How to plant, cultivate and protect a thriving communication garden

Instead of haphazardly scattering seeds, tend a tidy, focused plot. Prune and weed aggressively, and take time to celebrate fruitful harvests.

Communications professionals are essentially word gardeners.

We are planters, cultivators, growers and protectors of our various crops and, let’s not forget, shovelers of editorial manure. It’s dirty, tedious, often thankless work, but it’s worth the toil to watch content bloom and produce a fruitful corporate yield.

Here are six tips to keep your communication garden tidy, fertile and productive:

1. Build solid infrastructure, till the soil, and plant wisely.

To establish a proper garden in your backyard, you don’t scatter seeds willy-nilly and hope for the best. You should strategically select a sun-soaked plot, construct a garden bed, fill it with fertile soil and plant things likely to grow in your hardiness zone.

In the same way, communicators should study the unique corporate topography before sinking anything into the ground. Which sorts of initiatives might thrive in your cultural climate? Are there activities, platforms or campaigns that would surely wither on the vine?

You won’t have much success growing soybeans in Saskatoon, fig trees in Fairbanks or oranges in Ontario. If your audience prefers more traditional fare, don’t waste your time cultivating Carolina Reaper-hot, provocative content. Abandon Snapchat, Slack or an aggressive video strategy if they stand little chance of growth or broad acceptance in your current milieu.

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Also, be mindful of how many things you try to plant at once. You’ll get more productivity out of a small but thoughtfully tended, well-watered garden than a larger, weed-choked bed. Smaller plots tend to receive more loving care.

2. Nurture tender shoots of growth.

Watching plants (or projects) perish is no fun. However, you need to know when to fold ’em.

Put your sickly, brown, rotting campaign carcasses out of their misery. Sometimes things just wither. Others never bloom, despite meticulous watering and careful cultivation. Either way, don’t waste time trying to revive deadwood. Focus on the thriving pieces and platforms, and give the stubborn survivors your attention.

3. Use and repurpose manure content as campaign fertilizer .

Whether it’s on your company blog, website or intranet, you are probably surrounded by piles of malodorous writing deposited by various colleagues. Grab a clothespin for your nose, and start shoveling.

Think of all that old, stinky content as compost. Pluck out choice idea nuggets, and use that fetid material to nurture and enhance your existing pieces. Just wash your hands afterward.

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4. Prune aggressively.

It seems counterintuitive, but trees’ productivity often relies on the cutting back of branches and even large limbs. It matters when and how you do it, depending on your growth goals, but most fruit-bearing trees benefit from a healthy trim.

Of course, so do communication efforts. Whatever you’re producing, strive to make it concise. Trim, prune, cut and delete aggressively. Tamp down wild growth before it gets out of control—burn it with fire if necessary. Your content will be healthier and more productive as a result.

Also, the principle of crop rotation applies here. Uproot struggling content, and replant it elsewhere.

5. Protect your garden from storms, weeds and interlopers.

Pests and other perils come in all shapes and sizes. Whether you’re dealing with the woodland, social media, insect or office human variety, you must protect the delicate ecosystem.

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Safeguard your garden by creating detailed crisis response plans. Check your plot each day for weeds of online negativity, which can sprout overnight and overrun your garden. Make sure your team knows how to respond to a multitude of negative scenarios, and erect a sturdy editorial fence to ensure messaging accuracy and integrity.

6. Celebrate the harvest.

Be it bountiful or scant, take time to acknowledge success.

Whether you rejoice by racing water buffaloes, electing a Lord of Misrule to oversee merriment, holding a feast of drunkenness to appease the envious gods, or perhaps just taking the team to Applebee’s, celebrate your campaign harvests.

Highlight achievements, and recognize those who helped you faithfully water, cultivate and care for the projects in your communication garden.

Remember these observations from “Being There” by Jerzy Kosiński:

“In a garden, things grow . . . but first, they must wither; trees have to lose their leaves in order to put forth new leaves, and to grow thicker and stronger and taller. Some trees die, but fresh saplings replace them. Gardens need a lot of care. But if you love your garden, you don’t mind working in it, and waiting. Then in the proper season you will surely see it flourish.”

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