The Wilds book cover

Book PR – The Wilds

I’m excited to be working with author Sarah Pearse again, this time for The Wilds, the third book in her trilogy featuring Detective Elin Warner.

I first supported Sarah with PR for the publication of the paperback of her second novel, The Retreat in 2023. Book PR was a new specialism for me, but I quickly got going and we had lots of coverage in the local press and glossies, including Devon Life Magazine. We also ran competitions with Visit South Devon and Torquay magazine The Beach Hut.

The Wilds storyline is set in two locations, the Devon coast and Portugal’s remote National Park, Peneda-Gerês. Central to the plot is the disappearance of Kier, who escaped her hometown and twin to live her life on the road. But why did she leave, and what happened to her? The theme of coercive control runs through the book, highlighting the issues of gaslighting and trauma.

For me, this time round there’s another layer to the PR, as Sarah has teamed up with a domestic abuse charity. Still early days, but I’m busy working on collaborative PR opportunities, as well as securing local PR and organising events.

The Wilds is published on July 16th and is available to pre-order from all good booksellers!

 

Group of people at the National Camellia Trail

Otter in the Spotlight!

This year is Otter Garden Centres 60th anniversary so my foot is on the gas working on a variety of stories, for press, website, socials and local news.

Last week, I was asked to see if I could spark interest in the news that Otter’s exclusive camellia, Claire Hannah, was being added to the National Camellia Trail at Mount Edgcumbe in Cremyll, Torpoint. I have to admit to having never heard of the Trail, but I thought the story was lovely, considering it’s the time of year when camellias are in full bloom, and the timing, perfect to encourage visitors to the Trail for Mother’s Day and in a couple of weeks, Easter.

After ascertaining that Otter’s MD Jacqui Taylor was happy to take the plants to Mount Edgcumbe, I contacted BBC Spotlight. They loved the idea, but we all looked at the weather and decided the next day was the best option. Not much time to sort everything. Cue multiple emails with Spotlight and reporter Johnny Rutherford, frantic calls to Mount Edgcumbe to make sure they were okay about the filming, and to their Camellia Curator Lee Stenning who was also to feature in the story, to check his timings. Then a hair raising hour trying to track down Jacqui to pinpoint when she could get there. I eventually found her at the Taunton garden centre, and finally, everything was sorted.

Despite windy conditions, the sky stayed clear and the sun even came out. The National Camellia Trail did its job by looking very beautiful, Johnny and Lee made an entertaining double act for the broadcast, and Jacqui looked suitably delighted that the exclusive bloom was being added to the collection.

And I’ve learnt all about the National Camillia Trail collection! It was started in 1976 with a gift of 70 camellias from the International Camellia Society. There are over 1000 camellias in the collection and as many camellias tend to be in full flower in the early Spring months, it’s a great time to visit. If you do go, see if you can spot Claire Hannah!

Mount Edgcumbe National Camellia Trail

PS I realised recently that I first started working with Otter for their 50th anniversary. So I’m very proud to have such a long-term client who I have a great relationship with. Long may it continue!

The Extreme Team for Devon Life

I’ve been working with World Extreme Medicine for around a year with my PR pal Sharon Goble.

We’ve had some fantastic success getting the organisation featured in the likes of Reader’s Digest and People’s Friend, as well as regional press and local radio. We got a good amount of coverage for the ongoing Medics4Ukraine initiative, which has raised around £2.5M in medical training and supplies for medics work-ng on the frontline and beleaguered hospitals in Ukraine. WEM was highly commended at the Exeter Living Awards, and I put founder Mark Hannaford forward for the LDC Top 50 Ambitious Leaders – watch this space.

Earlier in the year, I was delighted to put my feature hat on and interview founder Mark Hannaford myself, for an article for Devon Life. Mark sent me his CV. It ran to many pages! We talked for ages, he’s done so much, he’s truly unstoppable. From kayaking past a glacier on his 21st birthday and working in the most remote areas of Australia to arranging for Tom Cruise to make a virtual appearance at WEM’s annual conference, Mark is always looking ahead to the next challenge. Luckily he’s also a lovely chap!

The resulting feature for Devon Life was published in the June issue, and I have to say I’m really pleased with it. Helped of course by a fantastic array of photos.

My retained contract with WEM is now finished, but it’s been a pleasure working for this amazing organisation and talking to so many inspirational medics and adventurers. And Sharon and I are now on call as WEM’s ad hoc PR support, so we look forward to continuing the relationship.

My next feature was about a violin maker called Kev based in Exeter, a very different subject to write about – but also totally intriguing!

 

 

 

 

 

Optix really is best place to work

I’ve been working with Optix Solutions for just under a year. It was a bit of a slow burn start as I got to know the business and the people involved. But now, there’s no stopping them!

It’s a fantastic mix of PR opportunities, including press releases, podcasts, contributions to leading business magazines and, of course, awards. Optix MD Rob Stevens asked me to help with the submission for Campaign’s Best Place to Work awards. Optix has been in the top 100 for two years in a row, but with the company increasingly focused on employee satisfaction, there looked a good opportunity for them to do even better.

I worked with Rob and the team to build the submission into something extra special. All the information was there, it sometimes just takes someone from outside of an organisation to point out that what a company is doing day to day is actually pretty impressive! That’s my skill.

Optix found out they were in the top 100 for the third year back in March. But then they were invited to an awards reception in London. And next, Rob was interviewed by a journalist. Lots of positive noises. Rob and colleague Xenia went to the reception and discovered that Optix had won the boutique agency category, and had been placed fourth overall in the top 100. Quite an achievement.

I’m really proud to have helped them with this success. I always say that I’m fortunate to have a client portfolio that features so many ethically minded individuals and businesses. Optix genuinely cares about its team, which is why they so deserve this award. Congratulations!

 

Quiet summer? Not here!

The summer months, particularly August, were once a slightly quieter time workwise  – but this year it has been rather the reverse! Every client has been busy which, in the light of the economy and energy crisis, is a good thing.

  • Coldharbour Field Kitchen which opened in June is going great guns. They benefitted from the heatwave with lots of customers taking advantage of the decking and enjoying the stunning sunsets across East Devon (I was one of them!).
  • World Extreme Medicine has continued to send convoys to Ukraine with medical supplies thought the Medics4Ukraine initiative – the fifth convoy recently went and the sixth is due in late September. Meanwhile I’ve organised a photographic competition for them, a feature with Reader’s Digest – and together with Sharon from If Media we’ll shortly be ramping up PR for the upcoming conference in November.
  • The Family Law Company has continued to achieve success in national awards, which is a personal satisfaction for me as I work on the nominations for them. Lots of press releases and blog writing over the summer too. And a networking event to look forward to in October.
  • Very excitingly I’ve recently been working with Chilcotts Auctioneers to promote the sale of the Lawson Rudge Studio. More of that soon, but Lawson is a renowned ceramicist who was at the Royal College of Art with David Hockney. I interviewed him last week for a Devon Life feature, what a wonderful and varied life he has had. His flat cows are a favourite of mine and I might well make a bid for one in the November 5th sale!
  • Meanwhile I’ve been beavering away for Optix Solutions with a variety of news stories which have had some good local and national traction. They’ve recently rebranded and their website is looking really smart.

I head off for my own summer holiday tomorrow, just one week on the beautiful island of Corfu. This really will be a time to recharge my batteries – I won’t be answering emails for a whole week!

Samples of coverage:

Coldharbour Field Kitchen launch

Medics4Ukraine

World Extreme Medicine in Beer

Grace Bradley wins Legal Aid Family Solicitor (P53)

Optix clocks off at 3pm

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!