When Brian Wheat, AAF, PFCI, took to the airwaves in Denver last week to promote Petal It Forward, he figured he’d drum up some excitement for the Society of American Florists-led feel-good giveaway and generate positive press for Lafayette Florist, Gift Shop & Garden Center, his family’s longtime business in Lafayette, Colorado. One thing he didn’t anticipate coming from the brief interview: A new fan of his business willing to drive 25 miles on Oct. 23 for the chance to receive two free bouquets — one to keep and one to pass along to a loved one or stranger.
“A listener called in after the show and asked, ‘Where should I be on Wednesday [for Petal It Forward]?’” explained co-owner Lori Wheat, AAF. “I told her the giveaway is random, but to follow us on social media for hints. She said she was going to drive from Denver to Lafayette and just hang around town!”
Now in its fifth year, Petal It Forward is generating that kind of excitement all across the country. At press time, more than 650 floral teams in 50 states, along with Canada and Puerto Rico, had notified SAF of plans to Petal It Forward in their local communities on Oct. 23.
The pay-it-forward outreach has a simple premise — surprise a recipient with two bouquets (or flowers), one to keep and one to share — and presented myriad opportunities for floral industry businesses to partner up and work together to help consumers experience firsthand the life-changing, mood-altering effects of flowers in every life.
“We’ve seen so much collaboration among the industry and overall enthusiasm this year, with consumers and floral professionals sharing poignant stories across social media throughout the day,” said Jenny Scala, SAF’s director of marketing and communications, noting that many SAF members have taken advantage of the association’s resources — including marketing and PR materials and templates for bouquet stickers and T-shirts. “And the excitement is still building! It’s been a real testament to the power of flowers and the impact floral industry members can have on their local communities.”
In Lafayette, the Wheats partnered with DWF Wholesale Florists in Denver to hand out 400 bouquets in busy locations around their community. They also enlisted the help of the Lafayette Police Department, including the police chief, to get flowers into community members’ hands. (The shop has a longtime relationship with the department and presented officers with a check to support their Santa Cop holiday philanthropic program.)
One of their giveaway spots was a popular Firehouse Subs restaurant at lunchtime. “The owner was very excited to have us set up a staging area in front of his restaurant,” Lori Wheat said. “A Lafayette Florist van was set up along with a few police vehicles and a tent for staging the buckets. We used a Lafayette Florist banner on the side of the tent to give us extra exposure.”
As Lori told the excited radio fan, the Lafayette team posted “hints” about where they would Petal It Forward throughout the day on social media. That’s a critical part of the planning process for any Petal It Forward event, said Lori. Getting people engaged on social media ensures the business broadens its online audience and creates potential new leads from the giveaway.
“Our team consisted of Brian, two florist managers, our friendliest garden center associate and one of our delivery drivers,” she said. “The team is important. They have to be able to communicate what Petal It Forward is [to the public], not just give out bouquets. They also need to be able to urge people to post on social media.”
In Birmingham, Alabama, the team at Norton’s Florist also used Petal It Forward not only as a way to give back locally, but also as a strategy to engage more customers and potential customers on the shop’s social media platforms.
“I really made a conscious effort this year to post updates prior to the event,” explained Cameron Pappas, who went after traditional press coverage this year, too, with the help of press releases created by SAF, which Pappas distributed Saturday morning.
The Friday before Petal It Forward, he shared a picture on Facebook of stacked cardboard boxes — flowers waiting to be unpacked — with a caption that quickly summarized the concept (“SPECIAL DELIVERY! In these boxes there are 6,000 stems that we will hand out…”) and created real buzz.
By Oct. 22, the day before Petal It Forward, the post had garnered 36,000 organic impressions and 5,900 engagements — huge numbers for the Norton’s page, and an opportunity Pappas said he isn’t going to let slip away.
“I’ve taken the time to ‘invite’ every person who liked the post to like Norton’s Facebook page,” he said, noting that after boosting the post, the business page has received 125 new likes in just three days. “This post has blown me away. It’s just a picture of cardboard boxes! I spent some time writing the message so that I could get the most bang with the fewest words, and it clearly paid off… I think we may get better engagement from those people [who saw the post] on social media than strangers.”
Other highlights from the day so far:
- In Oakland, California, J Miller Flowers landed on the front page of two local newspapers in the run-up to Petal It Forward. “The SAF press releases were a fantastic resource and we sent along photos from previous years,” said Valerie Ow, who said the shop has “nurtured media relationships” over the years to help land the standout coverage. “Giving editors all [the information] they need really helps the process move forward,” she said.
- Expressions Unlimited in Greenville, South Carolina, used Facebook Live throughout the day to document its Petal It Forward activities. Wearing bright green T-shirts, the team captured their own heartfelt excitement over the opportunity to give out free flowers and surprised recipients’ happy responses. “Can I make a donation?” one confused recipient wondered, before breaking into a smile at the Expressions’ team response: “No ma’am! There’s no donation, it’s just about passing on being happy and the joy of flowers.”
- In Tampa, Florida, Botanica International Design Studio, took the morning to engage young flower lovers, with a visit to a local elementary school (along with an adorable photo shared on Instagram). “In addition to having them create their own designs, [the Botanica team] taught them about the flowers themselves as well as how flowers create happiness and the perfect reasons to give flowers,” according to the caption.
- Petal It Forward has also brought together industry segments, with growers, wholesalers and suppliers partnering with retailers and designers. In Minnesota, Len Busch Roses helped ensure 35 retailers participated this year, and from Rockford, Illinois, the Bill Doran Company, which has 17 locations around the country, recruited 304 shops to Petal It Forward in their local communities.
At press time, many floral professionals around the country were still rocking their Petal It Forward events. Look for more coverage next week and follow the fun on social media (#petalitforward).
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Mary Westbrook is the editor in chief of Floral Management.