Mixing it up with Mix

It’s a real pleasure to announce a new addition to my client portfolio. Meet Mix Clean Green!

Mix Clean Green (Mix for short) makes a range of concentrated eco-friendly cleaning products for the home. There are so many plus points: water free, paraben free, non toxic, vegan, low carbon footprint, single use plastic-free – and much more.

I was recommended to Mix founder Kate Deacon by Sarah Martin of Nourish Zero Waste, who I’ve worked with for a couple of years now (thanks Sarah!). Earlier this year Kate gave up her job as an Occupational Therapist with the NHS to concentrate full time on this inspirational business. A leap of faith especially in the current climate.

After meeting with Kate, enjoying GF cake and lots of tea, we agreed a three-month PR starter package. Over the past few weeks I’ve been busy learning about the products, creating a press kit and working on the first press release. Kate has provided me with assets including a very useful photo gallery.

There’s masses to do for Mix, it’s such a fantastic idea and Kate is truly passionate about what she’s doing. There are ideas in the pipeline giving me more than enough content to work with. She’s a very reactive client, too, answering my queries and giving me feedback in a flash. Impressive!

I recommend a visit to the Mix website to take a look and browse the products – be part of the sparkly clean revolution!

I’m loving working with this particular green ‘suite’ of clients, adding Mix into the mix with Nourish and The Recycled Candle Company.


NB My starter package for young companies and start-ups is designed to provide a PR boost at the early stage of their business journey. It works really well and often as not we carry on working together either on a retained or ad hoc basis.

Lockdown competition

The best ideas sometimes arrive in the middle of the night, and this lockdown competition for Diespeker was no exception.

Lockdown made many of us restless, and so it was that I was thinking about Diespeker at 2am. I thought lockdown would provide a great opportunity for a competition to design a bespoke terrazzo.

Now I know a fair amount about terrazzo as I have managed Diespeker’s PR for a good few years through London agency Terra Ferma Media. Although I haven’t made bespoke terrazzo myself (yet), I’ve watched the process and seen the end result.

I worked with Account Manager Lucy Sanderson to bring the concept to life; I wrote a news article and Lucy promoted the competition on Instagram and via the Diespeker newsletter. We brought influencer Emily Murray of The Pink House on board to be one of our judges.

The entries began coming in, and we were amazed at the creativity and ingenuity involved.

After the closing date Emily sent her top three picks, after which I ran through the entries in detail with John Krause, MD of Diespeker. There was a clear winner in Ali Blake, whose idea incorporated items from the banks of the River Thames he’d spotted during lockdown cycle rides. Very topical.

Such is John’s enthusiasm for terrazzo that he couldn’t contain himself to one winner, and he picked three runners up as well. On includes a brass zip and another, buttons. John said he couldn’t resist the challenge presented by these entries.

Ali’s winning terrazzo is underway and he has plans to make a table top with the material once it is ready.

All in all a successful lockdown competition with plenty of PR still to come once the terrazzo designs become reality.

Website news

Tile & Stone Magazine

Insta promotion

 

PR for Lionel’s 95th birthday

Often the best PR is firmly based on real life stories. I was presented with a wonderful opportunity when a long-term customer of Otter Garden Centres came for a visit in June.

Lionel and his wife Barbara had been shielding since lockdown began due to their ages, and Lionel’s 95th birthday was approaching. As lockdown began to ease, Lionel’s son-in-law Tony thought the perfect present for Lionel would be a visit to Otter – he knew it would be a safe, caring environment.

Tony got in touch with Otter and the wheels rolled! The team were thrilled with the idea, and planned a warm welcome for Lionel with a red carpet, banners and even a birthday cake.

I went to the garden centre in Ottery St Mary armed with my camera to capture the moment. Lionel didn’t have a clue what was planned and his face was a picture. Managing Director Jacqui Taylor came over to say hello and wish Lionel a happy birthday.

Tony told me the backstory – after Lionel retired as a scientist some 30 years ago he moved to Devon with Barbara. Apparently his first question to their new neighbour was “where can a find a good garden centre?” His neighbour told him about Otter and he has been shopping there for all his gardening needs ever since.  A lovely accolade for the business, which is still very much family-run and independent.

Afterwards, Lionel went off shopping, loading his trolley with essentials like compost – and lots of plants!

Coverage

Devon Live

Sidmouth Herald

Exeter Daily

East Devon News

Sidmouth Nub News

Plus 185 likes on the Facebook post, 76 likes on Insta.

Thanks Lionel!

 

 

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

PR for family law during coronavirus

I am proud to provide a PR service to The Family Law Company, a forward-thinking, innovative and principled legal firm. The work is always interesting and often emotive, but even moreso over the past few months of the coronavirus pandemic.

Early on, the company saw the need to explain ‘contact’ in the current climate, particularly after Michael Gove made a statement (which was later changed). Basically contact is where separated parents see their children, referring usually to the parent that doesn’t live with the children. The issue, of course, is whether this should continue at the moment. I worked with Solicitor Hannah Porter on a blog clarifying the facts. Marketing Manager Kerry England, who pushed the blog out on social media, said the traffic to the website doubled the day that it went live. I turned the blog into a press release and the interest continued. The content was later turned into a free webinar presented by Hannah and Solicitor Imran Khodabocus, for whom I secured an interview with Heart FM to explain what the webinar was all about. Devon 24  Grow

Alongside this has been supporting an initiative from MD Norman Hartnell, who has a longstanding commitment to the plight of those who need legal aid, and the problems with accessing it. The increase in domestic violence during the pandemic has been well covered, but Norman saw a pressing issue; to access legal aid, certain ‘evidence’ must be presented which is nigh on impossible to get at the moment, when getting to see a doctor, for example, is incredibly difficult. Additionally, perpertrators of domestic violence are even more present during lockdown. Norman wrote an impassioned letter, which I proofed and edited, to send to MPs including the Prime Minister, asking that this requirement for evidence is dropped, and that legal aid lawyers are more than capable of assessing whether a need for legal aid is genuine.

Again this was turned into a press release which I distributed to local press, newsrooms and The Law Society. I also had a very useful chat with a family law journalist who writes for the Guardian, a useful contact for the future! The letter is definitely worth a read: Norman’s letter

Chef

Otter Garden Centres PR update

Generating positive PR in a time of crisis.

It’s the strangest of times, there’s no doubt about it. Nothing is the same as before coronavirus struck. But there’s something really positive about the stories that keep popping up on social media. There is so much support from people for other people, and local businesses for communities and charities.

A big hats off to client Otter Garden Centres who stuck to their principles and shut their doors to customers, despite many pleading for them to stay open. People in lockdown desperately want to get gardening; I can say this first hand as my own neighbours have so far dug an allotment, laid a path, thinned the bamboo and now they’re building a mini greenhouse they bought on eBay before the crisis hit. They have found a few bits missing….

Otter has responded to the pleas by making a series of plant and veg packs available to order online – I have a veg pack arriving today although most is going to the aforementioned neighbours who have also dug a new allotment. I’m taking on the grow bags and tomato plants which is the limit of my growing abilities.

But the compaChef in kitchensny really went the extra mile when they utilised their commercial kitchens in Ottery St Mary to prepare 300 meals for the children of key workers still attending school, and for delivery to vulnerable children. It started when MD Jacqui Taylor learned about a school cook who was having to work right through the Easter holidays to prepare school dinners. Not only was she unable to take a break, she was supposed to be going away on a trip which was cancelled because of coronavirus which really didn’t make her feel great. So Jacqui offered not only the kitchens but two volunteer chefs who spent a whole Sunday cooking the meals.

I’ve said before that Otter too often hide their community-mindedness, as they don’t want to be seen as cashing in on the help that they give. But this story, being very much of the time, was one to make a little noise about. The resulting Facebook post reached 37,107 people and attracted 3,351 reactions, comments and shares. The story was also picked up by the local press (Sidmouth Herald).

It’s lovely to be a part of this in a small way. Well done Otter, for helping more people to stay positive.

 

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.

 

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.

medals

Under the Hammer

Managing PR for Chilcotts Auctioneers, an independent auction house based near me in Honiton, gives superb storytelling opportunities. I love the chance to really research auction lots and discover their back stories.

Recently, like the proverbial buses, three came along at once. The challenge was on to write engaging press releases for each and distribute them in the month up to the sale on June 1st.

The first story required lots of research, as it concerned RAF medals and log books, documents, uniforms and photographs from WW2 fighter pilot Group Captain Peter Casement, who flew with both Bomber Command and Coastal Command. His was a fascinating story; he was one of the few pilots to have seen service throughout WW2, and during the Battle of the Atlantic the bomber he piloted was the first to bring back photographic evidence of the sinking of a U-boat.

The combination of his medals and an extensive archive of materials including his flying jacket, gloves and boots, several sets of uniform, photographs and RAF training manuals were sold as one lot. The auction estimate was between £10,000 to £15,000. The story gained lots of interest, and the hammer price reached £21,000.

Bomber plane

The second story was a set of 19th century German Orders of Chivalry, thought to have been awarded to an aristocratic German family, with some very likely to have been given to them by Queen Victoria. The English owner of these rare medals had served in Germany in the aftermath of WW2, and we’ll never really know how he came to possess them – perhaps he was given them in return for food or shelter.

German orders of Chivalry

The third story was very different. It concerned a collection of vintage jewellery assembled over several decades by one Pamela Schneider who had lived in North Devon. Interestingly, Pamela was one of Chilcotts’ first vendors, back in 2004. 

There was a connection with the other two stories, as Pamela grew up during WW2. In spite of a disjointed education, she became a successful entrepreneur, running a café before discovering an interest in antiques. Pamela’s daughter told us that in the late 1960s she began to read numerous books about antiques, and never missed an episode of Going for a Song!

There was a good take up of the jewellery collection press release in the Devon press, and I attribute this to the stunning photograph Chilcotts supplied; butterflies, dragonflies and flowers scattered in the striking aubern hair of their daughter! I always say that images are so important, and here is another example of this truism.

Pamela Schneider Collection

Antiques Trade Gazette
Midweek Herald
Exeter Daily

2019 is Chilcotts Auctioneers 15th anniversary year, so here’s wishing happy celebrations to this wonderful family business. I’m looking forward to learning about more items going under the hammer!


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!).