Biz Blog Profile Series: Stonyfield Farm - Stonyfield Farm Blog "Cow"munities

05/17/2005

Stonyfield Farm "got" talking to customers long before the internet and long before blogs. In the good ole days, back in 1983, when the company was milking cows, they use to write "Let's hear from you" on the back of yogurt lids. Flash forward to 2004 and this innovative organization is still creating emotional ties with customers but this time through the World Wide Web and with the talents of Chief Blogger, Christine Halvorson. Yes, dear divas there is such a title as chief blogger and if you're very lucky you may one day hold it too.

Biz Blog Profile: Stonyfield Farms Blog "Cow" munities

About Stonyfield Farm

We are the world’s largest producer of organic yogurt and began business in 1983 with “7 cows and a good yogurt recipe.”  Today we produce something like 18 million cups of yogurt a month, and have a staff of about 280 people working in our Londonderry, New Hampshire plant. That’s not to mention the many organic family farmers who supply us with milk and, of course, the cows.

Why Stonyfield Farm is Blogging

Our CE-Yo (yes, that’s what we call him) Gary Hirshberg really saw the potential for blogging as a way to continue to stay connected to our very loyal consumer base as we grow and grow.  He has referred to blogging as “a handshake with the customer” and really wants us to be real and authentic in our blogs. After he saw the success of Stonyfield_farm_cow_computerblogging as used in presidential campaigns, he took the idea by the horns and hired Christine Halvorson as Chief Blogger. But---here’s the catch---she didn’t just do one blog, she started in April 2004 with 5!

Baby Babble A daily web log, or blog, where parents can meet up, rant, offer and seek advice, or just tell us their trials and triumphs.

Strong Women Daily News
The latest news and insights from our Strong Women partners

The Bovine Bugle
Daily moos from the Howmars Organic Dairy Farm

The Daily Scoop
Daily life at the yogurt works, and daily ways we try to nurture and sustain the environment

Creating Healthy Kids
Daily updates from our Menu for Change healthy food in schools program

How Blogs Fit Into Stonyfield Farm's Marketing Strategies

Well, we really aren’t seeing it as a marketing tool, per se.  We continue to do the usual things: We have four e-newsletters. We have a great and very popular web site. We do promotions and contests.  We talk about the blogs in some of those other tools, and vice versa.  In the Strong Women Daily News and Creating Healthy Kids blogs, we occasionally talk about two p.r. initiatives we have—Strong Women Summits about women’s health and “Menu for Change”, a program that seeks to rid public schools of junk food!  All along, it’s kind of an experiment—the blogging—and we so far see it as worthwhile. Our customers are relating to us in a unique and different way now.

Selling-in To Management

See the above comment. I give Gary a lot of credit for seeing the potential of blogging and how it could apply to his business.  I think he would say that he talked the rest of his management team into the idea—he says they hadn’t even “heard” of blogging before he brought it up—and he worked to allay their fears.  There were concerns with maintaining a consistent company voice but, really, it only came down to worrying about giving away proprietary information. Other than that, we haven’t bogged down the blogs with a lot of rules or restrictions, and the company has really embraced them.

How Stonyfield Farm is Marketing Its  Blogs

As mentioned above, we do talk about them in our e-newsletters. We have had some banner ads running now and then on affiliated sites, to pique people’s interest and get them to click through.  We sent out press releases when we first launched the blogs back in April 2004 and I hope people are using our RSS feeds to stay in touch with us once they do come to visit.

Does Stonyfield Farm have a Specific Strategy For Each Blog?

Not really. We have specific topics we try to stick to in each one—though we often stray from the cow path, if you’ll pardon the expression—and we keep an eye on each of the blogs.  If one becomes less-visited or we can’t keep up with it, we’ll probably drop it and do something else. The Bovine Bugle, the blog of ours written entirely by one of the organic dairy farmers who supplies us with milk, is very popular. Readers love it. I’ve also now enlisted the help of five or six Stonyfield employees who are the parents of very young children—ages 3 or less—to write for our Baby Babble blog. With the help of these folks, the blogs are becoming very popular and I think our readers find them fun and entertaining.

Lessons Learned

1) Have something to say! Don’t do it because everybody’s doing it and you feel you have to.

Stonyfield Farm has a particular point of view about the world—we are about nothing less than changing the world in terms of responsible environmental practices, educating business and individuals about those practices, and supporting sustainable agriculture.  That gives us lots to talk about and lots to have opinions about! And that makes for good blogging material.  If your company is boring, skittish, or just not that interesting, don’t do it!

2) Once you’ve decided to blog, go for it with all four hooves. Set your parameters and then go!

Future Directions

I think our blogs will be fluid—some may come, some may go, and they’ll morph into something we can’t even imagine today. This technology is changing and society is changing around it. Who knows what it all may mean just a year from now?

Christine Halvorson On Blogs

I’m just an English major with a great job. I tell folks I have the best job in the country with one of the best companies in the country.  And I’m not just saying that.  Get paid to blog? Who knew?!

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Comments

Very informative piece. I will be back to learn. Thank you!

Posted by: David Porter on Jun 24, 2005 2:04:59 PM

Very interesting read. I have long admired Stonybrook's view on business blogging, and its good to hear a bit more publicity on what they are doing.

Cheers.

Posted by: Scott Burkett on Dec 24, 2005 5:44:27 PM

Whoops, I meant "Stonyfield", not "Stonybrook". I just sold a house on a "Stonybrook Lane", so it was in my mind. :)

Cheers.

Posted by: Scott Burkett on Dec 24, 2005 8:36:58 PM

Dear Stonyfield Farms,
I have enjoyed your yogurt for many years. Black cherry is my favorite, but if I purchase one more cup of black cherry with what tastes and looks like black cherry jello and maybe a hint of a small piece of a cherry, that will be the end of it for me.
Thankyou,
Darlene Miller

Posted by: DARLENE MILLER on Apr 20, 2006 12:33:14 PM

Dear Stonyfield Farms,
I have enjoyed your yogurt for many years. Black cherry is my favorite, but if I purchase one more cup of black cherry with what tastes and looks like black cherry jello and maybe a hint of a small piece of a cherry, that will be the end of it for me.
Thankyou,
Darlene Miller

Posted by: DARLENE MILLER on Apr 20, 2006 12:33:22 PM

Stonyfield Farms is truly an innovator in business blogging..and business marketing in general. Great read!

Posted by: Evan on Jun 8, 2006 7:07:22 PM

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