Key learnings from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo.
1. Dietitians and Nutritionists Are the Real Celebrities
When it comes to food, everyone is supposedly an expert. While social media has created an opportunity to connect and relate with people across the world, it has also caused credibility confusion. We’ve all clicked on intriguing story headlines such as: “7 Foods a Nutritionist Eats;” “Get Toned Like Beyoncé;” or “How to Lose Weight Like a Celebrity.” Why? For many, we want to be like them. Look like them. Eat like them. But who is really behind this advice?
The reality is, many social “influencers” and celebs are sharing their stories without any credibility to prescribe a health and nutrition program, so readers should always beware. For other health bloggers and celebrities, licensed or registered RDs or RDNs are the ones actually creating the content, evaluating the impact of food on our health, creating healthy recipes and researching health science studies for their legitimacy.
When it comes to food, when an RD/RDN speaks, she/he speaks credibly for everyone. In fact, according to the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2016 Food & Health Survey, RDs are the most trusted source for providing accurate information when it comes to food. Brands and organizations should have a partnership or on-staff RD/RDN team member. The credibility value they bring when communicating about food should not be overlooked.
2. Negative Headlines are a No-No
We all know headlines can determine if people are likely to click, share and engage. This is why so many headlines are exaggerated or take a negative tone, even though our goal should be to positively educate consumers.
Headlines such as, “Foods a Nutritionist Will Never Eat” only serve to alienate and criticize consumers, and have the potential to negatively impact health. Other headlines are sensationalized and do the reader injustice. For instance, a story in TIME magazine titled, “The Case for Eating Butter Just Got Stronger,” encouraged people to eat butter, but failed to specify the differences between trans fats and saturated fats.
Brands and organizations should remain authentic and encouraging, and not skew messages for the sake of click bait. This is ever more important as consumers rely on messages to make lifestyle decisions, both short- and long-term.
3. Videos are a Social Must
There is no question social media is a valuable channel to share, connect and engage with people, especially about food. It’s important to maintain an active social and blog presence. This is the new norm. Yet, consumers are expecting even more – primarily in the way of video for quick consumption.
Video is what people want. Several conference speakers encouraged brands to think about ways to incorporate Facebook Live, such as sharing recipe in real time, or interviewing a credible spokesperson sharing their expert perspective on a trend or study. Again, this emphasis reinforced how valuable communication is.
PRWeek recaps examples of “The 6 most innovative brand uses of Facebook Live so far.” These brands leveraged an opportunity to deliver information in an engaging and personable approach. Facebook Live is a great way to make a brand an experience for its consumers.
4. Words Matter!
In the “From Typewriters to Twitter: The Evolution of Nutrition Communications” lecture, Kathleen Zelman, MPH, RD, LD and director of nutrition, WebMD, spoke the words any communicator loves to hear: “Communication skills are the backbone of success.” Exactly!
As a health and nutrition communications practitioner, I was thrilled to witness that so much of FNCE was focused on communications. Speakers after speakers focused on the power of words, and their ability to not only educate, but also to influence behavior. We were reminded to use words to communicate in a way that will resonate among all consumers in order to inspire healthy behaviors. We were encouraged to tell stories and be authentic, in order to connect emotionally.
5. Communicate Deliciousness
There will always be a new health study that introduces a superfood or healthy eating lifestyle. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to food – and consumers want food that tastes good! Nutrition communicators have to shift the conversation from the negatives to the positives – rather than leading with a laundry list of “no this” and “free of that” disclaimers, start out with the most important message of all: the food is delicious.
The science and nutritional benefits can be weaved in, but what will encourage positive behavior in the long-term is communicating food as delicious. The health benefits come naturally when we eat real food. We should make food jump out of the page with our words and photos. Let’s not scare people away from food, and instead talk about food, the flavor and taste.