For hundreds of floral industry members across the country — and an untold number of consumers who happen to come into contact with them — today is the day to revel in the power of flowers and to experience just how good it feels to give and receive floral gifts.
The Society of American Florists’ 2018 Petal It Forward officially kicked off early this morning, and it was still going strong at press time, with industry members officially signed up in 410 cities in every state plus Washington, D.C., and Colombia hosting 457 local events. Key to many events? Strong partnerships among industry companies, beginning at the grower and wholesaler level.
Launched in 2015, Petal It Forward is based on a simple idea: Participants surprise people with two bouquets (or even two flowers), one to keep and one to share with someone else.
The feel-good campaign helps florists connect with their local communities and generates glowing media coverage and positive PR, for individual businesses and the industry at large. But that “simple” effort to get tens of thousands of flowers into the hands of consumers doesn’t happen without cooperation and partnerships all along the supply chain.
Here’s a roundup of just some of those efforts at the grower-wholesaler level:
- In Rockford, Illinois, Bill Doran Company worked with growers in South America and California to supply nearly 300 retail customers with specially priced Petal It Forward flowers. A central part of the company’s success? Advanced prep, said Michelle Friebel, sales and marketing manager, who noted that Bill Doran Company sent “save the date” notices to customers months ago and has been in constant contact with grower partners in the run-up to today’s giveaway. Bill Doran also has engaged its own staff across the wholesaler’s 18 locations. “We try to get our salespeople out there to experience a giveaway, so they can see what it’s all about,” Friebel said. “This year, we had a manager brainstorm with a customer early on. We also have a few managers and salespeople who bought their own supply to distribute personally.”
- When residents in Monterey, California, receive their Petal It Forward blooms today, they’ll likely admire the beauty of those flowers. What they won’t see? The coordinated effort among Kitayama Brothers, Sakata Seed America and Floralife, which partnered together to pass out bouquets donated by Kitayama Brothers. In addition to handing out flowers in the downtown area, the team also traveled to a local retirement home to present bouquets to residents during lunch. “Being a happiness ambassador for Petal It Forward is such a rewarding way to share with and enhance our communities,” said Jamie Kitz, key accounts sales manager at Sakata Seed. “They create happiness. Partnering with other floral companies make the experience even richer. What better way to brighten someone’s day with the power of flowers?”
- From its headquarters in Sewell, New Jersey, DVFlora helped encourage participation from more than 90 retail florists. In partnership with Holland America and Queens Flowers, the company was able to support customers with more than 5,000 specially priced bouquets. Holland America, located in Arroyo Grande, California, has been a major supporter of the Petal It Forward initiative since its inception. In its efforts this year, the company offered thousands of specially priced bouquets, working through wholesalers as well as with florists directly.
- In Portland, Oregon, Frank Adams Wholesale Florist offered customers a free box of flowers to all customers who signed up through SAF to participate. The company also created its own team to hand out roses. “Our staff and I look forward to this day every year,” said Scott Isensee, general manager. “It’s a lot of work building up to it, but when you hit the streets with bouquets in hand, and give these flowers to unsuspecting people … Well, you can’t help but feel good! People’s face’s light up and they smile and say, ‘These are for me?’ Flowers do that!” Isensee added the experience gets better each year. “Last year, I saw looks of disbelief, hundreds of hugs, tears of joy, and a whole lot of smiles,” he said. “That’s why we do it, because it just feels good. Then when you give them that second bouquet to give to someone, of their choosing, it’s just amazing.”
One benchmark of success for this year’s Petal It Forward: Even before the official start of the day, reporters across the country had already taken up the story — and run with it.
In California, the Lompoc Record detailed Ocean View Flowers’ efforts to spread the flower love.
“We want to share Lompoc-grown flowers with the members of our community,” said Yvette Trevino, a member of the company’s sales team. “Through the positive effects of flowers, we hope to make someone’s day brighter, and provide a much-needed moment of calm amidst the hectic pace of life.”
Other participants teamed up with organizations outside of the floral industry to spread goodwill. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eastern Floral joined with the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan to pass out 1,600 bouquets during the area’s morning commute. The local Fox affiliate covered the effort, and CEO Bing Goei proved to be an ideal spokesman for both the event and the partnership.
“We wanted to highlight the importance of people having a happy disposition and we felt that the Mental Health Foundation was the perfect partner,” said Goei, who also related his past experiences giving away Petal It Forward bouquets—including recipients’ initial skepticism about the free blooms.
The team at City Line Florist in Trumbull, Connecticut, made a Facebook video detailing the idea behind Petal It Forward, and documenting the giveaway.
Christy Buck, executive director of the Mental Health Foundation, said her organization sees the outreach as much more than a giveaway. “Any act of kindness can be that one thing in somebody’s day that can make the change for someone who might be struggling with depression,” she said.
In addition to local participants taking SAF’s advice to reach out to their local media, SAF is also enhancing those efforts through key public relations tactics to capture media attention and drive reporters to a list of Petal It Forward participants, with contact direct information for local efforts in each city. SAF’s PR efforts included the strategically timed distribution of a media advisory and press release to broadcast and print media nationwide, as well as targeted pitching and follow up to markets where events were happening.
“Generating media coverage can be all about timing, and often last minute,” said Jennifer Sparks, SAF’s vice president of marketing. “It is our goal through the creation of the state-by-state list and this program to enhance SAF’s members’ local public relations efforts and help put reporters in direct contact with local event organizers the day before or day of the event.”
To enhance their influencer marketing efforts, SAF has also partnered with key bloggers and influencers with large social media followings to spread the news about the floral industry’s large-scale random act of kindness.
Have a Petal It Forward story you want to share? We want to hear it! Email email@example.com.
Look for much more coverage of the event — including stories from retailers’ events next week and in the Nov/Dec issue of Floral Management magazine.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.