Lockdown Efforts Pay Off as Union Engagement Soars

Pictured: NFU Scotland Vice President Martin Kennedy.

Since the lockdown was announced on 23 March, NFU Scotland staff and officeholders have continued to use innovative ways of communicating with Union members as well as producing important messages for the general public on Scottish food and farming.

Despite the lockdown forcing staff to work from home and not allowing for any physical meetings being held anywhere, the Union has continued to operate a full capacity with committees, working groups and the Board of Directors all meeting regularly.

With the situation around Covid-19 and the lockdown changing so frequently, NFU Scotland’s board has met virtually 13 times to date.

This has allowed for complete transparency and regular input from all regions and sectors on any decisions being made by the Union.

Every region in Scotland, from Shetland to Dumfries and Galloway, has managed to have at least one regional board meeting during the last three months. 

The success of those videoconference events has sparked monitor meetings and branch meetings around the country being conducted in a similar way.

A total of 42 virtual meetings have been held throughout all the regions.

Social media has been a key platform for the Union to not only keep members up to date but also communicating with the public during lockdown.

This meant relying on input from officeholders and board members, including videos, pictures and blogs.

The Union’s social media content included two hugely successful videos where Scottish farmers and crofters thanked consumers for their support and encouraging them to buy local. 

Involving members from around the country and produced in house by members and staff, they reached more than 250,000 people on Facebook.

The Union’s Facebook page has also hosted video blogs from each of the Vice Presidents and a series of videos from commodity chairman explaining their committee’s plans for coming out of lockdown.

The increased variety of content has also boosted the Union’s followers on Facebook by almost 1,700, rising from 9,062 at the start of lockdown to 10,727 on Monday 15 June.

Every NFU Scotland Region also has its own Facebook page and they have also seen a 20 per cent increases in followers, highlighting how effective the communication has been from national to regional level.

NFU Scotland reacted quickly to the labour crisis during the lockdown period, setting up a portal for furloughed workers to apply for farm vacancies on fruit and vegetable farms created by the absence of foreign workers. 

Set up in a 24-hour period, the farm jobs page on the Union’s website has had 108,325 views.

The establishment of a standalone Coronavirus section on the website, and an essential Question and Answer section updated daily by policy staff saw the total number of visits to the website climb to a staggering 223,949.

Politically, NFU Scotland has kept its foot on the gas and continued to lobby politicians and maintain the strong relationships which had been built pre Covid-19.

An overview of the Covid-19 impact on Scottish agriculture has been sent to 129 MSPs and 59 Scottish MPs on a weekly basis since lockdown began as well as daily discussions with Ministers, MPs and MSPs involving a number of staff and officeholders in this time.

At a regional level, more than 70 parliamentarians from across Scotland have so far attended a series of open Zoom meetings with NFUS members over the last few weeks and that programme of engagement concludes with the Ayrshire regional meeting on Friday (19 June).

NFU Scotland Vice President Martin Kennedy said:

“It is fantastic to see how the staff and members have embraced the different technologies available to us in order to keep in touch and keep our vital industry going.

“With lockdown forcing consumers to look at the way they shop and consider where their food comes from and how it is produced, the Union has been able to produce some excellent videos, blogs and infographics which will have helped to inform those looking to learn more about their food.

“Keeping in contact with members was a priority for us the minute lockdown was announced. 

“A message of reassurance was sent from our President to every member and from the figures for social media and the website, it is clear we have been successful.

“During these strange times it is important to listen as well as talk and along with the regional, branch and monitor meetings which have already been held, it is important for NFU Scotland members to know that we are still open for business and available to take their enquiries.”