The milk messenger
It took no time at all for Allison Stuby Miller to become accustomed to the fast-paced life of a co-op communicator.
“I graduated from Michigan State University on a Saturday, moved to town on Sunday and started work full time at MMPA on Monday,” said Allison, who joined the staff at Michigan Milk Producers Association in March 2015.
It’s been full steam ahead ever since. In her role as the co-op’s communications manager, Allison edits the monthly magazine, Michigan Milk Messenger, and a monthly newsletter. She also handles all digital communication — the website, emails and social media — and assists in marketing a cheese brand. She also provided leadership for MMPA’s 100th anniversary campaign in 2016 and a rebrand in 2017.
In her “spare” time, she is one of the Midwest region CCA Ambassadors. She’s collected several awards in the CCA Communications Contest and holds the Master Cooperative Communicator designation. She’s also volunteered her time to serve on the Contest and Professional Development Workshop committees.
As a dairy co-op communicator, what are your chief challenges?
The U.S. dairy industry is amid a prolonged economic downturn. For the past three — nearly four — years, low prices have put our members in a tough spot. It can be a challenge to communicate the work of the co-op to members who are struggling.
Further, the nature of our membership is changing. More younger members are taking an active role on the farm and wanting immediate information delivered to them by email or text message. This is at odds with many members who prefer the mail so they can have something tangible in their hands.
Have you found any solutions?
Every day I work at solutions to reach our members and improve our existing communication channels like the magazine. We just wrapped up a member communication survey to get at the heart of what our members want in communication from their co-op. I am using this information to audit our current tactics and see if there are feasible adjustments we can make to serve our members better.
What do you enjoy most about your work at MMPA?
Sheila Burkhart, our department director, has been a great mentor, and I get to work with a fantastic, small-but-mighty team. My role is continually evolving, but one of my favorite things about my job is visiting our members. Just recently, I went on a farm visit to take photos and write an article for our magazine. I had an inspiring conversation with a couple with their eyes on the big picture and a great perspective on life, farming and family.
What’s an “aha” moment for you?
I try to savor the little aha moments. What tweaks can I make to take something from good to great? Is there a creative solution to some of the challenges we face?
One thing we like to do in my office is share our aha moments. I meet with two coworkers in the member relations department for monthly idea swaps. We each bring two ideas to the table, and then we discuss each idea as a group. It helps get the juices flowing and allows us to bounce even our most outlandish ideas off each other.
How does your participation in CCA help you in your job?
I’m inspired by seeing what other co-ops are doing to creatively solve problems, which helps me serve my own co-op.
How do you have fun?
I love to travel and I’m fortunate to have experiences like seeing geothermal hot spots in New Zealand, venturing inside an ice cave in Iceland’s glacier, canyoneering in Zion National Park or touring the Colosseum in Rome. But my every day isn’t that exciting, so after work I enjoy spending time with my husband, taking endless photos of our dog, cheering on the Michigan State University Spartans, practicing yoga and completing jigsaw puzzles.
I recently got into the puzzles to unwind from my busy days as a co-op communicator. What I love about puzzles is taking a piece with just a fragment of the picture, fitting it in the larger puzzle and seeing the image come together.
If you were a box of cereal, what would you be and why?
Because I work in the dairy industry, I’m obliged to say my cereal choice isn’t as important as its companion: Real milk all the way!
The TV show I’m telling everyone to watch:
“Westworld.” I am entranced by its complex story lines and never-ending twists.
I’ll always stand in line for…. ice cream