Awards Season

Awards season 2021 has been non stop with nominations for clients. In fact, I can’t remember when I’ve worked on quite so many.

Now the shortlist announcements and awards events are in full swing.

Four clients were finalists at the recent Exeter Living Awards:

  • Winners: The Recycled Candle Company (Retailer) and The Family Law Company (Legal & Financial)
  • Finalists: Burrington Estates (Property) and Griffin Chartered Accountants (Legal & Financial)
  • The Outdoors Group won Education, with their own nomination

The Family Law Company is a finalist in the upcoming Family Law Awards (Wellbeing), Law Society Awards (Excellence in Practice Management), DASLS Awards (seven categories!), Paralegal Awards. They were finalists earlier in the year for the Legal Aid Awards and we have also entered the Wellness Awards.

The Recycled Candle Company has won a Green Apple Environmental Award and – all being well – will visit the Houses of Parliament to collect the award in November. We’re trying to get a Queens Award nomination ready but there’s so much detail this one may have to wait a year.

My newest client, SunGift Solar, is a finalist in the Western Morning News Awards in both categories we entered, SME and Environmental. We wait to hear with bated breath about the Solar & Storage Awards.

And I have recently submitted a nomination for London client Diespeker & Co in the South East Manufacturing Awards.

More to come with the Exeter Property Awards and then I guess we start all over again!

There is definitely a skill to writing a successful nomination. And whilst data and evidence is of paramount importance, it is also crucial to be honest, and to give heart to a nomination.

It’s all part of the service!

On the Small Screen – TV coverage

Gaining TV coverage for clients can be tricky, and its often difficult to measure the impact. Two of my clients recently featured in mainstream programmes. London’s Diespeker & Co featured on Your Home Made Perfect, and Exeter’s The Recycled Candle Company’s Pride heart candle was highlighted on Channel 4’s Steph’s Packed Lunch.

Two fantastic opportunities!

I won’t take credit for Your Home Made Perfect, as the BBC contacted Diespeker directly. The hard work was all done by Lucy at Terra Ferma Media, the agency I work with on the Diespeker account. Thanks Lucy! You never can tell how much airtime a client will get (clients have helped out with DIY SOS and rarely get a mention, although in that case it’s all for a good cause!).  But on this occasion it was really impressive – a whopping 4 minutes, including a namecheck. Presenter Angela Scanlon made her own terrazzo during the show, and was so delighted with it that she gave some additional promo on Insta.

Meanwhile, here in Devon, I received an email from the production team of Steph’s Packed Lunch requesting a rainbow striped Pride heart candle for the show – and could it be sent to arrive the next day? Richard was away in Scotland, Sargon in Bristol, so there was a momentary mad panic. Richard picked up on WhatsApp and organised for the efficient shop team to parcel up a candle and courier it to Leeds. We were thrilled when we watched the show, as TOWIE star Charlie King showed the candle to the audience, mentioning the 10% donation from each sale that goes to  campaigning charity Stonewall.

So…… the impact.

The Recycled Candle Company received a barrage of online orders immediately after the candle appeared on screen, definitely a response to Charlie and Steph’s positive comments. Meanwhile Diespeker & Co has received lots of enquiries about bespoke terrazzo although it’s harder to tell if this was a result of the coverage or just because they’re so good at what they do!

Diespeker & Co

The Recycled Candle Company PRIDE candles

Getting outdoors with the Outdoors Group

It’s always easier to provide a PR service when you get to know a client’s product or service first-hand. So it was that I recently found myself in the middle of the woods, at the Exmouth Forest School. This is one of several sites the group runs in Devon, to deliver its innovative outdoor ethos for education, experiences and training. The course I was joining was Learning Beyond the Classroom, aimed at teachers and volunteers working at primary and secondary schools.

This course aims to build confidence for teachers wanting to take classes outside, giving them ideas, practical skills and guidance on risk assessment. It’s held outdoors, unsurprisingly, with a a central campfire and overhead tarpulin in case of rain.

Just as I arrived, the course attendees were about to embark on a creative task – making faces out of mud! They used sticks and leaves they found in the woods to create the face, and soon discovered that it was more practical to make the face on a tree stump than an upright tree. Something called gravity…. Other activities included ‘ninja sticks’ which caused much hilarity and more than a litttle competitiveness. Interwoven with the activities was serious discussion around the campfire, which gave me a real insight into how teachers can really use the outdoors to encourage learning.

While I was there a toddler group was also taking place, giving me a great opportunity to have a sneak peek of children having a huge amount of fun in natural woodlands. And not just the children, but their parents too.

I’m really taken with what The Outdoors Group wants to achieve, and to be working with them as they expand and develop. From the work I’ve done so far, it’s clear that getting children outside has a huge beneficial impact on their wellbeing, development and social skills.

The Outdoors Group

 

 

 

One Year On

I can’t believe it’s one year on in, after Covid-19 ripped through our lives and changed so much.

I remember panicking at the beginning as my tourism, hospitality and retail clients had to pull back on my services. I said goodbye to six clients in a single week! In amongst this I was organising my daughter’s early return from university and making sure I had enough pasta (I never got caught up in the toilet roll frenzy).

I was also worried about what the virus would do to me if I caught it. I’ve said before, it was like being in a sci fi movie. I didn’t get any financial help from the government so after shedding a few tears of anxiety I set about battening down the hatches.

Several of my clients turned things around for me, asking me to take on project work and expanding my retained hours. I took on some short term contracts too. In the end, my turnover dipped slightly over the year but nowhere near as much as I’d feared at the start. I started mentoring two young entrepreneurs and won an award for my efforts.

One year on and what a difference. We’re slowly coming out of the third lockdown and the sun is shining again. I’ve seen more amazing sunrises and sunsets this year than ever before. I’ve been to ‘real’ client meetings, so very different from the Zoom and Teams meetings. I’ve had my first vaccination and booked a staycation for September in North Devon.

Alongside my long-term retained clients, I am working with some inspirational new clients, including The Outdoors Group, Communitas, Burrington Estates and Connaught@Christmas. I’m talking to potential clients in new sectors, which is very exciting. I’m delighted that several clients who had been unable to keep me on in the early stages of the pandemic have taken me back on board again.

Everything is feeling very positive and I for one cannot wait for June 21st, fingers crossed. Onwards and upwards.

Christmas already?

I think this is probably the earliest in the year that I’ve ever mentioned the ‘C’ word – yes, Christmas!

I found myself at Connaught Gardens earlier this month (in fact on my birthday!) in biting winds chatting with John Radford who has plans to bring a wonderful festive experience – Connaught@Christmas – to Sidmouth later in the year. This will include illuminations in the gardens, traditional music at the bandstand, and a craft fair and street food village across in Manor Road car park. It’s going to be amazing!

It really is the perfect location for an event like this, overlooking the sea from the clifftops. The garden lends itself so well to beautiful lighting and special themed areas. There’s a wonderful surprise in the offing, but my lips are currently firmly sealed.

John was keen to get the word out early, to let the locals and business community be aware that this event is being planned.

It feels really early to talk about Christmas but in all honesty, after last year’s muted celebrations I have no doubt everyone will be up for wonderful experiences just like this one in just 10 months’ time.

Early days and much more to come but, some initial coverage:

East Devon News

Exeter Daily

In Your Area

Next, I’m sure discussions about Otter Garden Centres Christmas Grotto will be happening very soon!

Ho Ho Hospiscare

Just before Christmas I was pleased to help out with PR support for Ho Ho Hospiscare, a lovely initiative by Rusty Pig and Mazzard Farm Cottages in Ottery St Mary with help from volunteer fundraiser, the irrepressible Toni Hiscocks.

Hospiscare, like many charities, has struggled during the pandemic with so many fundraising events being cancelled. There’s a lot of love for the charity locally, and Robin from Rusty Pig in particular because of the help given to his family when his dad was at the end of his life. It always strikes a chord with me too, as the local hospice in Southampton was amazing when my own dad was terminally ill back in 1986.

The event was an online draw – donate a tenner and be in with the chance of winning the top prize of a break at Mazzard Farm’s superb holiday cottages, plus a feast at Rusty Pig and a hamper supplied by Knights Farmshop. Local businesses donated vouchers for runners up prizes. I took a pic at Mazzard and sent out the press release pronto to the usual suspects. The initial target was £500 and we all watched as this was easily reached and the total started rising steadily…. So Rusty Pig and Mazzard Farm offered a second top prize if the fundraising reached £2,000, this time with the addition of an afternoon tea at Coldharbour Farmshop.

Just before the draw, the total had topped an amazing £2,300. Added to this was a donation of £250 from PASC, an organisation providing support for self-catering businesses. So the final total was £2,550, a 400% increase in the original target. The draw was made on Facebook Live at Rusty Pig, but I’m not sure anyone minded who won – everyone was so thrilled with the amount raised! I snuck out a follow up press release just to tell the world how amazing the folk of Ottery are. Another show of community spirit, just in time for Christmas.

Pre-event

Post-event

43 Elves on the loose

Tis the season to be generous – and that’s what went through my mind as I watched 43 elves arrive at work at Otter Garden Centres on a grey December morning.

The elves were all garden centre staff, festively dressed to walk, jog or cycle to work to fundraiser for Brain Tumour Support, in memory of their colleague Rob who died this year. Rob was well-liked and known by many as the driver of the Santa Express, the landtrain taking visitors to the annual grotto for a short journey to see Santa. Sadly the grotto was cancelled this year due to Covid-19, but this meant there were lots of elf costumes available to borrow!

The event was inspired by an approach from Helen Patterson, who is a brain tumour survivor and who usually takes part in the grotto as an elf. Helen wanted to fundraise by cycling from Exeter to the garden centre in Ottery dressed as an elf to raise money for Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s Society. She asked to borrow an outfit but she got more than she bargained for, as the Otter team thought this was a great idea, and suggested joining in. I came on board to generate media interest in the event and take some snaps on the day.

We had some lovely coverage in online and print news, although not from local TV on this occasion – which was a real shame as the sight of all those elves descending on the garden centre was something I won’t forget! Branch Manager Karl hired a Co-bike for his trip, which was a nice touch. Even Santa made an appearance to welcome them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen arrived a little later having made the trip from Exeter. On her own, she raised £500 to split between Brain Tumour Support and Alzheimer’s.

 

 

 

 

Thanks to everyone who gave the fundraising event a little plug, they raised over £3,500 on the day. A fantastic result from 43 Elves!

Pre-event

Post event

Reach for the Sky!

Yet another fascinating news story for Chilcotts Auctioneers, who asked me to promote the sale of medals and memorabilia of Joan Hughes, a female WW2 pilot.

Joan was awarded a Civil MBE in 1946 in recognition of her extraordinary contribution to the war effort flying new planes to RAF bases around the country.

Amongst the memorabilia was a scrapbook created by a fan. It contained some interesting and entertaining nuggets of information, which I incorporated into the press release.

Joan was 15 when she took her first solo flight and jsut 17 when she received her pilot’s licence to become the youngest flyer in England. During WW2 she was invited to join the women’s section of the Air Transport Auxiliary, which was responsible for delivering new or repaired planes to RAF bases, freeing up fighter pilots to concentrate on training.  Joan who was the youngest of the group.

She was such a good pilot that she was trained to fly many different types of aeroplane including Hornet Moths and Leopard Moths. She also flew Stirling and Lancaster bombers, although she had to sit on a high cushion, and needed an engineer on board to help her reach the levers and controls. By the end of the war she had flown nearly a hundred different kinds of aeroplane.

The story took an interesting turn when, after the war Joan began a glamorous career as a stunt pilot. She flew Kenneth More’s Spitfire in “Reach for the Sky”; she piloted a replica of the diminutive 1909 Demoiselle in “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines! For me, the best was her turn as Lady Penelope’s stunt pilot in the original Thunderbirds series (which I watched as a child), famously flying under a motorway bridge on the M40 when it was being built. When she retired from flying she moved to live on a farm not that far from where I live, in Dulverton, Somerset.

The story was not just interesting to research, it also left me in awe of this daring woman who seemed to have no fear. I listened to a recording of an interview with her, and she was incredibly down to earth about it all.

Coverage secured includes:

Antiques Trade Gazette

Midweek Herald

Devon 24/7

Also Express & Echo & Medal News

Volunteer Mentor Award

Life sometimes takes an unexpected turn doesn’t it? It certainly did on Friday November 20th when I found myself attending a digital awards event ‘in’ Hull.

My connection with Hull came about after I reconnected with Charles Cracknell, an alumni of King Alfred’s College (now the University of Winchester). Charles commissioned me to copy-edit the Hull Global Entrepreneurship Week brochure and it’s become an annual project. I have got to know many names of the businesses, schools and individuals who get involved in GEW each year.

When lockdown hit, a lot of the young entrepreneurs were excluded from financial help as they’d not been in business long enough. A dangerous oversight I think. Charles wasn’t going to sit back and do nothing so he asked business people to help out as a mentors. I agreed to get involved. And so I was introduced to Blush Cleaning, and the vivacious Alex and Nicole. Over the months I’ve given them support with grant applications, Covid-19 safety protocols and advice for Facebook posting (they’re actually really good at it!).

I knew from my copy-editing that GEW always had an awards event, the Hull Youth Enterprise Awards, so I was rather surprised – and pleased – to be included on a shortlist as a Partner. I was even more pleased that Blush Cleaning was a finalist for Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

For the event, I duly looked out a smart top, although I will admit to wearing fluffy socks. I poured myself a glass of fizz. I saw and heard lots of people I’ve come across in the brochure copy year after year – it was fantastic to put faces to names. And then the awards were announced.

I was thrilled when Alex and Nicole were announced as winners of The Sheila Waudby Young Entrepreneur of the Year. I didn’t win my category, but then I wasn’t expecting to. But then came a category I wasn’t aware of, with special Awards presented for outstanding service to enterprising young people. Announcing the John Cracknell Youth Enterprise Volunteer Mentor Award, the presenter described the winner as living in Devon… I realised it was me! I think I gave a little acceptance speech, I can’t remember as I was in shock. And maybe on my fourth glass of fizz!

So thank you to the lovely people of Hull GEW and the John Cracknell team. I love the fact that I’m here in the deepest South West supporting young entrepreneurs in the North East. When things settle down I’ll be paying a visit to meet Blush Cleaning face to face!

PR – the slow burn

I’ve been working on an interesting and quite different piece of medical PR since way back in August for Communitas Clinics in London.

It’s a lovely story, about how a sixth form student at Dulwich College took a pencil sketch from an ENT consultant and from it designed a practical screen to make nasendoscopy procedures safe for patients and consultants alike. Nasendoscopy is where a camera is put up the nose – unsurprisingly it often makes a patient sneeze. So with Covid-19 it’s become pretty unsafe with the danger of passing on the virus.After writing a detailed press release, I decided to work with the Press Agency to aim for wider coverage. The release went out just as I snuck off to Crete on holiday. I took a call from Channel 5 while I was lost looking for a remote village! Unfortunately,  every time the story was going to be used, it was bumped by another news story – yes you’ve guessed it, always Covid-19 related.

Eventually the story was picked up locally by London news sites. And in fact, it may not have run its course as it is still relevant, particularly with the latest lockdown after the increase in Covid cases.

The medical sector is always interesting to be a part of. Years ago I worked closely with Swedish companies Viggo Spectramed / Ohmeda Medical Devices, which was all to do with catheters. Again, not glamorous work (especially when they used my arm to demonstrate how not to insert a catheter) but fascinating all the same….

Southwark News

Wimbledon Times