NFU Mutual rural affairs specialist Tim Price reveals the challenges of juggling interviews with PR campaigns and farm visits, his dreams of fiction writing, and a very controversial dislike…
Describe your job in a sentence
It’s about championing NFU Mutual’s work to support the UK’s farmers and using the company’s expertise as the main insurer of agriculture to influence how issues such as rural crime and farm safety are tackled from grass roots through to government.
How did you get into agricultural communications?
I always wanted to be a farmer but didn’t have a farm. After leaving school I got taken on as a trainee journalist on the Craven Herald in rural Yorkshire and loved it.
Concentrating on farming, I worked for the Yorkshire Post and then moved down to London to work on the technical desks of British Farmer and Stockbreeder and then Big Farm Weekly.
When the bonanza of agrochemical advertising began to dry up threatening the future of controlled circulation farming publications, I moved to NFU Mutual. I’m amazed that I’ve now been there for over 30 years.
What’s an average day look like for you?
My time is split between dealing with journalists’ enquires and working on proactive PR campaigns, such as the rural crime report we produce every year.
There’s usually a radio interview or two, to do plus press releases to write and put through the tortuous compliance checks required because insurance is regulated. I also keep an eye on the farming press and social media to look for opportunities to get coverage.
I try and get out onto farms or events at least once a week to understand what’s really concerning farmers and, hopefully, get good case studies.
What are the toughest issues you’ve had to deal with?
Foot and mouth. The impact on farmers was huge, and for a company like NFU Mutual which operates through a network of local agents who meet hundreds of farmers every week finding ways to deal with claims and arrange insurance when you can’t go onto farms is a massive challenge.
When extreme weather – floods, storms and snow – damage farms and homes we launch an emergency surge plan to help badly-affected customers – including payments and alternative accommodation. This involves finding way to get on touch with area that are cut off, and providing information to others to help them make claims.
What’s the best thing about working in agriculture?
Meeting great people doing fascinating things to produce food and protect the countryside. Through my job I’ve made friends with farmers and journalists all over the world (many at IFAJ congresses), and get to see how technology is revolutionising farming.
You deal with lots of journalists – do they ever do anything that drives you mad?
Never. It’s people outside the media who don’t understand about deadlines and can’t explain their work in non-technical terms who drive me nuts.
What would you do if you weren’t working in agricultural communications?
Try to write fiction.
What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve ever done in the name of work?
Many instances are locked away in the darkest corners of my mind.
Last year though I foolishly wore my light linen suit to a reception in the House of Common on a hot summer day. I realized that the 15 years since I bought it had resulted in some changes, when the event pictures came in showing me channeling the Incredible Hulk.
Tell us something not many people know about you
I once took a cow’s head to school on the bus (the farm I worked on did butchery and my school biology lab wanted a large animal skull).
How do you unwind?
Go for a walk with the dog.
Tim in a tick:
What was the first album you ever bought? Led Zeppelin III.
Is there anything that’s really popular but you don’t like? Pandas – flawed design. Don’t deserve to be saved.
What website can you easily waste an hour on? Wikipedia
Where’s the last place you went on holiday? Barcelona
Do you have a party trick? Can’t think of one
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