Musings of a weekend farmer – PR lessons from Mother Nature!

Weekend farming has been one of my biggest energisers. While weeding off a plot of land on my farm at Karjat (where I am currently experimenting with organic ways to grow baby spinach, radishes, cucumbers, karela’s and a few other vegetables), my mind was constantly musing about my corporate journey so far. 

While the joy of farming and gardening is immense, I realised, it was also amazingly analogous to the stints in sales, strategy, marketing and communications that I have straddled across. I was actually experiencing the fact that Mother Nature can be one of the best teachers and lessons could be learnt just by being observant! 

Sipping on a unique tea blended with leaves of a lime tree, which my local fellow makes for instant energy during breaks, my mind was trying to draw parallels between farming and running a large communications function!

Following are some that I have tried to articulate.

Business environment is critical

If the season is not right for any vegetable or the market is not conducive for your product, its common sense not to launch. I mean, while mangoes are just perfect, trying to grow passion fruit in Karjat would probably be like attempting to cut a coconut with a shaving blade! Diversifying your business in an unrelated area that you know nothing about (read without research and competency) is like trying to grow something in a hostile environment, unless off course one has the resources to create the right ambience, say greenhouses (read advertising) which come with huge investments! PR can be used to create the right ambience though!

“You reap what you sow” runs on the Pareto principle

Not all seeds that you sow, will necessarily germinate! Half of the seeds sown in an ‘organic’ way are either picked up by smart birds or rodents who nibble the sprouts in the night. To maximize the yield, you have to ensure that you keep sowing more and keep protecting what you have sowed (read organic reach of your messages!). Likewise, 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers.  A smart salesman has to protect customers from competition, keep pitching for new ones and constantly enhance the prospect base. Higher the base, bigger the probability of a sale. Role of PR is to create the ground before a sales pitch (sowing seeds), build a reputation that is robust, safeguards and differentiates the brand from competition and enable the sales team to generate business (read bumper crop).

Nurturing is a must

Our plants and vegetables need proper sunlight and water (Organic, you see!). I laughed when someone advised me to speak to my plants and honestly, I did not have the last laugh! I found that the more I cared and nurtured, higher was the yield.  TLC works. Similarly, communication is a must; customers need attention, they need to be given importance. Getting them to signup is not enough. PR’s job is to keep the conversation on. Keep listening and talking to customers. From an agency or a corporate perspective, there is proof enough that attrition is low when the talent is nurtured and grown with care! The concept of nurturing and customer relationship management must have certainly emerged out of inspirations from a well-managed farm or a garden. 

Periodic weeding is essential

Weeds suck up the soil nutrients, are useless and makes the farm look bad (reputation management). They can sometimes lead to a crisis by killing the main plant. The yield is hampered; what a direct connect with any organisation’s well-being during a crisis. Periodic pruning of toxic elements, whether it is disgruntled or rogue employees, unproductive policies, systems, processes or just too much of debts, is essential. Just like weedicides (hopefully organic) used on a farm, it is essential for organisations to have systems in place to eliminate elements that can cause damage to reputation. 

Interdependencies rule

A successful farm is a classic example of thriving interdependencies just like an organisation with engaged employees who work seamlessly across functions! Stray cows (will own them someday), grazing on the farm provide manure and the ticks on their body are food for the birds around them. The pollen carrying bees that get nectar in return from the flowering plants is such a symbiotic relation.  Do I have to even explain a corporate parallel! Interdependencies amongst functions is a key for organisational growth! 

I agree it is the 4G era and patience is rare. However, good results; be it in farming or PR – are not like instant coffee. They need significant nurturing. 

The 4 P’s of farming (and this is my original!) – Planning, Planting, Passion and Perseverance hold true even for PR and Communications! Such is life dearies!

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Sujit M Patil, ABC
Sujit is a IABC (International Association of Business Communicators) accredited business communicators and a three time winner of the IABC International Gold Quill award. He has been listed as India’s top ten men in corporate communications by Reputation Today and featured on the PR Week Global Power Book, the definitive guide to PR industry’s most influential operators around the world. From 2018 to 2022, he has been listed every year on Provoke media (erstwhile Holmes Report) Influence 100 research and listing of the world’s most influential in-house marketing and communications professionals. Sujit is a part of the prestigious Arthur W Page Society..

Sujit is a qualified Instrumentation engineer with MBA in marketing and a Diploma in advertising and PR. He is a regular speaker and jury at various national and international bodies such as the World Communication Forum, Davos, AMEC, ICCO, PR Newsweek Asia, Public Affairs Asia, etc. He volunteers as a guest faculty at various B-Schools, is a weekend farmer, loves travelling, understanding cultures and experimenting with new cuisines. He is passionate about Sparrow conservation.

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