The Society of American Florists’ 2018 Petal It Forward campaign date is set for Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2018, and now is the time for industry members to start planning their local events. The premise behind Petal It Forward: passersby receive two bouquets — one to keep, and one to share — and are asked to post a picture about the exchange on social media with the hashtag #petalitforward. The goal? To raise awareness about the benefits of giving and receiving flowers,
Whether your Petal It Forward event is large or small, the dividends likely will be greater than you realize, say florists who joined the national good-will effort in previous years.
“Petal It Forward was an opportunity to randomly make some strangers’ day by sharing a simple act of kindness,” said Jennifer Eaton of Copper Penny Flowers in Concord, Massachusetts, who was a first-time participant in 2017. “By handing out two roses to each stranger on the street, we were then asking them to hand out the second rose and make someone else’s day,” Eaton said.
Two-time participant Valerie Lee Ow of J. Miller Flowers and Gifts in Oakland, California, enjoyed a similar benefit after giving away 400 mixed bouquets.
“Their smiles made it all worthwhile and created happiness everywhere we went,” Ow said. “The happiness and joy level was really off the charts, even much more than I had anticipated. It was not only fun for everyone to create and design, but to share in the outcome with the receiver, which few people really get to see on a consistent basis, except for our delivery drivers.”
Ow’s helpers had such a good time last year, they all want to join the fun again this year. The shop was the first to sign up for the 2018 nationwide effort: safnow.org/piflist.
While witnessing the joy of giving was one of the best parts of Petal It Forward, Copper Penny also received a “shout out” and a photo on the town’s Facebook timeline.
For Ow, the hugs and thank yous led to at least one sale she could trace. “Someone even placed an order the next day,” she said. And who knows how many future sales were generated by press coverage and photos in her local newspaper, a regional chain of eight papers and an online publication. Another article on her event in the East Bay Times cited the Society of American Florists’ research that shows the positive benefits of giving flowers.
For Steph Cook and Carla Fussell of Cullman Florist in Cullman, Alabama, their first Petal It Forward in 2017 was an opportunity to connect with community members and prospective clients, some of whom were new to the area and did not have a florist. “We want to make flowers part of their lives on a daily basis,” Cook said. They pre-coordinated with area business owners to give away 50 seven-stem bouquets in or near their coffee shops and bakeries. One recipient on her way to visit a friend who had just finished chemotherapy was delighted to add flowers to her gift of baked goods.
“Each person we interacted with shared something with us,” Cook said. “We really got a lot out of it too. We actually picked up a few new clients from it. In the floral industry, your repeat clients are in the relationships you build with people.”
“The memorability of the Petal It Forward concept is key to a florists’ success in the community,” said Jennifer Sparks, SAF’s vice president of marketing. “Next time they need flowers, who do you think they will call? Consumers are loyal to businesses that give back.”
Past Petal It Forward participants offered the following tips for first-timers:
- Organize early. Both Eaton and Ow emphasized starting now and tackling the project in steps. Given the choice between keeping it small or not participating at all, Eaton recommended “start small and … then grow from there.”
- Talk to your wholesaler(s) to see if they would be willing to work with you on product, through a discount or donations.
- Take advantage of SAF resources, including the Petal It Forward video and other materials as a first step at org/petalitforward. Andrea Grist, manager of Florasource KC, a wholesaler in Overland Park, Kansas, plans to participate for the first time. As she develops her plan, she’s glad she can use an SAF press release template. Grist, a designer who also owns an events studio, is excited to focus her efforts on educating the public about the mood-boosting benefits of flowers.
- Think of PIF as advertising, especially if you don’t do much paid advertising. That way, any small expenses associated with the effort make sense and are worth it, Cook said.
- Pick a high traffic area. Eaton’s team set up in two central downtown locations. “We wanted to be in an area where we were sure to have a variety of people walking by, create some buzz and not feel awkward about approaching people,” Eaton said.
- Select venues where your gifts might be particularly appreciated. Ow’s team sought out middle school teachers and custodial staff, police department employees and people at senior centers and hospitals, “places we felt that people needed some smiles and affirmation for their busy and hectic jobs,” she said.
- Choose a good time of day, such as early morning rush hour or lunch time. “We handed out the flowers at lunch time between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. as this is the busiest time of day in Concord center,” Eaton said. “Many people come in to town for lunch.”
- Don’t overthink it, Cook said. It does not have to be anything grand; the important thing is to get involved.
- Remember, Petal It Forward is about recharging and having fun. “My staff enjoyed their participation,” Eaton said. “Lots of happy faces, gratitude and well wishes from people on the street.
For Ow and Cook, participating in PIF is a no-brainer: They like to give back and support communities that have generously kept their shops in business for over 48 and 50 years, respectively.
Eaton agreed: “We participated in the PIF campaign because I believe strongly in ‘paying it forward,’” she said. “We should all ‘plant some trees whose shade we might never enjoy.’ In today’s world, it seems like people are happy to tear each other down, especially with the anonymity of social media, texting and computers.”
Get ready now to Petal It Forward. SAF provides members with advice on program logistics, as well as easy-to-implement materials and resources at safnow.org/petalitforward.
The main goal of Petal It Forward is to generate traditional and social media coverage to highlight the benefits of flower power — the positive impact flowers have on our emotional well being — even beyond the actual recipients of the flowers.
Through SAF-generated and local member public relations and social media efforts, the 2017 Petal It Forward campaign generated nearly 82 million impressions.
“We want even more coverage of flower power this year!” Sparks said. “In order to capture the media’s attention and garner news stories about Petal It Forward both locally and nationally, SAF needs to know where events are happening.” SAF is compiling a list of participating florists holding events on October 24 to share with the media. Sparks encourages members to fill out the online participation form at safnow.org/pifform once they know they’re holding an October 24 Petal It Forward event.
“With your help, Petal It Forward can capture even more media attention nationwide,” Sparks said.