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!

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?


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.


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.

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.

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!


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!



Agata Domarecka food & drink PR

A big cheer for Agy at Rusty Pig

Hurrah for the Rusty Pig

I’ve been fortunate enough to work with Robin Rea for several years now as one of my food & drink PR clients. Robin owns Rusty Pig in Ottery St Mary, a restaurant, butchers shop, specialist charcuterie wholesaler and wedding caterer (if you want a wedding feast, he’s the man to talk to). PR has been good; awards shortlistings, contributing to Devon Life’s Christmas Hamper (three years in a row), brokering reviews plus a whole lot of press releases and feature articles.

Robin, it has to be said, has a unique personality. He goes his own way, not compromising on his beliefs and way of life to make greater profits or jump up a notch or two in the chef stakes. Robin is his own man.

Rusty Pig has been a fixture in Ottery since 2011 but over the past year there have been some really positive changes. The superb Mark Russell joined as resident chef, allowing Robin to develop other aspects of the business. And then, early in 2017, a small explosion occurred when new restaurant manager Agata Domarecka was appointed.

I’ve come across Agy a few times, notably when Devon Life Ed Andy Cooper sent me an email from her suggesting a feature on her partner, leathermaker Matthew Bailey (writing it at the moment, watch this space). I bumped into her at The Source trade show at Westpoint Exeter where we had both gone to support Robin who was exhibiting his charcuterie with business partner Paul Young.

Food & drink PR

Next up, I interviewed Agy for a press release about her appointment. She’s an amazing lady, full of energy, full of ideas. Originally from Poland, Agy has been working in the UK for 10 years, starting as a waitress then being promoted to restaurant manager at Combe House before it became a Pig (not a rusty one).

I distributed the press release last week and had some nice feedback, especially from Devon Life who had popped in for brekkie on her first day and saw exactly what I was talking about!

It’s always been a privilige to work with the Rusty Pig team – they are as friendly as anything and okay, sometimes a bit cheeky (you know who you are). I suspect Agy’s appointment will herald a new chapter in the fortunes of the business – she is taking a firm grip and shaking a few things up a bit. She’ll soon have customers eating out of her hand.

A good time to book dinner – and meet the whirlwind that is Agy!

Slowburn PR lights and sofa

Slowburn PR for longterm results

Ready, steady, launch!

Last week I attended the launch party for Amos Lighting‘s new showroom in Topsham. It was lovely to see the showroom in its finished state; last time I was there, the floor was still concrete and there weren’t any stairs – or lights.

Suffice to say the magic has now been worked and the showroom, Amos Lighting & Home, looked fantastic. I was tempted not only by the lights on display that included new designs I hadn’t seen before but by the extended furniture range. Will a Conran sofa be seen in my office sometime soon? Watch this space.

I was there not only to schmooze but to help with name-getting for the event photographer. This was a tough call as the showroom was packed with local business people, interior designers and architects, but all were happy to be snapped.

On one circuit I bumped into Tara from AB, an Exeter digital marketing specialist. We got talking about PR, and she said that she thought it must be a difficult service to offer from the perspective of always needing to find opportunities and openings for clients. We discussed how PR is often seen as a light, fluffy service, but is actually an important part of a business strategy.

There are no two ways about it as far as I’m concerned, effective ongoing PR is hard work but eminently achievable, if you’re prepared to put in the effort.

Slowburn PR

I always mention drip feed to clients when discussing the potential of slowburn PR. Keeping a business in the public eye in many small ways is often as effective as a big splash; both have their merits, of course.

There are many ways of achieving this and any PR secured needs to be in the right place (at the right time), whether this is print, online or on television or radio. The key is to be reactive and responsive, to actively seek out opportunities and keep your finger on the pulse – always. It is hard work, believe you me, to continually keep up with local and national news,  and stay abreast of social trends (here I find a teenager’s perspective comes in handy and luckily I have that on tap). You need to be talking to people, always talking, making connections and thinking of how to use them to everyone’s benefit.

When your PR consultant is keeping their eye on the ball for one client, this means they are keeping their eye on the ball for all clients, at least that’s the way I find it works.

Discovering Hawkerland Brake Barn

One thing I love about my work is coming into contact with many amazing projects and concepts.

Site visit

Last week I visited a stunning log cabin in East Devon. My clients Devondale Electrical were involved with the building of the cabin, supplying the electrical kit after winning a competitive tender. I went to meet Devondale’s Kevin Coles and RSPB East Devon Nature Reserve Warden, Toby Taylor to help me write a press release and case study about the project.

I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to find, but the cabin is an extraordinary building; made from trees felled on a nearby reserve. The trees were peeled, cleaned and assembled in Woodways yard, before being brought to the site and pieced together, like a jigsaw I imagine. The trunks are huge – this is a very solid-feeling cabin.RSPB log cabin case study accommodation

What’s more, the site is committed to using renewables. A biomass boiler provides the heating (fed by logs from the reserve), solar panels give much of the electricity needed (especially in the summer of course), and they are also using rainwater harvesting. The lighting is LED low energy lighting – provided by Devondale, of course.

The cabin provides accommodation for self-funded volunteers as well as a training room and meeting area on a mezzanine. It’s all beautifully hand-crafted and made me think that if I ever wanted to move away from PR, I might go and work for the RSPB – as long as I could stay in the cabin!

It’s a small world

WhileRSPB Log cabin for case study I was there, site manager Richard Bowmer kindly gave me the lowdown while he was finishing off a fireplace. Once again I was reminded that Devon is a small world. When I asked Richard if he was anything to do with Bowmers Restaurant in Budleigh, lo and behold he told me he’s married to the owner, Claire who I met a few months ago when I popped in to talk about their social media.

My visit was on the day that Devon battled with flooding once again (you can see the rain in the main photo), and my return from the cabin was a nightmare of impassable roads with abandoned cars floating in flood water. Being local, I knew of a back way to try, and snuck up through Gittisham before battling my way back uphill into Buckerell. A dramatic end to the morning, but I still had enough time to start work on the case study when I finally got back to the office.

Amos lighting to open new branch

Lighting the Way

New showroom for Amos Lighting

I’ve known of the plans for a new showroom at Topsham in Exeter from the beginning of the year. It’s a bold move for this family-run business, but one that I am sure will go well.

We had to hold back from releasing any formal announcement for some time as the final negotiations were in the hands of the lawyers. Interesting how news leaks in the close knit Devon business community, though – I was asked on a number of occasions about the new showroom, long before the press release went out. Luckily all the documents were finally signed, sealed and delivered, so the story is now officially public.

Hot on the heels of the announcement I released a second press release, detailing the appointment of Ashton Hargreaves as the manager of the new branch. Ash is the perfect choice, and I’m looking forward to working with her once the branch is live.

Even though it’s only June, we’ll be racing towards the business launch and launch weekend in September. Catering, entertainment, giveaways – all to be organised and promoted. The launch is on the same weekend as the Self Build Show at Westpoint where Amos is exhibiting, so everyone will be working at full pelt. Watch this space!

Social Media

Amos Lighting has a healthy, active social media profile. But one important reminder that has come out of working with them is the need to ensure that login details for all social media are kept safe in a known place.

As part of my PR service I was asked to help sort out the company’s social media. We spent a fair amount of time trying to get into their existing accounts, set up long before I was on the scene. There was no record of the passwords, so it took a lot of guesswork, trying different combinations. We managed to access Pinterest but with Facebook and Twitter we had to start again, then work hard to get the old inactive pages deleted. It’s all done now, thank goodness! I have a note of all the logins, but, more importantly, so do David and Nicola Amos. After all, I might leave the country one day. Or retire.

Otter Nurseries award winning jam


Otter Nurseries – not just plant experts

When I first moved to Devon nearly 20 years’ ago, I fell in love with Otter Nurseries garden centre in Ottery St Mary. My garden became crammed with flowers purchased there; some even featured in my homemade wedding bouquet.

Now one of my PR and social media clients, Otter Nurseries is a fascinating company to work for – there are many facets of the business (which has five branches) to learn about, such as environmental ethos (no chemicals are used in the growing nurseries), ongoing and generous support for many community initiatives and charities, free gardening advice and design… and jam.

Otter Nurseries jam is made in the kitchens of the garden centre restaurant, mainly by talented cook Liz Lee. I’ve bought several varieties over the years, including a scrumptious cranberry and orange at Christmas. It’s really so very good that this year two varieties of jam were entered into the Taste of the West Awards.

Fast forward several months, and I spotted on social media that the awards judging was taking place at Westpoint. I asked the Otter Nurseries marketing department how it was going. They were taken aback as they knew nothing of the judging and hadn’t sent any produce. After a few calls and emails it transpired that the entry had fallen through the net.

But all was not lost. The Taste of the West team exhorted me to take some jams to Westpoint – if I was in time they could still be judged. Cue mad dash to Otter Nurseries to collect some jars, cue equally mad dash to Westpoint to drop them off. I’d have asked for a police escort if I’d known.* Arriving at Westpoint I couldn’t see where to go – the front doors were locked and the back seemed shut up. I pounced on a man waiting in a car. He was, it transpired, a judge and pointed out the way in.

I was slightly breathless when I handed the jams over, but encouraged when the lady who took them said how nice it was to see some traditional jams being entered. No fancy ingredients in Otter Nurseries jam; no yak’s milk or pig’s blood… (makes a change).

Two weeks’ ago, an email arrived in the inbox from Taste of the West, and it was good news. The strawberry jam had received a Highly Commended but the fabulous raspberry jam attained a coveted Gold Award.

What else was there for it, but yet another mad dash to Otter Nurseries, this time to take a photograph of the talented Liz Lee and her (now) award winning jams so I could spread the word (no pun intended) to the papers and via social media. You can read about it here and I’m looking forward to seeing more coverage, in our local magazines and regional press. Jammy, or what?

TOTWAwards_2016_Gold*Please note, no speed limits were broken in the making of this dramatic scene.


Liz Chilcott 'poisoning' her husband

PR promoting poison?

Magical stories

I’ve said before that I love working with Chilcotts Auctioneers – not just because they’re such nice people, but also because the stories they give me to work with are just magical in terms of PR.

Previously I’ve put together press stories on a whalebone that once belonged to explorer Ernest Shackleton, diaries written by a Japanese war camp internee, and a Chinese moonflask that sold for nearly £500K.

The ‘poison’ flagon

The most recent task was around a flagon that once contained a ‘cure-all’, quack medicine. This was nothing like the moonflask in value, being valued at a much more modest figure of £100, but the back story was just as interesting to research.

Microbe KillerGod bless the internet for giving me lots of resource to discover the truth behind William Radam’s ‘Microbe Killer’, invented in the late 19th century as a way to kill microbes in humans, thus defying many ailments – in theory. Although it was 99% water, the liquid also contained 0.59 sulphuric acid, 0.016 sulphurous acid and ash – and this was thought to have killed the grandfather of the vendor of the flagon, who had taken too much of it.

A great story in itself, but as usual Liz and Duncan Chilcott rose to the occasion magnificently when asked to pose for a photograph to accompany the press release. Liz cheerfully gave the pretence of wanting to poison her husband with a large ladle of the Microbe Killer – and of course, the press loved it.


The story was picked up by regional press, including Western Morning News (who gave me a byline, much appreciated), Express & Echo and the Midweek Herald. It also attracted a lot of interest on social media.

I always have a sense of anticipation when I go to my monthly meeting with Chilcotts – what fantastic story will they give me to PR this time?