The hits keep coming for the Society of American Florists’ 2018 Petal It Forward. This year’s initiative didn’t just create goodwill and good feelings around the country — it’s also generated 90 million consumer impressions and counting, including high-profile placement in national publications and on highly trafficked websites and social media pages.
Among the biggest hits? An upbeat one-minute video compilation of the day, created by the team at USA Today’s Humankind Facebook channel from video footage provided to SAF by local member participants. The video, titled “Unexpected gifts bring strangers joy” had more than 400,000 views at press time
In addition to the Facebook page, USA Today ran a companion article that generated more than 26 million impressions. Florida Today and The Tennessean are among the news outlets also sharing the article and video.
Petal It Forward also ranked #17 in bestlifeonline.com’s list of The 30 Most Heartfelt Random Acts of Kindness in 2018, reaching an audience of 572,000.
MSN also picked up the story to give it added exposure through its audience of 333,000, and it is expected to generate even more pick ups.
“SAF’s nationwide public relations efforts to enhance members’ local efforts is paying off big for the industry,” said Jennifer Sparks, the Society of American Florists’ vice president of marketing. “The media’s interest in this coast-to-coast random-act-of-kindness initiative is reflective of what the country needs right now amidst news of tragic events and uncertainties.”
A Nationwide Effort
Florists in 410 cities in every state plus Washington, D.C., and Colombia officially signed on for 457 local events during this year’s Petal It Forward on Oct. 24. The effort represented an increase from last year’s robust showing, when florists in 328 cities plus Washington, D.C., and Canada organized 368 official local events.
While anecdotal stories from participants about the day — and how much those flower gifts meant to recipients — are an important part of the story, ongoing media coverage helps underscore the lasting benefit of the campaign to the industry, said Sparks, who added that the coverage stems from months (and months!) of planning and coordinated public and media outreach.
“Leading up to this year’s effort, SAF sent specific, powerful messages on the positive effects of flowers and flower-giving in consumers’ everyday lives,” Sparks explained. “We are showing the true benefits of flowers and florists’ ability to bring community together. That’s powerful.”
Here are some additional highlights from this year’s campaign, along with a breakdown of the impressions generated.
PR Creates Buzz
Prior to Petal It Forward, SAF distributed media advisories to 800 TV assignment desks and a press release to almost 600 print publications around the country. The documents detailed the essential information related to local events (what, when and where) and promoted a state-by-state list of those events, along with contact information for individual shops and participants.
SAF also engaged in targeted, personal outreach to media, with follow-up emails and calls to pitch the story and created an online resource center for SAF members to download and customize a media advisory and press release to do their own media outreach in their local community. In addition, SAF provided step-by-step advice online and through news stories and a Facebook Live session to help members feel comfortable and confident reaching out to their local media.
The Payoff: SAF’s nationwide media efforts on the industry’s behalf, combined with members’ grassroots efforts to contact their local media, resulted in 482 TV, radio and print stories, as well as PR Newswire pick-ups, leading to more than 90.2 million impressions. You can see examples of the consumer news coverage generated at safnow.org/pif.
Bloggers Share the Story
Building on last year’s efforts to reach consumers through influential personalities online and through social media, SAF also reached out to three popular lifestyle bloggers this year: Tanvi Rastogi of Tanvii.com, Jamie Mears of I Suwannee and Jamie Lee of The Denver Housewife.
In posts promoting the initiative, the bloggers wrote about their own experiences with flowers and how important the effort felt this year, in the midst of current political divides.
“We’re all out of sorts,” wrote Mears, who also directed her readers to SAF’s university research on flowers’ ability to lower stress. “Can you imagine a free bouquet of flowers on the street for you and then also getting the opportunity to make someone else’s day with a second? Genius. More of that please.”
“Similar to our efforts to generate traditional broadcast and print news coverage that provides third party credibility to the flower message, having partnerships with these key social media influencers helps to take our message beyond our own channels’ followers to a new audience of consumers,” noted Sparks.
The Payoff: SAF’s blogger partnerships generated 290,800 impressions.
Social Media Spreads the Word
Through social media and industry news stories, SAF emphasized to Petal It Forward participants the importance of tagging the flowers handed out with the #petalitforward hashtag, as well as the need to post on social media before, during and after the event. In the lead-up to the event and throughout Petal It Forward, SAF posted from its consumer channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Floral industry businesses posted videos, pictures and thoughts of the day.
Perhaps even more important, Petal It Forward recipients themselves also took to social media to share how good it felt to give and receive flowers — a real win for the industry when it comes to PR and marketing, Sparks said.
“The beauty of the Petal It Forward concept is that it provides people with the true ‘flower experience’ of both giving and receiving the scientifically proven benefits of flowers to our emotional health,” added Sparks. “When they share their poignant stories on social media, it illustrates to the world the power of flowers far beyond the direct recipients.
The Payoff: In following the use of the #petalitforward hashtag from October 23-25 to capture the conversation, SAF used social media measurement tools to assess the impressions generated. Combined Twitter and Instagram impressions total more than 5.5 million. That result, however, likely underestimates actual reach: Privacy settings on individuals’ Facebook pages prevent assessing and capturing measurement on that platform.
Petal It Forward is supported by the SAF Fund for Nationwide Public Relations, which fully funds all of SAF’s nationwide PR and social media efforts that promote flowers and florists to consumers through groundbreaking research and media outreach as well as AboutFlowers.com, AboutFlowersBlog.com and NationalFloristDirectory.com. Is your supplier on this list? If so, please thank them for their leadership in industry promotion.
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management magazine.