Influencers!

I sit firmly on the fence as far as influencers are concerned. One of my clients receives so many requests for collaborations (ie freebies) that if they accepted them all they’d go out of business! Invariably these influencers have no prior relationship with the client, they are simply looking for a good deal.

That said, sometimes there is a genuine relationship to be had. Aided by my savvy associates, I always take each approach on its own merits.

But still, the boot was well and truly on the other foot recently when The Recycled Candle Company teamed up with national charity Missing People to create a beautiful limited edition candle ‘Home Sweet Home’.

The wonderful Missing People team were keen to get influencers on board, so I put aside my prejudices and made a list. To be honest, I didn’t think we’d get very far. I thought they’d all be terribly busy with other important things. So I was surprised and delighted that of the 12 influencers that I contacted, 7 of them got back to me PDQ with wonderfully positive responses. They all agreed to do posts and stories in return for a gifted candle, no fees, no strings. And that’s exactly what they did, perfectly timed to pique the interest of anyone thinking about a Mother’s Day gift.

What’s nice is that they are all very different – from mummy bloggers, eco instagrammers and interior/gay gurus (gotta love HouseHomo) to local influencer, Exploring Exeter’s Steph Darkes.

So that taught me, then! A huge and heartfelt thank you to them all for getting behind this wonderful cause.

Other PR iniatives so far include supplying mini candles for the Six Degrees networking event, and securing a feature spot in several Mother’s Day online gift guides, for example Sunset Desires as well as local press coverage such as Devon Live.

The campaign is running all year, so I’ll be seeking out other opportunities, too.

You can find out more and even purchase a candle if you’re so inclined on The Recycled Candle Company’s website. I bought one for myself, and the fragrance (unlit) is making my lounge smell totally delicious.

2022 update

I can’t believe we’re in the middle of February already and I haven’t written a 2022 update – to be fair, the year took off at breakneck speed, and then I snuck off for a birthday week away in Cornwall. Excuses, excuses.

The Recycled Candle Company

As usual, the boys were incredibly busy in the run up to Christmas fulfilling wholesale orders, online orders and running a stall at Exeter’s Christmas Market. Somewhere amongst all that they finally received their Green Apple Awards trophy and the news that they were the sole winners of the Sustainable Development award. Brilliant. Some lovely PR gained in national publications too, including Metro. And we’re about to launch a limited edition candle in a charity collaboration with Missing People. With influencers on board to help, I can’t wait.

Express & Echo |Metro

The Outdoors Group

Opening a new Forest School at Escot Estate. Here I hold my hand up, as this came from my suggestion! Can’t think of a better location, tucked away in part of Black Aller Woods. As well as the Forest School there’s a second site adjacent where the group will run its amazing Transitional Learning Programme giving respite to those struggling in mainstream schools.

Devon Live |East Devon News

Chilcotts Auctioneers

Two interesting stories for this client. Firstly, a collection of antique silver spoons called ‘The Charles C Brian Collection’ which included rare early West Country spoons, some dating back to the late 16th century. The initial estimate of £20,000 to £30,000 was exceeded and the collection achieved an impressive £43,000. There was a secondary story about a missing Plymouth spoon, which was fun to research, too.

Antiques Trade Gazette | Plymouth Herald | Devon Daily

The second story focused on five watercolours by a local artist, Alfred Leyman. These depicted scenes from the Honiton area. Such was the interest that the paintings, estimated at between £200 and £400, actually sold for an average of £1114 and one reaching £1650.

Midweek Herald  | Western Morning News

Otter Garden Centres

Another pair! This time PR for the wonderful fundraising total for Hospiscare raised at the Ottery branch, which topped £14,700 – amazing considering the continuing impact of the pandemic on stores having to close.

Sidmouth Herald | East Devon News

This was closely followed by a story about nightly visits by an actual otter to the Koi carp pond, which was entertaining…

Sidmouth Herald | East Devon News

Exeter Living Awards

They came round very quickly! I put two clients in for awards, Connaught@Christmas for the Event category and SunGift for the Sustainable category. Both are finalists, and will find out if they’ve been successful on March 17th. I wonder if anyone will notice if I wear the same dress as I did last September?

Copywriting

I’ve also been busy writing brochure copy for Burrington Estates, for upcoming residential and commercial developments in the region. At the same time, something completely different with my work for Brigstock Skin & Laser and Communitas Clinics, creating content for their websites. I have two features to write for Devon Life, one about a Flower Farm, the other for Sidmouth’s new Jazz & Blues Festival.

Name-dropping

Oh, and with my agency work for Diespeker & Co in London we’re collaborating with Angela Scanlon…..

That’s a snapshot 2022 update so far this year, by no means exhaustive. And I’ll just add that this year is my 30th year being self-employed after being made redundant by HTV in 1992. I’ve pledged to do 30 things to mark this auspicious milestone, so watch this space for updates.

Awards update

With apologies for the double negative, I can’t not revisit this after the Devon & Somerset Law Society (DASLS) Awards took place last week.

It was a ‘virtual’ awards event, hosted by David Fitzgerald and perhaps the quickest awards I’ve ever attended (I think it took all of 30 mins)! I’d poured a glass of fizz in readiness just in case one of the finalists from The Family Law Company won. In the end I had to pour another as the award wins came thick and fast.

The first announced was the President’s Special Recognition Honours, a new award introduced to acknowledge someone who went the extra mile for clients and colleagues during the pandemic. I’d helped to put together a nomination for incredibly hardworking Senior Associate Solicitor Imran Khodabocus – and was so pleased when he was chosen in recognition for his extraordinary commitment not just in his work but for his community.

In the category awards success for The Family Law Company continued. Jane Chanot won Solicitor of the Year; Cassie Saunders picked up Support Team Member; Hannah Porter was named Rising Star; Gemma Sparks won Chartered Legal Executive; and Donna Hart was highly commended in Leader of the Year, with Grace Bradley a finalist in the Legal Aid Lawyer category.

At the same time as DASLS, the National Paralegal Awards took place virtually. The Family Law Company’s Becka Combes was a finalist in the Family Law and Best Newcomer categories and was delighted to win both categories. Becka wrote both her nominations, I just gave her a little help in tidying them up. So all credit to Becka, what a great win!

PS there was much hilarity at DASLS when one of the finalists forgot to mute themselves and we all heard them discussing Gus Honeybun who, local people will know, was a stuffed rabbit who Mr Fitzgerald had to work with many moons ago…. Let that be a lesson to all of us who continue to use Zoom.

PPS Not long after DASLS, The Family Law Company also won at the prestigious Law Society Awards, where they were awarded Excellence in Practice Management. Wow!

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

 

 

 

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

Nourishing Nourish!

I started working with Sarah Martin in January 2019. Sarah had founded zero waste provisions store Nourish of Topsham the year before, and was now poised to open her second store on Magdalen Road in Exeter.

It was a whirlwind ride, with Nourish ‘two’ featuring in Devon Live, Devon Life, Exeter Life, Food Magazine, Crumbs Magazine and Exeter Living, plus interviews secured for Sarah for International Women’s Day and a ‘first look’ at the shop. Nourish won the Retail category at the Exeter Living Awards and Best New Business at the Express & Echo Business Awards. Nourish was Highly Commended in the Start Up category in the 373 Awards.

We worked together for six months until Sarah realised she needed to invest more into the shops, so PR had to go. Quite right too! However much I love my clients, I am always conscious that my service is often the icing on the cake.

So, in May I was delighted to receive a message saying Nourish needed me once more! After closing for lockdown, Sarah was ready to reopen, and she needed my help.

First up a press release announcing the reopening of both stores. This highlighted the measures put in place to ensure customer and staff safety. Then a spot on the Exeter Chamber Friday Lockdown Show ‘good news’ and a customer featured in the campaign ‘We’re stronger together’.

I’m currently negotiating some speaker slots for Sarah to talk about sustainability and business. A second press release looking at keeping green during Covid-19 has just gone out. Busy busy!

The agreement is for three months which gives me plenty of time to get Nourish noticed again.

Although most of my clients are retained, I’m always happy to provide an ad hoc or shorter contract service. This is useful for start ups and smaller businesses needing a boost.

Grow

Exeter Daily

Stronger Together

Friday Lockdown (16:30)

Exeter Living Virtual Business Club

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 achieved 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!