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)

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

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

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.

 

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!


Awliscombe War Memorial

Armistice 100

Armistice 100 – a local story

I’ve heard many times recently that we’re in danger of forgetting about WW1 and the sacrifices made by so many.

A recent project I undertook for Chilcotts Auctioneers meant that one local family’s sacrifice is being remembered again – just in time for Armistice 100.

Earlier in the year, medals belonging to two brothers from Awliscombe arrived at Chilcotts to be auctioned. Chilcotts discovered that although both were killed during the First World War, only one brother was commemorated on the War Memorial in the village.

George Hine

Private George Hine of the 8th Battalion, the Devonshire Regiment, was killed during the early days of the Battle of the Somme. His name appears on the Awliscombe War Memorial as well as the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

James Hine

James served in India with the Volunteer unit 2/4th Battalion, also of the Devonshire Regiment. He survived active service and was discharged but died in August 1916. James was given a Commonwealth War Grave in Awliscombe churchyard. This indicated that the War Commonwealth Graves Commission (CWGC) believed he died from an illness contracted whilst on active service. His name wasn’t included on the memorial, however, because he wasn’t actually on active service when he died.

Righting a wrong

Chilcotts felt this was an injustice, because although James didn’t die in action his death was a direct result his service during the war. So I wrote a press release, suggesting that James should be added to the War Memorial. The story was seen by Cynthia Underdown, great niece of the brothers. She bought the medals when they were auctioned and determined to right the wrong.

Awliscombe Parish Clerk Sally Maynard helped the process along with the Parish Council and the War Memorials Trust. No objections were raised to the addition of James’s name and Cynthia contacted AG Real & Son Monumental Stonemasons to carry out the work. They insisted on carrying out the work or free, as a special tribute to local people who had fought in the war.

I put together a second press release with the update, with photos I’d taken of everyone at the war memorial.

However, the story seemed so poignant and relevant that I contacted the ITV newsroom. They loved it and have filmed a piece for their Armistice coverage. What a wonderful outcome!

James and George HineBob Cruwys filming Duncan Chilcott and Cynthia Underdown

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash

Ad Hoc PR Support

Although I work with the majority of my clients on a retained basis, I also offer an ad hoc PR support service.

This type of service is perfect for a one-off project, which could be:

  • Website copy
  • Brochure copy
  • Setting up social media
  • Temporary social media management for (eg) maternity cover
  • Awards entries
  • Blog writing

Retained or ad hoc?

The benefit of working with retained clients means I have the opportunity to get to understand their business thoroughly. As the relationship builds, so does the trust – and the client can clearly see that the service is meeting – and hopefully exceeding – their expectations.

With an ad hoc service, it’s more a case of having to very quickly understand the culture of a company, get their tone of voice straight away, and to present them as they wish to be seen. Having worked in so many sectors over the years means I am often able to jump feet first into a project. On the odd occasion it takes a few stops and starts to get it right.

Examples of recent ad hoc PR support

  • In the latter part of 2017 I took on a three-month contract with Dartmoor-based company Directions to manage social media (Facebook, Twitter and Instagram) for three accounts based in Suffolk – two hotels and a pier! Now that was a challenge, as I never had the opportunity to see the businesses I was representing. After a week or two of tentatively feeling my way, I got into my stride. By the end of the contract I believe I had enlivened all the accounts and left them in a positive shape to be managed in-house.
  • I worked with Ross Pollard at bathroom and kitchen designer Vision Installs to sort out his website, which had been half-way finished for longer than he wanted. I tidied the existing content, wrote new content and created case studies. The website became one that Ross felt able to point potential clients to.
  • I’ve helped Griffin Chartered Accountants with blogs, press releases and most recently, an awards submission. We’ve yet to find out if they have made the shortlist, but Griffin gave me so much quality information to work with, that I’d be surprised if they don’t. Griffin are featured in my portfolio as I work from them on an occasional rather than one-off basis.
  • Website company Cloudberry Digital needed blogs for some of their client websites. These are mainly food and drink based, so I had fun researching a variety of foodie companies and products. I always feel writing a blog should be much more than an SEO exercise, a blog should be written to be read.
  • I’ve also written press releases for a variety of small businesses including Exminster Garage, Baking Matters, Barrel Tops and Gleave Media.

What’s next?

If you are interested in dipping your toe in the water, using an ad hoc PR support service is a good way of finding out a) if we click and b) if you get value for money. You can then decide on whether you want or need to move into a retained client service. For more information please contact me.

 

Summer party welly game

Here Comes Summer

We Brits know how to party when the sun comes out, and businesses are no exception.

Everyone expects a staff meal at Christmas, but summer is the time to make the most of good weather and put on an outdoor event. Big or small, it doesn’t matter. Getting staff together in the sunshine always lifts morale.

Long-term client Otter Garden Centres holds a summer party for all employees at its Ottery St Mary branch each year. But it isn’t a question of sipping a drink, oh no. Instead, there are  school games. Games involving eggs, wellies and sacks. You get the picture. The weather held and everyone threw themselves into the games – quite literally in the case of the tug-of-war. No cheating went on at all… The management team were great, acting as Head of PE, Head of Maths and Headmistress. There was even a Miss Bossy Boots. I was there, snapping away and getting some great shots of people letting their hair Summer event at TFLC Plymouthdown (and falling over), ready to send to Devon Life Socials.

In Plymouth in June, The Family Law Company hosted a summer celebration, inviting local practitioners, barristers and clerks to thank t hem for referrals. I love that Carrie, who put the event together, mentioned that it was nice to meet up with people who they are often in opposition with at court. Down pistols for the sake of Pimms! (Press release)

This weekend it’s the turn of Coverstructures, celebrating the completion of its stunning new offices on the Finnimore Estate. Owner Stuart Phillips is holding a family day replete with bouncy castle and mobile catering provided by another client, Rusty Pig. I won’t be attending as I’m off to Greece for a summer break, but I’ve booked a photographer so watch this space. but I’ll be back in time to help out with a small celebratory event for Tickety-Boo, another of Stuart’s businesses, which will be celebrating

I’ll be back in time to help out with a small celebratory event for Tickety-Boo, another of Stuart’s businesses, which will be celebrating it’s first birthday mid-August. Hopefully there will be cake.

All too soon it will be autumn, and then time for Christmas parties!

Summer tug of warThe summer school teamSummer and everyone's falling over

DEBI Awards Launch attendees

DEBI Awards Launch

2017 is the 25th anniversary of Devon Environmental Business Initiative (DEBI), and consequently the 25th anniversary of the organisation’s environmental awards. As a DEBI Director I am a keen supporter of these awards, which recognise this county’s commitment to environmental best practice.

As a charity, DEBI was founded to support businesses and organisations pursuing environmentally sound policies. The awards celebrate those in Devon that are going the extra mile for green issues.

DEBI Awards launch in the rain The awards launch this year took place at West Town Farm, in Ide, courtesy of the winner of the 2016 Enjoyed in Devon category, organicARTS. We were treated to a tour of the farm which we thoroughly enjoyed, despite the deluge (I was smug, in wellies and with a large umbrella to hand).

For my part, I was also on duty as ‘press photographer’ in prep for the launch press release, sent to the usual suspects including Western Morning News, Devon Life, Exeter Living and regional papers.

2016 winners

Many of last year’s winners came to the launch and talked about their experiences. Peter Grainger, Chair of Trustees at organicARTS spoke about their association with West Town Farm and the provision of an educational facility specialising in farm-based learning.

DEBI Awards Launch Mukti MitchellMukti Mitchell, Environmental Champion 2016, talked about his company, Cosy Homes, which provides energy saving secondary glazing and insulation for period homes and listed properties. He also spoke about each person can make a difference to climate change by reducing our personal carbon footprint – even the smallest effort can help.

Other 2016 winners, Melanie Shaw from Exeter Pound, Shevek Pring from South West Outdoors and Ryan Stojic from Mike Wye & Associates talked about how winning a DEBI award has benefitted their organisations.

About the awards

Entering the awards is totally free as is attending the awards event itself. This is held at the Met Office and offers a chance to network and meet like-minded people. The date this year is Thursday, 23 November.

The awards are really worthwhile entering. Judges (and I may be one this year) visit each shortlisted entry before the final decision is made.

More information on categories and how to enter is available here: DEBI AWARDS 2017

DEBI Awards logo

The Family Law Company at the Exeter Living Awards

Exeter Living Awards 2017

Awards are part of business life – in Exeter we have a wonderful array of awards to enter clients for; WMN, Express & Echo, Devon Life Food & Drink, Love the Flavour, Taste of the West – the list goes on!

I was lucky enough to attend the Exeter Living Awards recently. This is the second year for the awards, which celebrate the ‘best of Exeter’ (and beyond). The event was held at Exeter Uni’s Great Hall which was packed; more tables than last year and a very lively crowd indeed. The Great Hall looked, well, great! Tony Hawkes (not the skateboarder) was the compere, and entertained us with his dry humour.

My partner on the night was Sharon Goble of If…Media, and we had the best table in the house, with Jim, Lucy and Nathalie from Exeter Cookery School, Bethan and colleagues from YMCA Exeter and two of my clients, Kirsten and Rachel from The Family Law Company. Everyone, apart from Sharon and me, was a finalist. (Next year, Sharon?).

Awards Winners

Exeter Cookery SchoWinners Family Law Donna, Kirsten and Rachel at Exeter Living Awardsol and YMCA were pipped at the post on this occasion, such a shame but the competition was red hot. However, as the awards on the presentation table dwindled, we came to the Legal & Financial category. The Family Law Company has won some great awards in the past nine months, and a fifth gong seemed too much to hope for.

So, when they were announced as winners, I emitted a rather loud and embarrassing ‘woop woop’. Kirsten, Rachel and Donna (who was there with another winner, Citizen’s Advice Bureau which she’s a Trustee of) went onstage to collect the award. They looked absolutely great, three talented, strong women in an all too often male-dominated sector.

I always say to clients that it is almost as good to be a finalist as it is to win. But then, when they do win, it feels amazing!

Next up

In May, Devondale Electrical Wholesalers will find out if they have won their category in the national Electrical Wholesaler Awards, which they’ve just been shortlisted for. Fingers crossed for a win, Devondale is a truly independent South West company with a great ethos.

Writing awards submissions is sometimes time-consuming, but they really do help the writer (in this case, me) to understand a company better.

Of course, awards wins are only part of a PR service, but they are great for kudos, confidence and chutzpah. And not just for clients, for me too.