Quick-thinking, humor and a dash of diplomacy helped convince two local businesses in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, to ditch Valentine’s Day ads that disparaged flowers. Society of American Florists member Andy Knowles, owner of Rob’s Flowers, reached out to a local bakery and jeweler after spotting Facebook posts that read in part, “Forget a dozen roses…Who really wants something that just dies anyway?” He also alerted SAF to the negative references.
Knowles’ proactive approach paid off fast. Owners of both businesses responded immediately to Knowles’ messages and took down the offending posts. As it turns out, a third-party digital marketing company, Mozark Media, had created the posts; when Knowles contacted that company, the owner also offered profuse apologies.
“I explained [to everyone] that … I always choose to advertise my quality products and professional service over bashing other industries,” Knowles said. “The owners of both the jewelry store and bakery understood and were almost embarrassed. The owner of the marketing company couldn’t apologize enough, and he said he would keep this in mind going forward.”
Making that good resolution even sweeter? Knowles and the bakery are now working together on a holiday promotion. “We ended up partners with them to be able to offer cupcakes and chocolate-covered strawberries for Valentine’s Day,” Knowles said.
Knowles’ story is a master class in how SAF members should approach negative ads locally, said Jenny Scala, SAF’s director of marketing and communications, who has been reaching out this week to national companies and publications that disparage flowers.
“As much as SAF can provide support on a national level, local business can also make a difference,” she explained. “If you wish to respond, please remember two things that enhance your credibility: Your affiliation with the Society of American Florists, the national association representing the floral industry; and your identity as a local business.”
Here are other tips from Scala on how to help write an effective response:
- Be objective, diplomatic and reasonable. Describe why you find the story/advertisement offensive or unfair. Explain that you believe in the effectiveness of stories/advertisements that promote products based on their own merits.
- Don’t sound defensive. That will only make it seem as though the “attack” on flowers was justified.
- Don’t make unreasonable demands. Unless a story actually contains a factual error, don’t demand that it be retracted.
- Suggest a middle ground approach that the story/advertisement could take in the future. You might point out that instead of the phrase, “Don’t buy flowers,” the message could be, “Flowers are one of many gift choices during…”
Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management.