Communicating with the non-farming public

The Scene and Herd team are all expert communicators. Communication is at the heart of everything we do: podcasts, website design, branding etc, and we think we do it rather well. We also notice when others don't!

The Times recently published a photo of some very cute Jack Russells with the caption "A hard-working pack of Jack Russell terriers hits the hay for playtime after clearing vermin from a farm in the Scottish Borders". This led to much ridicule on social media from members of the farming community who were very quick to point out that it was actually straw in the photograph.

While it might have given some of us cause to laugh or have a giggle at the journalist's expense, not one single person saw fit to explain the difference between hay and straw (or, for that matter the need for vermin control) and it struck us as such a wasted opportunity at a time when the general public really need to understand the challenges facing agriculture.

(An explanation:

If we are serious about reversing the disconnect between the non-farming community and the countryside, all of us in agriculture need to do better at communicating outside of our regular circles.

Most people you encounter will be interested to know more about farming, so, how best to communicate with the non-farming public? Whether you are chatting to a rambler in real life or a stranger on social media, we have some tips below that will hopefully be useful:

Assume intelligence but no knowledge - Your audience won't have insight into the sector so avoid using industry jargon and acronyms.

Explain the 'why' - Don't just tell people what you're doing or how you do it, tell them why and what the consequences would be if you didn't.

Be specific – talk about your own business rather than the wider farming sector. You can always direct people to a relevant body such as NFU Scotland or RHET.

Be respectful – whether challenging misconceptions or answering questions, stay calm and stick to facts!

Be proactive - Keep a note of frequently asked questions and consider using these as the basis for your social media, blog posts or signage.

Become a Farm Host – RHET are always looking for volunteers to host farm visits to talk to a generation of curious consumers

Ask a 'Townie' – Got a member of your team who is not from a farming background? Excellent! You can ask them for feedback on your public-facing communications.

We'd love to hear your tips too – together we can all become ambassadors for rural life.