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!).

Sarah with her award

Nourish is the Winner!

It was a pleasure to attend this year’s Exeter Living Awards with two clients, The Family Law Company and Nourish of Topsham.

The event is held annually at The Great Hall at Exeter University, which was beautifully decorated, as usual.

I believe I proved my worth to Sarah of Nourish when I elbowed my way to the free bar to grab the last two glasses of pink prosecco on arrival.

What a lovely night it was, especiaWith Sarah at Exeter Living Awardslly when Nourish was announced as the winner of the Retail category. Which I almost missed as I was scrabbling around on the floor trying to find a bracelet that had slipped from my wrist.

I seem to remember Sarah swearing mildly when she went on stage to receive her award (this was nothing compared to the Mexican wave initiated by another winner, Good Game, who were, they freely admitted, slightly the worse for wear).

Commiserations to The Family Law Company who were pipped at the post in the Legal and Financial category, but coming up very soon is the DASLS Awards. I have everything crossed that they will collect at least one award at this event. Nourish is a finalist again at the Venus Awards next week, in the New Business Category, so watch this space!

I’m now working on submissions for the Exeter Business Awards for a number of clients, after which hopefully there will be a break before the next raft!

Although it seems to be awards season at the moment, there’s plenty more going on; Nourish is working towards opening its second store in Magdalen Road, and I’m delighted to have secured lots of great coverage for this including: Devon Live | Business Insider | Exeter Daily | Crumbs Magazine

Sue on sofa

Happy New Year

I can’t believe that another year has passed, and we’re into 2019. Old news I think – as it’s now January 7th (get over it, Sue). 2018 was quite a year for In The Right Order, with several new clients coming on board alongside my longer-term clients.

PR & Copywriting

I was delighted to secure some superb PR for clients. The highpoint was seeing Chilcotts featured on ITV Westcountry and in a number of local papers with a heartfelt story that fitted perfectly with the Armistice 100 celebrations. I undertook a quickie (!) for Acorn Ecology’s 15 year anniversary that resulted in some lovely coverage, and helped Exe Mortgages to up its profile in the local area. For Devondale Electrical Wholesalers, I enjoyed putting together case studies and PR for their successes and was proud to secure the first trade by-line for the MD. It was really good to work with Helen Bottrill of The Creative Business Network to make Escot’s first Artisan Market such a success. One of my favourite moments was receiving a copy of the Diespeker Magazine, which I worked on with agency Terra Ferma Media. Can’t beat print!

Awards

It takes a lot of work to get an awards submission right – I’m becoming a dab hand. Highlights included Norman Hartnell of The Family Law Company being named ‘Legal Hero’ Award in the Devon & Somerset Law Society Awards. Rusty Pig made the top three in the Best Restaurant Award at the Devon Life Food & Drink Awards (they didn’t win but we were definitely the loudest table). In London, Diespeker & Co won the Tomorrow’s Tile & Stone Awards and were finalists in the Southwark Business Awards. I was nominated (for the third time) myself in the 373 Group Awards. My belief is that being a finalist is almost as good as winning…

Social Media

It was an interesting year on social with Twitter flattening out and Facebook receiving a backlash due to Cambridge Analytica, amongst other shenannigans. As a result, ‘likes’ on pages slowed down. However, Facebook advertising is still proving a winner for many businesses, however and has certainly influenced bookings for one of my newest clients, Treaslake Farm Cottages. LinkedIn has increased in strength; sometimes I’m not sure it knows what it is but it’s a great place for referrals. Instagram continues its upward trend as illustrated by my teenage daughter glued to her iPhone last night. I’ve recently started boomeranging. Look it up.

Features

My visit to Simon Hulstone’s Michelen starred restaurant The Elephant (go, it’s brilliant) must be one of my favourite ever commissions from Devon Life (although not necessarily the 6am start with a visit to Brixham Fish Market). I spent a day in the restaurant kitchens learning about fish from Simon, and a fantastic lunch to boot. Other features over the year included Colyton Tannery, Segways at Escot House and my most challenging feature ever, for which I had to write about trends in sinks for Devon Home Magazine. My friends at Taste Buds Magazine sent me to review Occombe Farm Cafe, Duke’s Restaurant and the Lamb at Longdown. It’s a hard life.

Coming up

I’m looking forward to finding out what this year has in store. For starters, I’m thrilled to be working with my newest client, Nourish of Topsham, a zero waste provisions store flying the flag for a plastic free shopping experience – good things happening there. I’m hoping to write my next feature for Devon Life about a fabulous lady chef (hail to the chef). I have several awards nominations out and I’m chomping at the bit to find out if the clients have made the shortlist. And this year – maybe I’ll crack the Western Morning News Awards….

Happy New Year, here’s to 2019.

 

Acorn Ecology Team Photo by Andrew Butler

Celebrating 15 years – PR for Acorn Ecology

Celebrating 15 years

As well as working for retained clients I enjoy providing ad hoc PR and one-off project-based services (see a previous blog to find out more).

Recently my marketing associate, Hannah Thomson put me forward to help with PR for Acorn Ecology’s 15 year anniversary celebrations. I’ve known of Acorn Ecology for some years, and I have met founder Sue Searle at various networking events. So, it was a pleasure to hop on board to work with them for this project.

Sue set up Acorn Ecology in 2003 to provide ecological services to home owners, architects, developers and local authorities. Branches opened in Bristol and Guildford in 2014 to expand the geographical scope of the work of the company and bring new expertise to the team. In 2018, the business provides expert wildlife information for protected species such as bats, badgers and dormice. It is also one of the top training centres in the UK for ecology courses.

To celebrate the milestone, Acorn Ecology hosted a celebration at their premises in Westpoint.

Always key to such an event is photography. The talented Andrew Butler was available and as usual came up with the goods;  shots of Sue on her own, with her team, with the guests and some images of the event taking place. The celebration included an interview with Sue, conducted by Cathy Towers, which informed the resulting press release.

The result was some nice coverage in Western Morning News, Exeter Living, Exeter Daily and Devon Life. At the same time, alternative press releases were sent to Guildford and Bristol media where the business has satellite offices.

And sometimes with a one off contract – there’s more to come. Another associate, Sharon Goble (who knows everyone there is to know in the local media) flagged Acorn Ecology up to Spotlight’s environmental correspondent, so hopefully we’ll see them talking bats on the TV sometime soon!

Feature writer Segway Safari

Segway or bust – feature writer

Feature writer

Alongside my PR service, I am an ad hoc feature writer for Devon Life.

I’ve written about many different subjects over the years, and interviewed some interesting Devon folk. But possibly my favourite features are those that involve an ‘experience’.

So far I’ve been horseriding after a break of many years, gone gliding with the Devon & Somerset Gliding Club, flown into the clouds to watch skydivers leap from a plane (I was offered a jump, but had to decline) and, my most recent experience, tried a Segway Safari.

I pitched the idea as part of the magazine’s ’13th edition’ and was delighted to have it accepted. The Segway Safari runs at Escot Estate, an area I know well from dog walking and from the work I do with Escot House. Devon Country Pursuits is the onsite company offering the experience, along with numerous other activities including paintball, laser tag, interactive treasure hunt, archery and clay shooting.

Segway Safari

This was such good fun, and we were blessed with a lovely day in late May, when the bluebells were still very much in evidence in the park. Andrew Butler came along as feature photographer, and appeared to relish the chance to ride a Segway himself. We had a great morning that included a training session and the Safari itself.

Andrew chose his spots for photographs, whilst instructor Max and I attempted to pose for the camera without falling off.

Segway is surprisingly relaxing and exhilerating at the same time. It’s an activity that I would be tempted to do again.

You’ll have to pick up a copy of the magazine to read the full experience.

Devon Country Pursuits loved the article, and suggested next time I try quad biking… watch this space.

Segway feature writer