitive contest. Those student chapters spend a lot of time making those decisions about their products, putting together those presentations and then present at that conference. Growmark has been a sponsor of those competitions in the past,” Bradford said.
“Then this year they had another competition — a sales competition. It was the first time they’ve had it in the ag space. Apparently there are these sales competitions on other segments of the industry.
“We found out about it through Kansas State. K State has been involved in these for a number of years, like in the financial services, the Edward Jones of the world, they hold these sales competitions. It’s individual. The students sell a product to clients. They go through competition preliminaries and final rounds and come up with a winner.
“Growmark sponsored that this year as a way to get in front of those students who are thinking about sales because if we look at those jobs that are open in our company, in the FS companies and our Growmark system, there’s a lot of sales going on there. Not so much maybe the marketing competition side, but sales is really where we need those employees, and you get in front of the best of the brightest.
“It was rewarding for me to watch that process and the top three finalists were female. It was just really good to get in front of those kids and to see the skill that they are developing and where that can land them in the future.”
Bradford began her career in news and public relations at the Illinois Farm Bureau in the 1980s, but then ventured into broadcasting, as well as host RFD Today on the RFD Radio Network. She joined Growmark in 2007 as corporate communications manager.
Her agricultural background dates back to both of her grandfathers who farmed.
“My mom’s dad raised specialty crops — primarily melons over around Havana, Illinois. My dad’s dad was an ag teacher in suburban Chicago — Arlington Heights area — until they eliminated those programs back in the late 1970s,” she said.
“It was such a great upbringing because we’d visit both sets of grandparents. So, while not being raised on a farm I had plenty of experience still in that. My cousin on my mom’s side of the family still farms around the Latham-Warrensburg area, so I’ve got that connection there.”
Going back to NAMA, Bradford believes the organization provides beneficial opportunities and she enjoys her involvement in the group.
“It’s really a good opportunity for those of us involved in promoting agriculture to get involved in. I would encourage people who are interested in that to take a look at this organization,” she said.