WHEN learning the basics of running a successful business in this consumer-driven marketplace, we are often advised that "the customer is always right."
However, this well-intentioned advice has inadvertently created a monster. The real lesson some have learned — and often abuse as a result — is that "the squeaky wheel gets the grease."
Lately, this attitude has spilled over into everything — from television commercials urging us to tell our medical professionals what pharmaceuticals we think we want prescribed to telling farmers and ranchers how they should care for crops and animals, despite the average person's lack of medical training or experience in agriculture.
As we all know, it can be frustrating to attempt to tell your side of the story to a public that already has preconceived, inaccurate notions based on a non- or half-factual source of information.
The internet has compounded the problem. By typing a few words into a search engine, we can access information and instantly become Google-educated "experts."
Reviews on Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook can significantly influence the amount of traffic a business receives.
An online petition or a well-planned social media attack can go viral and affect goods and services for all of us.
Personally, I have lost count of how many "always-right" consumers have told me they refuse to eat beef in protest of certain production methods they think producers use. They have already been "educated" about the beef industry by television doctors, popular activist journalists or social media.
Listening to an actual expert whose life revolves around beef cattle would never factor into their decision-making process because we, as experts, simply have not made our voices heard.
A recent example of the squeakiest wheel holding the rest of us captive is General Mills announcing that it has dropped ingredients containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) from its original Cheerios cereal.
Despite no evidence that GMOs are harmful, activists took to social media demanding that GMOs be removed from the cereal due to health concerns.
The loud voice of the misinformed few ultimately did have repercussions on consumer health, but not in the way they had originally planned.
According to FoodNavigator.com, the popular breakfast cereal went from being a fairly dense source of riboflavin to containing a miniscule amount.
If these "expert" activists were sincerely concerned about the health of others, they would trust the science and the true experts in their respective fields, not the internet or self-appointed gurus.
Some in our society believe they are always right, no matter what science or hands-on experience proves. Like the Sirens' song, a few tempting and magnetic voices can hold us hostage until their agenda is complete.
However, agricultural advocates can learn from the squeaky wheels of our marketplace. We have the power to change the volume and tone of our collective voice so we can be heard, understood and believed by society.
By harnessing our knowledge and effectively putting it to use educating those who buy our products, we can do our part to make sure our customers are truly always right.
*Megan Brown is a blogger and sixth-generation rancher who raises Black Angus cattle in northern California. From 4-H as a child to FFA as a teen to receiving her bachelor's degree in agricultural business from California State University-Chico, agriculture has been Brown's lifelong passion. Read more on her website at www.thebeefjar.com, or contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.