Fundraising for stem4

Last November I was asked to take part in a fundraising activity to raise money for teenage mental health support charity stem4, with agency Terra Ferma Media and our client Diespeker. Diespeker is a long-time supporter of the charity and I’ve written about their fundraising efforts over the years – but this was the first time I took part in one.

I often donate to clients and friends taking part in fundraising, but I’ve not had much time to get involved myself (apart from when I was a child and took part in a sponsored silence – wonder if the mums put their heads together to arrange that). This time I thought it would be great to challenge myself. The event was the Malta Marathon. Now, I’m not a runner and I never will be, but the event included a half marathon walkathon option of 13 miles (21km) which suited me, as I walk my dogs daily. I trained as much as I could in the miserable weather over the winter, trying to walk longer distances. My best distance was about 7 miles walking at about 3 miles per hour. At that rate I was never going to complete the walk in the 3 hours 45 mins required to be in a medal time. But that wasn’t the point for me.I flew to Malta with my Terra Ferma Media colleagues, David and Kaz, where we joined the other team members from stem4 and Diespeker – there were 36 of us in total aiming to raise £10K, some running the marathon, some the half marathon and the rest of us taking part in the walkathon. Diespeker sponsored the accommodation which was the lovely Radisson Blue Hotel. We were lucky enough to have a day’s sightseeing, taking in Mdina and Valletta. We woke to an amazing sunrise on the day of the event – the marathon runners had already left as their start time was early. We took a minibus then a coach to the start line at Mdina and then there was no turning back! Walking 13 miles doesn’t sound too much like hard work, but when we started I realised that the pace was going to be a lot faster than I was used to. I have a short stride so every so often I broke into a jog to catch up with my team mates. It was a pretty hot day so the water stops were much appreciated and I felt very professional taking a wet sponge and squeezing it over my head. My earplugs went in at around the 9km marker and I spent the next 12km walking, jogging and dancing to the soundtrack from Guardians of the Galaxy.

The last part of the walk was along the seafront and when I saw the 1km marker I knew the end was in sight. I was totally shocked to see the time – 3 hours 21 mins, almost a whole hour quicker than I was anticipating. And then – a medal was thrust into my hands. I felt elated and very proud of myself and my teammates. We’d all coped with pain and blisters but kept going. David, Kaz and I raised £1450 which went towards the total raised, over £10,400.

Someone asked me the other day if I’d do it again. I immediately said no. But…. it’s like childbirth, a short time later when the pain has faded then you start to tell yourself you really could do it all again!

stem4 is a charity that really does offer much needed support to teenagers – but also their families and carers, education professionals, school nurses and GPs through the provision of mental health education, resilience strategies and early intervention. Well worth the blisters!

Client Fundraising

It is always really uplifting to help clients shout about their fundraising. It’s not only good for the clients but great to raise the profiles of the charities they are supporting. Most choose local charities that mean something to them on a personal level.

Otter Garden Centres always have impressive fundraising totals. All the branches choose their own charities and last year these included RNLI Torquay, Shekinah Plymouth, Yeovil Freewheelers and Hospiscare, which was Ottery’s charity of the year. The Ottery team raised over £11,500 for Hospiscare, a superb total that was well received on social media and in the press.

Chilcotts Auctioneers also has a great relationship with Hospiscare. Every sale day Chilcotts hands over the kitchen to the charity, who sell cakes, bacon butties, teas and coffees to people attending the auction. Since this started in 2011, the ‘cafe takeover’ has raised in excess of £17,500.

Rusty Pig, too, fundraises for Hospiscare, and was recently in the news with Higher Wiscombe after a fundraising dinner and jumblebee auction raised over £3,000. Robin Rea from the Rusty Pig is a big supporter, as the charity helped his father at the end of his life.

Tickety-Boo in the meantime is fundraising on a smaller scale for Exeter Leukaemia Fund. The fundraising is mainly based around food, of course! The most recent campaign was just before Christmas when the entire proceeds from a week’s worth of mince pie sales went towards ELF. The ongoing total is now at £750. And who can forget that Tickety-Boo’s boss, Stuart, took part in a Kilimanjaro climb to raise money for Pete’s Dragons, Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Lullaby Trust.

The Family Law Company has supported various charities while I’ve worked with them, including Force Cancer Charity, domestic abuse agencies Spitz and Safe, Plymouth Parent Advocacy Project and Citizen’s Advice. Fundraising activities have included a Santa run, a tandem skydive, the Nello and an annual skittles challenge – all very active! They also have bake sales and a cream tea event.

The Volunteer Inn is always amongst the top fundraisers for the Carnival Committee, the organisation that keeps Ottery St Mary’s crazy Tar Barrel event rolling out each year!

While I always donate to these charities and support fundraising efforts of my clients, this year, it’s my turn! Next week I’m taking part in a Walkathon in aid of teenage mental health charity stem4. The tough part is that it’s taking place in Malta, where it’s looking like 18 C and sunshine….! My team, Terra Ferma Media (the agency I work with in London) has just achieved the fundraising target of £1,000 – but more is always welcome. Follow the link here to donate.

Well done to everyone who puts time into fundraising for charities. I know that every penny is appreciated.

Recycling tealight frenzy

Sometimes it’s the simplest things that create a buzz. Take tealights.

The Recycled Candle Company recycle all types of candles, including tealights. They’ve recently had lots of queries about these – people aren’t sure if they’re recyclable because of the metal parts.

So they added a photo to Instagram showing Richard holding a bag of tealights. Which I added to their Facebook page. And then it all went wild! Immediately the likes and comments started building – it was obviously hitting home with many people.

Richard followed up with a video thank you on and it all kicked off again.

The initial post now has well over 600 likes/loves and 600 shares, plus nearly 170 comments coming from Manchester, Cumbria, Sussex and even Texas! The reach is over 130K now, with engagement at 18.2K post clicks. The original Instagram post has also had fantastic engagement with over 320 likes, and an enquiry from the West Coast of Canada where they’re looking at setting up a similar initiative.

I’m just in the process of distributing a press release on the back of it, and I’m hoping we might get national interest. Tealights, who would have thought?

All this profile raising came from a very simple post, with a very simple photograph. Nothing fancy, nothing particularly clever, just absolutely spot on content that resonated with thousands of people.

It all goes to show that there’s a huge interest in recycling with more and more people seeking ways to keep as much as possible out of landfill.

Find out more by visiting therecycledcandlecompany.co.uk

2019 in review

2019 – that was the year that was!

So much can happen in a year, and 2019 turned out to be very busy in terms of fascinating projects, with a gratifying growth in media coverage for clients.

Spotlight came to Otter Garden Centres to film a special SEN day at Santa’s Grotto which aired on December 4th, and as a follow up Radio Devon sent roving reporter Richard on another day to interview families, elves and Santa himself. Other radio appearances were made by Richard and Sargon from The Recycled Candle Company who were also interviewed by The Telegraph for a feature and video about the current climate for small businesses.

Liz and Duncan Chilcott from Chilcotts Auctioneers enjoyed a session with Fitz on Radio Devon. The company celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2019 so I stepped up the PR with additional press releases and a feature for Devon Life. As usual, the stories were hugely varied, with a collection of vintage jewellery, a bomber pilot’s medals, a butcher’s bike, photos of the aftermath of the Lynton flood of 1952 and a huge table from Battle Abbey (allegedly!).

I helped a local community in Broadhembury to create and launch a new website for their village hall. Funded by the National Lottery, the end result is pretty impressive – and very colourful! Thanks to Terra Ferma Media who built the website and were incredibly responsive to all requests for tweaks. Decision by committee is never easy….

I also project-managed a website for trade client Devondale Electrical Wholesalers. I’ve been nagging them for several years to get a new website and I’m so pleased it’s now up and running and working well for them.

In London I was inspired by the many fabulous projects undertaken by marble & terrazzo client, Diespeker & Co. I thoroughly enjoyed writing about these, as well as a number of young, up and coming designers they’ve supported over the year. Next year will be even better, as Diespeker is exhibiting for the first time at the Surface Show in February. Then I’m flying out to Malta with Diespeker and agency Terra Ferma Media to fundraise for the charity they support, stem4 by taking part in a ‘walkathon’ of 13 miles.

I continue to write for Devon Life, the highlight in 2019 being the November issue when my articles about Devon Association of Smallholders, a series of green initiatives in the county and Devon Youth Jazz Orchestra were all published. More to come in 2020, starting with a visit to Sidmouth and a look at a painted pianos initiative!

I was delighted to support clients in awards nominations leading to some stunning successes. The Family Law Company won two categories (including Law Firm of the Year) and acheived Highly Commended in another category in the Devon & Somerset Law Society Awards. The firm also won the category ‘Promoting Access to the Profession’ in the national CILEx Awards. Sarah from Nourish Zero Waste won the Retail category at the Exeter Living Awards and Best New Business at the Express & Echo Business Awards. The Recycled Candle Company was runner up in the national Best Small Shops Awards, a massive achievement as there were over 600 entries. I loved visiting the House of Commons with them to attend the awards ceremony. Other clients were finalists in various awards events, including Griffin Chartered Accountants and Devondale Electrical. Congratulations to you all.

A personal highlight for me was winning Best Professional Services at the 373 Awards held at Escot Estate (another client!). Quite a surprise and I almost fell off my chair.

The refreshing thing about my work is that no day is ever the same. I’m really looking forward to 2020 and seeing what it brings.

Happy New Year to clients past, present and future. Here’s to the next decade!

BBC Spotlight filming

Otter’s magical grotto

I was really pleased to achieve coverage with BBC Spotlight for long-term client Otter Garden Centres, when a crew visited to film at the grotto one one very special day.

I have history with Otter’s magical grotto; I took my children there to meet Santa when they were little (it always amused me that one of the Santas was actually my friend Michael, a lovely Irish fella. We saw him at least twice, and the kids never guessed despite the accent). When they were older, both children worked at the grotto as helper elves – complete with pointy ears and jingling bells on their shoes.

The grotto is a major attraction for local families and over the years has become a well-oiled machine offering a wonderful experience for children and adults alike. But not every child can cope with the crowds. This year Otter talked to me about a grotto they were running for children with disabilities/special educational needs. They’ve done this before – it’s evolved from parents asking about options for children with disabilities like autism who hate crowds, noise and flashing lights. This year we felt that it would be a good opportunity to highlight the issue of these children who haven’t been able to have the same Christmas experience as their peers.

Firstly I talked with a group of mums on the list who Otter highlighted as being very proactive. They were all really pleased with the idea of being given a voice about the problems they faced. One mum and blogger, Danielle, was clearly going to be the perfect spokesperson. Next I approached BBC Spotlight. They loved the idea, but of course it had to fit with scheduling particularly in light of the fact we only had a small window available for filming with the families who had agreed.

It wasn’t until the day that they rang to say they were coming. After confirming with the mums I dashed along to the grotto to meet the crew, reporter Naomi Dymond and her cameraman. They went round the grotto with the families, interviewed Danielle and another mum, and were wonderfully sensitive with the children who had very different reactions to the grotto, the animated characters, music, lights, and quite unexpected things like the fur on a deer! Otter’s grotto team were brilliant, as patient as can be, making sure all the children enjoyed their visit.

At one point I decided to get out of the way of the crew, slipped through a door and found myself lost in the behind the scenes area of the grotto. It did give me the chance to hear, through the wall, one of the children meeting Santa. Santa was so calm and friendly that the potentially scary situation for a lad with autism was turned into a positive experience for him and his family.

The feature focused on the families, not the company, which was exactly what we wanted. It aired on Spotlight two days later, and received a great reaction with more parents contacting Otter to see if they could get on board for next year.

Danielle’s blog is called The Autism Diaries, and is definitely worth reading.

 

House of Commons

House of Commons or Bust

The Recycled Candle Company is a brilliant client for many reasons. Importantly, Richard and Sargon trust me to get on with what I’m good at, while I let them get on with what they’re good at – making luxury candles from recycled wax!

One recent upshot of this was entering them for the Best Small Shops 2019 Competition. I knew of this because Sarah from Nourish mentioned it to me, she was a finalist in 2018. It seemed perfect for TRCC so I started the process of adding them to the Indie Retail website and running through the awards questions with Richard and Sargon.

Part of the competition was a public vote, with the top ten competitors highlighted each week, so we could see how they were performing. TRCC has a very engaged social media following, so I posted a request for votes, and asked again, and again (always politely). TRCC are clearly doing something right, as they featured in the top ten fairly consistently.

It wasn’t just down to the vote, though. The judges looked at the submission questions for community engagement, use of technology and plans for the next five years.

We were all thrilled in October when TRCC was announced as one of the Best 25 Small Shops in Britain, and were invited to a reception at the House of Commons on November 5th. I pointed out the auspiciousness of the date and where we were going… but I was, naturally, delighted to be invited along.

Visiting the House of Commons was a real treat, particularly as I’d never been there. Such an awesome atmosphere. The reception was at the Terrace Pavilion, which is right above the River Thames with a first-rate view of the London Eye.

Icing on the cake? The Recycled Candle Company were announced as one of just two runners up in the competition, which had attracted over 600 entries, we were told. The winner was Papadeli, a Bristol-based deli, and the other runner-up was Book-ish, an independent bookshop in Crickhowell, Powys.

A lovely day, a great result and a very happy client!

Quiz Night!

I occasionally take part in quiz nights, so when The Family Law Company asked me to help them promote a charity quiz night, it seemed a good idea to put together a team.

The quiz was being held as a fundraiser for Citizens Advice Exeter and having commissioned an event graphic, I sent out the press release and looked around for team members.

While I manage PR, Kirsten Clarke from KC Marketing is the outsourced marketing guru for The Family Law Company; Hannah Hocking of Six Degrees Marketing covered marketing during Kirsten’s maternity leave; and Alison Jobson of Straight Marketing has also provided an outsourced marketing service for the firm. The perfect team of communications experts – “On the Rocks”!

The event was held at Exeter Historic Guildhall, a wonderful venue exuding history and tradition. It was packed to the gunnels with teams of four, all intent on winning top spot. Questions came fast and furious, but at the end of Round One we were convinced we had done so badly we would be coming last. One extremely tough round was guessing which song a set of lyrics came from – when quizmaster Stephen Sowden revealed the songs, there were so many cries of “Of course!”.

When the results were announced we were relieved to be comfortably in the middle – in fact there were only 12 points between the lowest score and the winning team.

The whole point of the event, of course, was to raise money. With the entry fee and a raffle, the total came to over £650, a really impressive result.

Some lovely photos courtesy of Bruce Thomas and these have been sent out to the social pages for a little extra PR, as well as a piece in Exeter Daily and Grow.


Candles

Recycling takes a new twist

I’m thoroughly enjoying working with my newest client, The Recycled Candle Company.

When I first met Richard and Sargon I instantly loved what they were doing; making beautiful candles from recycled wax. I found out much more about the concept and their passion when I wrote a feature for Devon Life.

Richard, who grew up in Sidbury, has been perfecting his candle-making techniques since he first started making candles at the age of seven. He learnt how to recycle used wax by trial and error, and now has the process perfected. When Sargon came on board, they were able to turn their recycling ideals into a sound business proposition.

The company is currently keeping over 300kg of used candles out of landfill, and providing and opportunity not just for individuals but for hospitality businesses and churches to recycle their used candles.

Richard and Sargon worked initially out of a shop in Ottery St Mary, and moved into their new shop in Gandy Street in June 2019 – the perfect location for an indie shop like theirs. So my first PR task was to tell everyone about the move, and they were featured in Devon Life, Exeter Living and in an interview with Devon Live, amongst others.

I also organised a workshop for a number of freelance writers and photographer Rosie Parsons. We had a blast making pretty firelighters (which is the way that the lowest grade wax can be reused) and the event should be in Devon Life’s social diary very soon.

Business is growing apace; The Recycled Candle Company sells not only from the shop and wholesale, but online too. Wax supplies have been getting a little low, so the next task I’m helping with is to use PR to get hold of more! Cue an interview with David Fitzgerald on BBC Radio Devon, and a county-wide request for used candles. So far, there’s been lots of interest and promises of wax, especially on social media.

This has been a doubly useful exercise for me; Richard and Sargon are sometimes so busy making candles and running the shop that they don’t have time to keep on top of social media. So although I’m not managing their SM accounts, I’m happy to keep an eye on notifications and remind them when they need to respond!

It’s early days with The Recycled Candle Company but already I know that it is one of those accounts that will give me lots of enjoyment – it’s always nice when work is a pleasure! Check out their website or pop into the shop and find out what all the fuss is about.

Nourish Magdalen Road

Nourish opens in Magdalen Road

I started working with Nourish at the back end of 2018. What a whirlwind it’s been since then!

Apart from writing blogs, press releases and (winning) awards submissions, I’ve been in from the start with the announcement of the second shop, just opened in Magdalen Road on the site of wholefood shop The Bran Tub after the owners retired.

Nourish of Topsham has morphed into Nourish Zero Waste, to facilitate the business expansion. The Magdalen Road shop opened just a day late after a whirlwind refurbishment and branding exercise that saw owner Sarah Martin wielding a paintbrush (my supportive action was to buy her lunch and a cup of herbal tea!).

Not Sarah…

PR for Nourish has been very successful, from the announcement of the second shop which was featured in Devon Live, Devon Life, Exeter Life, Food Magazine, Crumbs Magazine and Exeter Living, to interviews Sarah has undertaken for International Women’s Day and most recently a ‘first look’ at the shop by Devon Live in which Sarah said: “I had one chap come in for milk with his old Blue Sapphire gin bottle and that’s absolutely fine with me. It’s really important to me that this isn’t a crochet your own flip-flops shop, I want it to be a nice friendly store. There’s no judgement here.”

My favourite phrase of the year so far, ‘crochet your own flipflops’. See the whole interview on Devon Live here: We take a sneak peek at Exeter’s newest zero-waste shop.

There’s lots more to come with Nourish once Sarah has come up for air, and I have to say it’s a real pleasure to be involved. I do like my clients!

DASLS

Legal Awards Success

After the success of Nourish at the Exeter Living Awards, it was the turn of long-term legal clients The Family Law Company at the Devon and Somerset Legal Society Awards.

They were shortlisted in five categories and were kind enough to invite me along to join their table at the awards event held at Exeter Cathedral. What a beautiful venue, if a tad chilly!

After a lovely dinner created by Taste Catering (which included the challenge of carving a huge piece of lamb for the meat eaters and a whole stuffed butternut squash for us veggies), the awards began.

Our first thrill was when Kirsty Thyer from The Family Law Company’s Plymouth office was awarded Highly Commended as Leader of the Year.

Kirsty Thyer

Next, the whole firm was recognised as the winners of Law Firm of the Year (1-10 Partners). Our table got very loud, then very quiet as the whole team made their way to the stage to collect the award! But that wasn’t the end of it, and there were tears all round when Imran Khodabocus was named Solicitor of the Year.

Also up for awards were Carrie Laws, for Chartered Legal Exec, and Hannah Porter for Rising Star. Although they didn’t win, they were both proud to be finalists and will no doubt be put up for awards again soon (Carrie has already been entered for the CILEx Awards).

I was totally surprised a couple of days’ later when a beautiful bouquet of flowers arrived on my doorstep, from Rachel and everyone at the firm, thanking me for my efforts helping to write their award submissions. Well, I always say that an award submission is only as good as the people it is written about. You can’t make an awards submission up, you have to write the truth. I knew when I interviewed Imran, for example, that he was a potential winner as his story was so compelling.

Well done to this amazing firm, they’ve had to get a bigger trophy cabinet. We’ve just released the news that they have appointed four new Directors (and amazingly for a law firm, 58% of the Board are now women!).