By Demion McTair. Updated 7:14 p.m., Saturday, March 12, 2022, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).
Food Import Bill reduction and Public Relations do not seem like a congruent blend, but public relations strategy, if employed correctly, can help St. Vincent and the Grenadines reduce its food import bill.
Now, we can all agree that the food import bill, at $100 million annually, is too high. Many of us, including politicians, have touted repeatedly that we need to reduce it.
The potential impact of war and other factors on our food supply makes the case for improved local production of food increasingly relevant.
What is Public Relations?
“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”PRSA
According to the Public Relations Society of America, Inc., at its core, public relations is about influencing, engaging and building a relationship with key stakeholders across numerous platforms in order to shape and frame the public perception of an organization.
Here is how an application of public relations – Goal, Objectives, Strategies, and Tactics method can assist the country’s efforts at establishing itself as a food production powerhouse brand and ultimately reduce its food import bill.
Firstly, St. Vincent and the Grenadines needs a goal to work with. Public relations efforts start with goals and so can our plans to reduce our food import bill. We need an assessment of where we currently are and where we want to or need to be in terms of food production.
Do we want to be the breadbasket of the OECS or the Eastern Caribbean? Do we want to be as close to self-sufficiency as possible when it comes to certain types of food? Or is it that we simply want to reduce imports and increase exports? We need to begin with an overarching goal.
Without a central goal, there will be nothing to work with and we will find ourselves swinging from idea to idea with no real impactful results.– Demion McTair
To ensure that our goals are reasonable, we need to conduct some research and analysis to figure out our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. We should analyze the data properly and decide upon which areas of production are most needed and which ones are feasible to increase production in.
We can then carve out a mission statement and a vision statement which would be our overarching guiding principles in everything that we do in relation to our goal.
Secondly, once we have a clear goal in mind, we need to formulate objectives to bring some specificity to our goal. Public relations efforts have objectives and so can our efforts to reduce our food import bill. These objectives should be SMART, or at minimum, measurable. When we say SMART, we mean that our objectives must be Specific, Measurable, Achievable/Attainable, Realistic/Relevant, and Timely. These objectives must be connected to our goal.
So, let’s say that our goal towards reducing the food import bill is to increase local production. Our objectives should give specificity to that goal by addressing the key questions, including how and when.
What if in our earlier research and analysis we discover that poultry, onion production, potato production, corned fish, dasheens, coconut oil, and spring water are seven areas where we have opportunities of production growth, these can be areas we can use to set our production objectives on.
So, for instance, we can say that we want to:
1. Increase the production of poultry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by 25 percent by 2025.
2. Produce and supply 100 tons of onions on the local market by 2025.
3. Increase the supply of corned fish on the local market by 20 percent by 2023.
Previous research will give indications of where the production of the aforementioned products currently is, so that you can set clear and measurable goals as to how much you want to increase production on them and a timeframe within which to do so. Research will also give an indication of whether these objectives can be attainable given the existing strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
Thirdly, we need to give specificity to our objectives by formulating strategies. Strategies address the question of how you will achieve your objectives.
So, for instance, as it relates to our sample objective number one – “increase the production of poultry in St. Vincent and the Grenadines by 25 percent by 2025,” our strategy can be to:
Collaborate with public and private sector financing agencies to provide existing poultry farmers with financial information about incentives and opportunities for expanding their poultry production. Exposure to such information should enable the farmers to act on the information and expand.
Lastly, specific actions to bring the plan to life are called tactics. The tactics give specificity to the strategy.
What does collaboration with public and private sector financing agencies to provide existing poultry farmers with financial information about incentives and opportunities for expanding their poultry production really mean? How would you go about doing it?
You can, inter alia,
Create a list of public and private sector financing agencies that would be interested in providing grant and other financing for expansion in poultry.
Create a list of poultry farmers who have an interest in expanding their farms and increasing their production and who need financing to do so.
If we choose seven products, do research on them, set goals, smart objectives, and tactics, we can reduce our food import bill drastically and systematically.
Mr. Demion McTair is a Communication Specialist and lecturer. He is also a development activist and writer, having published pieces on the revival of the regional coconut oil industry, reparations and climate change and entrepreneurship.
Mr. McTair holds a Bachelor of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communication – IMC from the University of the West Indies, Mona (Hons.), a Certificate in Managing Projects from the University of the West Indies Open Campus, and seven years of radio broadcasting experience, among other contributions so far.