Communication Standards Manual

Below you will find guidelines for the various types of communications you may be using. From News Releases to Social Media, this is your source for information on the proven standards developed by our checkoff.

Media Inquiries to USB

USB welcomes media inquiries and responds to them in an accurate, thorough and timely manner.  As much as possible, media requests for interviews should be fulfilled by USB farmer-leaders.Contact the USB program manager responsible for the area in question once a media request is made in order to determine who can best fulfill the request. Copy the USB Primary Communications Contractor to determine if additional communications support is necessary and to maintain a record of each request.

Photo Usage Guidelines

USB has a considerable library of photo images. Prior to generating original photography, USB Primary Contractors and subcontractors should review the photo library housed on the USB website to see if existing photography can fulfill a need. Low resolution photos can be obtained directly from the USB photo library on the USB website. If a high resolution copy of the photo is needed, an online USB photo request form (located on the same page) can be used to receive a copy. All media industry or outside parties must fill out a request form and credit the United Soybean Board/Soybean Checkoff for use of high resolution photos.All USB contractors should use the USB Consent and Release Forms when taking photos for USB use. The release forms must be kept on file as long as the photography remains in the USB photo library.

Audio/Video Usage Guidelines

USB has a considerable library of professional audio files and stock video. Audio/video requests will be granted on a case-by-case basis and must be accompanied by a request form. The request form includes a provision that the audio/video will be credited to United Soybean Board/Soybean Checkoff.When new audio or video is captured on behalf of USB, subjects must sign USB Consent and Release Forms.  The release forms must be kept on file as long as the audio or video remains in the USB library.

USB Web Standards

Websites either fully or partially funded by USB are considered external communications and must be consistent with the USB Communications Standards Manual and USB approval processes.

Every effort should be made to utilize existing USB-funded websites as a means to publish information on the Internet instead of creating new websites and domain names. The USB Internal Communications Manager has the responsibility of ensuring that USB’s Internet presence is as clear and concentrated as possible and that information is up to date and not duplicated on current USB-funded websites.

All USB-funded websites must clearly identify the soybean checkoff as the source of funding the website on the home page and must contain a link to USB’s primary website, internal.unitedsoybean.org. A consistent look and feel across all USB-funded websites is desirable, so all sites are easily identified and connected with the soybean checkoff. Any party who wishes to establish a USB-affiliated website must go through the Primary Communications Contractor, who has the central responsibility for the strategic direction and administration of USB’s primary website (unitedsoybean.org). This procedure is necessary in order to reduce the chances that duplicative content dilute the effectiveness of USB’s online strategy.

Links to all websites must be housed under internal.unitedsoybean.org. The primary site will direct users to all USB funded sites. When linking to websites which are not checkoff funded, one of the following messages must be shown prior to connecting to the outside website:

“You are now leaving a United Soybean Board site”

or “You are now leaving a checkoff-funded site”

Social Media Guidelines

Similar to all other external communications, all USB social media messages and content must follow internal review and approval guidelines set forth by USDA. Any links to external articles or websites must also be approved by USDA. Further details follow:

Social Media

Objective:

  • Utilize Twitter and Facebook (the current dominant social media tools) to support awareness of USB interests and engage relevant audiences within the parameters of USDA communication guidelines.
  • Empower leaders and employees of USB and Osborn & Barr as communicators on its behalf to contribute to the goals of USB through online channels.

Strategy:
The online strategy of USB will consist of a three-pronged approach reflecting the following groups:

  • Approved representatives of USB who “tweet” or post to its Facebook page from accounts held by USB, in the name of the organization. These initial postings are strategic tools and serve expressly to further the goals of the organization.
  • Leaders, staff and sanctioned “friends” of USB who utilize social media channels as representatives of the organization. These postings are secondary to the strategic goals of USB, serving to amplify its presence and messages online. In other words, these postings will help spread USB’s strategic messages online, rather than initiate them.
  • Individuals affiliated with the organization who “tweet” or hold Facebook pages for purely personal reasons and fall outside of the guidelines below.

Requirements and Procedures:
The Initial and Secondary postings will adhere to the following requirements:

  • Initial Postings
    • Will be pre-approved by the USB/USDA where appropriate, often as part of a draft release submitted to USB/USDA before distribution (see Example 1 below).
    • Will reflect best practices in utilizing relevant keywords and other language that aid in their delivery to targeted publics.
  • Secondary Postings
    • Will be professional at all times. They will present USB and its peers in a positive light, avoiding any reference to opposing groups and critics.
    • Will be transparent. They will include a true representation of the individual posting the material and his or her intentions.
    • Will include disclaimers that clarify the postings reflect the views and opinions of the individual, not USB. Such disclaimers will reside in the ‘Bio’ section of the Twitter and Facebook accounts or other, similar positions on the sites. Example:
      • “The postings/recordings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent the positions, strategies or opinions of the United Soybean Board.”
    • Will be made in the context of caution, judgment and integrity with regard to exaggeration, colorful language, use of copyrighted materials, unsupported assertions, or other confrontational language.
    • Will not include information about USB’s financial matters, employees, strategy, legal proceedings, or any other information that has not been publically released by USB.
    • Will reflect good-faith efforts to avoid inaccuracy or unfair use of others’ work.
    • Will require individuals to contact the appropriate USB/O&B media representatives if he/she is solicited for information/comments/quotes by traditional media, thought leaders, activists, or other content providers.
    • Will not engage in two-way exchanges with anyone regarding controversial issues such as organic vs. traditional agriculture; animal production; vegetarianism; or politics.
    • Will not mention supporting or not supporting any legislative or other regulatory initiative on the local, state or national level.
    • Will not mention any particular agriculture brand; i.e., Monsanto, John Deere.

Talking Points Database

All approved talking points for USB use should be sent to the USB Primary Communications Contractor. Communications staff will add the approved talking points to the talking points database housed on the USB website.

Talking points may be used with media and the public, but credit should be given to United Soybean Board/Soybean Checkoff.