Before hosting KSAZ Channel 10 reporter Carmen Blackwell, Denham practiced talking points with her marketing manager. “You really only have about two minutes of air time, so you have to be brief!” she said.”
The Society of American Florists’ third annual Petal It Forward initiative generated thousands of smiles nationwide October 24 and heaps of positive press for the industry and individual SAF members over the past three weeks, including a plug in USA Today.
“The brand awareness and reach of appearing in the news is invaluable for a small company, especially those that cannot afford advertising time on a major network. In addition, the recognizable on-air personality acts as an influencer and a brand ambassador, installing trust in our company and product,” said Cheryl Denham, co-owner of Arizona Family Florist, Arizona Flower Market and LUX Wedding Florist in Phoenix, Arizona. “We’ve had many customers say they picked us specifically because they saw us on the news.”
Hundreds of florists around the country took advantage of SAF’s free resources for contacting the media. Here, a few of those who landed in the limelight share their best practices for getting publicity.
Pitch early — but not too early
Many florists described seven days out as “the sweet spot” for reaching media professionals.
“News organizations like a heads up, but I gather it’s hard for them to plan too far in advance since they can’t anticipate what major stories might break,” said Annie Taylor, owner of Leona Sue’s Flowers in Scott, Louisiana, whose event was covered by Lafayette’s News 15. “In the past, when we sent a press release more than a week before an event, it seemed to fall through the cracks.”
Consider multiple points of contact
Email is the preferred method to reach reporters — but it’s not the only solution.
Taylor also sends Leona Sue’s news tips through Facebook Messenger or Twitter’s direct messages. “You never know,” she said. “Sometimes the person managing social media will get back to you quicker.”
Danielle Lowry, manager of Flowers by Zach-Low in Albuquerque, New Mexico, called KOB Channel 4 shortly after emailing a press release. “They have a ‘Pay It Forward’ segment every week, so we knew it was a really good fit, and we wanted to emphasize that with a phone conversation,” she said.
After emailing a press release through her media list, Denham used a national PR wire service company for added exposure.
Be selective with pitches
Engwall Florist & Gifts in Duluth, Minnesota, maintains a packed calendar consisting of special events and partnerships with community organizations, including the symphony, ballet, local nonprofits and the Chamber of Commerce. “We do things on a continual basis, but we don’t always send a press release because we don’t want to inundate editors,” said owner Rod Saline, AAF. “We save our efforts for really big things, like our corn maze, and Petal It Forward.” This year, volunteers at the local hospital and newspaper helped Engwall’s employees pass out flowers, which KBJR Channel 6 and KQDS Channel 12 covered. “It was great publicity, highlighting not only the joy of flowers, but also of people working together to make our community a brighter place.”
Hone your message
Before hosting KSAZ Channel 10 reporter Carmen Blackwell, Denham practiced talking points with her marketing manager. “You really only have about two minutes of airtime, so you have to be brief!” she said. During the segment, Denham concisely explained how Petal It Forward works, expressed how blessed she feels to be “surrounded by the beauty and fragrance of flowers each day,” talked about her joy in seeing customers’ interactions with flowers and triumphed the need for goodwill initiatives “in this day and age.”
Katelin Kruthaupt, co-owner of Expression Florist & Greenhouses in Greenburg, Indiana, knew she wanted to participate in Petal It Forward, but wasn’t sure how to make it work in her rural community. “There are no bustling streets, no centralized corner to hand out flowers like you see in most cities,” she said. She reached out to friends at the local radio station, who suggested turned PIF into a fundraiser. Kruthaupt next turned to the local chapter of the Disability and Autism Services, whose logo is a daisy “which seemed to work into our campaign perfectly,” she said. DASI recommended talking to the Greenburg police chief, as his department was kicking off its “Autism Awareness” program.
Kruthaupt sold bouquets at three different price points ($10, $20, $30) and attached a free bouquet and PIF information card on each. Expression Florist’s Petal It Forward efforts raised $2,000 for the police department, an amount which DASI matched. The big gesture landed the shop front-page coverage in the local paper. “In a town our size, most people read the paper,” she said. “The response has been awesome! Weeks out, we’ve had people commenting on it, saying they want to participate next time.”
“We used the press release SAF provided, tweaking it with the info about our fundraiser,” Kruthaupt said. “I submitted it to the local paper and got a call the next day. It was super easy!”
Tie into a national trend
Journalists love taking a broad subject and narrowing in on the local angle. Tying your pitch to a large trend or movement, be it wedding or prom style, plants and home décor or florists around the country giving away flowers, enhances its newsworthiness.
Provide your own documentation
Like all of us, news organizations contend with time and personnel challenges. Don’t be discouraged if a camera crew doesn’t show up at your shop.
“Just because they couldn’t make the event, doesn’t mean they won’t cover it,” Taylor said. During every Leona Sue’s event, she makes sure to take many photos and collect happy comments and anecdotes, which she passes onto reporters along with bullet points about what happened. “It works really well,” she said. “We usually end up with a blurb on the news, and the reporters are grateful because we made their lives easier!”
Send flowers to the station
A sure way to sweeten your pitch? Package it with petals.
“If you want reporters to really understand the mood-boosting power of flowers, give them proof,” Taylor said. “Every year, we have our driver drop some Petal It Forward bouquets off at the news station.”
Katie Hendrick Vincent is the senior contributing editor for the Society of American Florists.