Does our farm sell the sizzle?

I spent this morning in the offices of sustainability communications agency Futerra, for some media and communications training; one of the perks of being part of the London Leader’s programme . 

When I was working as a sustainability consultant at BioRegional, Futerra’s reports on communicating sustainability were like little presents from heaven. They taught me many important lessons about communicating sustainability with integrity. It was all very refreshing reading in a sector that is full of confusing messages, greenwash, and bleak messages of a climate-hell that we are all heading to. Here’s one example of this sort of irresponsible messaging from Tesco:

Tesco advert that says: turn lights into flights

Ed Gillespie (co-Founder of Futerra) led us through a jam-packed presentation of stories, insights, strange diversions and most importantly, examples of the bad (such as the above Tesco advert) and the good. Here’s some better examples: 

Selling the sizzle
is one of Futerra’s insights they share in their publication . The sizzle idea stems from a successful salesman in the 1940s named Elmer Wheeler. He taught us that the secret to selling is that you don’t sell the sausage – you sell the sizzle. The sizzle captures the delicious, mouth-watering juicy aromas that make us want to buy what is basically a dead pig. What Futerra are getting at, is that if we are to become super climate salesman that spur people into action, then we need to find appetising messages that sizzle, not ones that scare and put people off. 

Here’s two insights that grabbed my attention today that I’m trying to put into practice in my role at Sutton Community Farm:

Insight 1: Organisations that take sustainability seriously don’t ask the question: “What should our sustainability strategy be in the context of our business ?” Rather they ask the question: “What should our business strategy be in the context of sustainability?”

I try to make sustainability run through everything we do as an enterprise. Pooran Desai, co-founder of BioRegional talks about this as getting sustainability into the DNA of an organisation. We use both permaculture principles and the One Planet Living framework to help achieve this, ensuring sustainability is considered at all levels and in all corners.

Insight 2: The idea that people don’t just buy from us because of what we do, they buy because of why we do it.

I spend a lot of time talking and writing about the Farm.  I find that it’s really easy to concisely communicate what we do rather than why we do it. I find this is particularly true if I’m feeling lazy or tired.

It’s the “why we do it” that makes us exciting and unique. Ed presented a simple activity for placing the “why” into the core of your messaging, called the golden circle:


Using the golden circle, you place the “why” at the core of what you do and then from this should fall the “how” and “what”. I had a quick go at this exercise for Sutton Community Farm. Here’s how it went:

People have a desire to establish deeper connections with their food, local community and nature.

Through a community-led space that provides inclusive activities and education, incorporating permaculture and One Planet Living principles.

A farm growing food sustainably.

A local VegBox scheme. 
Coordinated events and activities for the community.

I found it a useful exercise and it will be interesting to see how some of these ideas can help shape our messages as a community farm. 

Categorised as Blog, Food