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Like many people, I have always associated the Royal Welsh Agricultural Society (RWAS) with The Royal Welsh Show, the annual event held in Builth Wells that attracts in the region of around 200,000 visitors to its 150-acre site over 4 days each year, and so when I ran into Leah Davies recently and realised the society would be celebrating its 120th birthday this year, I was keen to hear more about how the society has evolved over the years and where it’s going in the future. Spindogs have worked with RWAS for many years now, having had a strong connection with Builth Wells in 2004 at our inception, and having attended and supported the Royal Welsh Show several times. As we celebrate our own 20th birthday this year, it was the perfect time to reflect on the changes to RWAS and its membership in recent years.

When you have an organisation so steeped in history, and based on the voluntary efforts of farmers in rural communities, how do you not only respect that heritage and engage those core members, whilst also keeping things fresh and attracting new, younger members, taking advantage of the digital landscape along the way?

It is a challenge Leah is extremely enthusiastic about tackling in her new role as Marketing and Social Media officer at RWAS and coupling her agency career with her farming background, it is a challenge I am confident Leah is going to succeed in delivering on, so let’s dig deeper into how.

2024 is an extremely exciting time for the Society and what’s clear is that they have ambitious targets to develop both their signature events, membership engagement and making the most of the incredible showground that they have all year round. The question remains: How do you engage with your core membership that brings the stock and agricultural knowledge and protect their show experience, whilst also attracting new visitors such as families and foodies?

To help them find the answers the society has a large number of committees, a board and a council, covering every demographic, region, and topic. This enables the society to obtain real-time insights into what is important to their membership and to act quickly to provide it. Whether it’s regarding the Smallholding and Countryside Festival, Royal Welsh Show and Winter Fair, education and training, or promotion of the sector. One such group is the Future Generation Committee, which caters to 18-40-year-old members who are focused on the future of the society. Bringing all of the meetings to Online platforms has ensured an engaged committee that can meet at any time, including members from all over the country. Historically, it would have come at a great time and expense to meet in person. Is digital on the agenda in any manner with this committee? Leah remembers a time when her family and friends needed to complete a postal form to book their member badges for the Royal Welsh Show and send an accompanying cheque. Having the ability to promote the event and take bookings online is game-changing in terms of the potential for the growth of the show. Leah can leverage the existing membership as her core audience, with plans to engage with a new and more urban audience via social media – a strategy she is keen to have up and running in advance of this year’s show.

Leah is also keen to use the RWAS social media channels to educate the consumer on Welsh agriculture, developing a deeper understanding of where our food is coming from. Taking inspiration from other household and agricultural brands who have used their social platforms to portray a sense of how important the origin and quality of their food is to their audience and what a difference this behind-the-scenes footage makes to their understanding and appreciation of the sector.

Influencers and celebrities shine a light on UK farming realities

We also discussed the way social media influencers and celebrities have also broadened audience exposure to the sector. People such as Jeremy Clarkson and Zoe Colville bring honesty to their content, revealing the reality of farming in the UK to a new audience. This appreciation for the sector from new avenues can only support our farming communities, and Leah is thrilled to see it getting the attention it so deserves.

There is no denying that the show is a showcase of the best stock in the UK and a key remit for the society is raising awareness of this excellence and educating the end consumer on why seeing Welsh agriculture thrive is important to us all. Leah wants to support the society in driving this understanding for the other 361 days of the year, and social media is going to play a key part in that strategy.

Utilising performance marketing campaigns targeting relevant and specific audiences on what the events, showground and society can offer to them will be crucial. There is an astounding amount of amazing things that happen in such a short time whilst events are on. Therefore, making it crucial getting what is important and of interest to people in front of them, and cutting through the noise. Which is a huge challenge in itself.

— Leah Davies Marketing and Social Media officer, RWAS

I mentioned that the sector has faced various challenges over the last 120 years. More recently Brexit and the Covid-19 Pandemic have come in quick succession, and we are still seeing the effects on the sector a few years on. With this in mind, Leah and her colleagues see the need to build a resilient community as a necessity, supporting the membership to future-proof their strategies and ensure adaptability is front and centre. With looking towards the future being a high priority.

Visit the Royal Welsh Show

The Royal Welsh Show will take place on the Builth Wells site from the 22nd-25th of July 2024 and more details and tickets are available on the RWAS website.

This year’s show will see the launch of a dedicated horticulture village as well as new suppliers in the Feast area- a new food village with the best of Welsh food producers.

While you are on the website, I encourage you to read about the history of the society, founded in 1904, and take a look at other events in your region that will provide you with an opportunity to learn more about and support our Welsh farming communities.

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