Award Winner 2019: Party Conference Stand of the Year
The NFU’s stands at the Conservative and Labour party conferences
The 2019 PRCA Public Affairs Awards celebrated the best work of the year and below is the category's winning entry.
Strategy and research:
To focus upon the future of farming and demonstrate that farmers are grasping the challenges ahead provided by climate change through agriculture’s net zero ambition. Whilst providing an opportunity to focus on the economic importance of food and farming today. To encourage engagement with delegates the stand provided the opportunity to showcase food and drink from local members including a juice, cheese and ice cream.
The NFU stand is in a prominent position at both conferences and is bright and welcoming. The stand provided an opportunity for in-depth discussion with delegates and this year focuses on the importance of farming to the economy, farming’s ambition for net zero, our education work and an opportunity to look at the future place robots will play on farm with a hands on demonstration of a mapping robot ‘Robot Tom’ from the Small Robot Company. Our aim is to secure strong attendance from conference delegates and encourage them to sign up to the Back British Farming campaign. The NFU stands incorporated:
- A giant wheat-pin badge pledge board, for engaging delegates to sign up to our Back British Farming campaign;
- Small robot company demonstration area, providing delegates the opportunity to understand the role robots will play mapping fields and targeting specific activity to improve crops;
- Economics map highlighting the key farming sectors in each region and their economic contribution – ideal for politicians taking photos for social and national media;
- Show and tell shelf, enabling delegates to gain an insight into some farmed products – wool, rape seed, sugar beet and apples.
Our objectives were:
- To increase the number of political supporters to the Back British Farming campaign and mobilise advocates by asking delegates to sign a Back British Farming wheat-pin badge.
- To ensure the NFU’s messages and priorities are clearly visible to all party conference attendees, putting farming at the forefront of influencer’s minds.
- To provide a platform to explain the importance of farming at this critical political time, engaging directly with influencers and decision makers including ministers, advisors and journalists.
- To engage and build relationships with MPs who are not traditional supporters of the NFU, including urban MPs.
- To engage and brief prospective parliamentary candidates.
- To provide an environment to educate the wider Labour / Conservative family about
- farming today in a memorable way.
The NFU exhibition stand was designed to be eye-catching and thought-provoking. Its elements looked to the future, encouraging delegates to understand how farmers are tackling climate change and inspiring future generations as well as highlighting the role farming plays as a key driver of the national economy and managing the UK’s landscapes. To provide opportunities for discussion delegates had an opportunity to taste local a local rhubarb and apple juice, a sheep’s milk cheese and a specially made for conference blackberry ice cream from a local dairy farm. In addition, the market shelf area incorporated lesser known farming produce such as rape seed, sugar beet and sheep fleeces to educate delegates and again provide a conversation hook for more in-depth policy discussion.
An interactive element of the stand, with an added competitive edge was the Small Robot mapping field. Delegates were invited to ‘map’ five obstacles (a lapwing nest, emerging wheat, blackgrass weed, septoria fungus and deficient soil) in a 2 metre2 field, to replicate the activity of a prototype mapping robot currently being tested on farm. Delegates were timed and their results put on a leader-board to provide a competitive edge, which grew as the conference got underway.. The NFU worked with the Small Robot company to develop this activity to demonstrate the impact precision farming will have and help amplify the objective of the stand..
At the Conservative party conference, the NFU stand was a highly popular attraction for delegates with over 701 signing up to the Back British Farming campaign. Many more also enjoyed sampling our apple & rhubarb juice from Wobblegate in Sussex, & ice cream from Daresbury Dairy in Cheshire. A large number of MPs and Prospective Parliamentary candidates dropped by the stand for conversations about the impact of Brexit and climate change on farming. The party’s London Mayoral Candidate also visited us. Seven Cabinet Ministers also met with us on stand, including Brexit Secretary Stephen Barclay, International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, Attorney General Geoffrey Cox and Defra Secretary of State Theresa Villiers. The stand was featured as backdrop on BBC SW, BBC NI and BBC2’s Newsnight.
At the Labour party conference, 285 delegates become signed-up supporters to our Back British Farming campaign, and 50 delegates ‘mapped’ our demonstration field using Robot Tom. Due to space constraints we opted for samples of a ewes milk hard cheese from local NFU members in Sussex rather than ice cream, and this was very popular amongst delegates. The stand has also played host to four members of the Shadow Cabinet plus many other notable MPs including Brexit Committee Chair Hillary Benn, as well as a number of Prospective Parliamentary Candidates from across the UK. We also won 2nd place in the Labour delegate’s choice award, demonstrating widespread support amongst conference delegates for our exhibition stand.
Furthermore, we also made good use of the exhibition stands at both party conferences by holding evening receptions for key political and industry stakeholders. We co-hosted these events with the Food and Drink Federation and UK Hospitality, to demonstrate a join-up lobbying effort from farm-to-fork, and the receptions – attended by 120 delegates across both conferences and speeches from the Conservative Farming Minister and Labour Shadow Defra Secretary, helped us to make maximum use of our popular stand.