“Dive into your story to benefit yourself, your business and your community.” That was the advice from NAFDMA keynote speaker Courtenay DeHoff, the “Fancy Lady Cowgirl.” She said it took her 15 years to figure out her story – but it was worth the wait.

DeHoff said a brand story is “a cohesive narrative that encompasses the feelings that are created by your brand or business.” She added that your brand story must inspire an emotional reaction. That emotional reaction is what creates trust, which converts people into customers.

The cowgirl’s story started in small town Kansas. In college, she majored in ag communications and interned at a TV station, which is where she first learned how to tell a great story – and she just kept showing up, even after her internship ended.

“I gave up agriculture for 10 years to be a full-time TV personality,” she said. DeHoff fondly recalled a major moment that changed her professional life. “I don’t remember what I asked Garth Brooks but I do remember how he made me feel,” she said. And that’s what farmers need to do to connect with the people buying their food.

DeHoff landed a job on a syndicated show, and in 2017 she learned about the wildfires burning across the Midwest. No one was covering it. “My editor turned it down, so I decided to share it on my Facebook,” she said. “In one night, my story got 1.5 million views. I started getting invitations to speak and keynote – but then I started getting called a fraud because I was living in New York City. Agriculture can close its gates pretty tight.”

The Fancy Lady Cowgirl on creating your brand story

The Fancy Lady Cowgirl, Courtenay DeHoff, outlined the best ways to tell your story at this year’s NAFDMA Convention. Photo by Courtney Llewellyn

That’s what prompted her to begin telling her brand story. “Fancy Lady Cowgirl celebrates those who uphold the traditions of the West in unexpected ways,” she explained. “If you have a love for the lifestyle, you belong in the community, no matter what it is. There are hundreds of thousands of people around the world with the same story.”

Today, DeHoff is a TV host, keynote speaker and “bucking bull mother” whose goal is to empower women from all walks of life through the cowgirl spirit. To help empower everyone who wants to better share their experiences and what they believe in, she offered these seven tips for articulating their brand story:

  1. You don’t need perfect, you need authentic. Share the mess to make that emotional connection. Everyone is just winging it.
  2. Make your mess your message. You need an “About” – it’s the first thing a lot of people look at on a website. It helps people feel like they know you.
  3. Never settle. Everyone has opinions about what you do. Any time you do something significant, there will be opposition.
  4. Be an owner. There’s no part of your story that’s too small. It doesn’t have to be monumental to be powerful.
  5. Embrace the season you are in. Dreams don’t have an expiration date.
  6. Don’t be afraid to stand out in the crowd. Your story shows your values, purpose and uniqueness.
  7. Don’t confuse your intermission with your finale. “I hosted a PBR [Professional Bull Riding] tour and became an owner of a bucking bull,” she said. “One step back can lead to a very different step forward.”

DeHoff also reiterated that your story is going to change and evolve. Remember, it’s really easy to update that “About” section.

To learn more about the cowgirl, visit CourtenayDeHoff.com. For more on the International Agritourism Association, go to nafdma.com.

by Courtney Llewellyn