Extreme PR?

I’m delighted to add two new clients to my portfolio – the fabulous Optix Solutions and the amazing World Extreme Medicine.

I’ve known the team at Optix for some years, and I’ve been chatting to MD Rob Stevens about providing a PR service since before the pandemic. Of course it all went on hold when Covid hit, but Rob came back to me this year when Optix began to rise like the proverbial phoenix, with an impressive growth of around 43% in the past 12 months. Much of this it attributable to the implementation of a Shadow Board – and I’m pleased that this was the first piece of PR I managed for them. You can read about it here. We’ve much more in the pipeline, as they have many interesting stories to tell.

Next up, World Extreme Medicine. WEM is the leading provider of education, conferences, consultancy and medical cover in the specialist field of extreme medicine – in locations such as polar terrain, jungles, oceans – and space. Plus increasingly humanitarian situations such as war zones and environmental catastrophes. WEM is just about to take a fourth convoy to Ukraine, both to train medics on the frontline and provide much needed medical supplies. I was approached by their brand strategist Bruce on LinkedIn – he still won’t tell me how he came across me! After a few Zoom meetings I met with Bruce and WEM founder Mark Hannaford in Exeter and I was delighted to be offered the account. I’ve brought fellow PR guru Sharon Goble in for this account. Her sharp end news skills are a real bonus. Our first pieces of work are around the Ukraine convoy and to promote a photography competition on the theme ‘Extreme is Everywhere’ – which has master photographer Perou on board as one of the judges.

It’s always a thrill to secure a new client, and both Optix and WEM fit perfectly with my own ethos of transparency and trust. Exciting times!

Introducing Coldharbour Farm Shop

I’m delighted to be working with Coldharbour Farm Shop in Ottery St Mary as they get ready to open their fantastic new Field Kitchen in May.

Most people know of my commitment to supporting smaller, independent, local businesses – these are usually run by people like me, who work hard and want to achieve the best results possible. At Coldharbour, that’s Andrea and Beth.

There’s always a great back story to an indie business; Coldharbour Farm was first farmed by Andrea’s great grandfather, Harry, in the 1930s. The farm has been handed down the generations and during that time has changed and diversified, particularly in recent years. Where once there were dairy cows and chickens (the farm shop was once the dairy parlour), Andrea now keeps sheep and pigs.

Andrea was joined by business partner Beth in 2016 when the farm shop and cafe first opened. In fact, I came across them not long after, when I judged for Taste of the West awarding the cafe a well deserved gold after enjoying a fantastic smashed avocado brekkie. We’ve bumped into each other over the years, but it was their plans for the new Field Kitchen that prompted them to get in touch to see if I could take them on as a client.

The Coldharbour Farm Field Kitchen is a natural progression from a small venture they started during the pandemic, serving food outside from a cabin to keep within government guidelines. No lockdown parties here, PM!

This new cafe is going to be fabulous. It has stunning views across Ottery and beyond. It has a tranquil setting. It’s a wonderful new building that is both quirky and welcoming. Andrea and Beth are devising a new menu – all firmly grounded in local produce including meat from the farm (sorry lambs). Plenty of job opportunities for chefs and front of house staff – hard to fill perhaps, but anyone who joins now is in at the start of something special. I for one, can’t wait.

I’m currently building up their social media presence and quietly getting the word out, because they really want a soft start rather than a big launch bash. Maybe we’ll have that one year on. In the meantime, show your love and like their Facebook and Instagram, and come along from mid-May to enjoy the views and eat some great grub. Just at the top of Slade Road in Ottery. Fabulous farm shop too.

Big thanks for the recommendation to The Recycled Candle Company x

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.

Event PR Connaught@Christmas

It was a very, very cold day when I first met Connaught@Christmas organiser John Radford in Sidmouth’s Connaught Gardens on my birthday last February to discuss providing event PR. Fast forward 10 months and what a roller coaster of a ride!

This was the first time the gardens were going to be illuminated this way, and I knew from the start it was going to be amazing. Quite the best location, on the clifftops above the sea. Connaught@Christmas combined a paid visit to the gardens with a free-to-visit Food & Craft Village in nearby Manor Road car park. Only on for 6 days, it promised something new, exciting and affordable for visitors of all ages.

After an initial press release to announce the event, all was quiet for many months as the branding and website were developed. With the event starting on December 7th, we decided September was the time to start the push for ticket sales. After introducing John to Hannah Hocking of Six Degrees Marketing to (very successfully) manage the Facebook advertising, I created a series of press releases announcing various aspects of the event, including:

  • Tickets on sale
  • Design team plans coming together
  • Showcasing 30+ local traders at the Food & Craft Village
  • Build begins
  • Gardens light up

I also wrote editorial for the East Devon Resident for its November and December issues, negotiated competitions to win a family ticket with Devon Life and Radio Exe and populated a list for the press launch.We received masses of coverage, interest and support from local media. I was delighted that Radio Devon came to interview John the day before we opened, and when ITV Westcountry responded to my suggestion for a weather report from the gardens. The stage was set! And then came Storm Barra.

We had all been watching the weather, which had looked pretty reasonable until this storm turned up, due on the first day of the event – also the day of the press launch. John and I spoke the day before, then the morning of the storm. I had already contacted everyone on the press list with a ‘watch this space’ message. At midday, the call was made and the first day of Connaught@Christmas was cancelled. I duly cancelled the VIPs. John decided simply to refund all the tickets rather than make people rebook. This was a top decision, as everyone appreciated it and the majority booked for another day. Westcountry were still going to come, as the storm had died down in the afternoon, but then called me to say that we’d been bumped by the resignation of the Plymouth Argyle manager! They did come the following day, all the better as the lovely Kate Haskell did the report – Kate and I both write for Devon Life so it was good to catch up with her.

As for the event, it was a huge success. The feedback was incredibly positive, with only a few visitors being disappointed that they couldn’t bring their four-legged friends. I have an idea about that for next year! Some people asked why it only ran for 6 nights and want it to run throughout December next time. I went twice, once to liaise with ITV and the second time to enjoy it just as a visitor. Both times I fell totally in love with the event, the location, the moon rising over the sea, the projections over Jacob’s Ladder beach, seeing Father Christmas chat with children, the choirs singing on the bandstand, the cactus greenhouse lit up with so many colours.

I’m proud to have been involved providing event PR for Connaught@Christmas. I was totally bowled over too, to receive a gorgeous bouquet from John thanking me for my efforts. Well John, that’s my job. I really hope to do it all again in 2022.

Examples of coverage

Announcement

On sale

Plans coming together

Keeping it local

Where to see Christmas illuminations

What’s On

Build underway

Event begins – a day late!

Exeter Property Awards Success

It has been an extraordinary year for client awards successes. I have to say I’m gobsmacked, not a word I use often! The latest was the Exeter Property Awards. This was the inaugural event and I had worked with two clients, SunGift Solar and Burrington Estates to put submissions together.

Both were shortlisted in a number of categories, SunGift in the Green Initiative and Suppliers & Services categories and Burrington Estates in the Developer and Transformation categories, the latter for the amazing Winslade Manor on the Winslade Park development.

These awards took place during an afternoon event at Sandy Park. I wasn’t there in person, in fact while the awards were being announced I was walking the dogs on Hembury Fort! However, I followed the results on Twitter. I lost the connection for a while, but when Twitter updated I was thrilled to see that SunGift had collected the Suppliers & Services award, and Burrington Estates had won the Transformation award. What I didn’t know until later on in the evening when SunGift MD Gabriel texted me, was that SunGift had also jointly won the Green Initiative with Grenadier (who collected a whopping three awards in total). Well, I have to say, three out of four ain’t bad!

There are just two more to go now, with the Western Morning News Awards (SunGift again) and the Family Law Awards, where The Family Law Company is shortlisted in the Wellbeing category. Then maybe a month or two respite, before it all starts again….

Congratulations to all the winners at the Exeter Property Awards!

 

Ever more Outdoors!

Since starting a retained contract with the magnificent organisation The Outdoors Group in January 2021, there’s been an avalanche of PR opps.

From taking on an existing forest school site in North Devon, through launching a new course for adults outdoors with autistic children, being named as a finalist in the rural business awards, opening a new special school site, running a yoga retreat. Then there have been business stories, celebrating a bumper 10th anniversary year and, next up, moving to a new HQ.

As well as press releases, we’ve run a competition with Devon Life with full page editorial, hosted a journalist on the yoga retreat and had the TogFest featured in Exeter Living’s social pages. The Outdoors Group also won the Education category at the Exeter Living Awards. For once, I didn’t write the nomination!

After a bit of nagging from me (“I need some good images!”) a wonderful library of professional photos is growing, courtesy of photographer Pip Raud.

So much more to come, with a spectacular rebranding underway, the first SEND conference being planned for 2022 and national press coverage to chase. An inspiring client, forward-thinking with an exceptional ethos. Pause for breath… and on to the next piece of news!

Just some of the coverage to date:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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