Tips and advice for effective public relations

In the second of his articles on how garden centres can improve their own publicity, gardening pr consultant Graham Paskett discusses the importance of timing.   Something that should be second nature to anyone associated with the seasons.
In the first article I attempted to identify the type of material that can be used to help garden centre managers and owners to communicate with their existing and potential customers by producing information for their local media.   Creating effective press releases is a powerful weapon in the pr armoury.
But unless they arrive to the target media on time and meet their deadlines then, no matter how interesting the story, they are totally useless.
Different types of media all have totally unique deadlines – and believe the word – a deadline is just what it says.  Miss it and you fail.
Garden Centre Update is a monthly magazine and in order to ensure your press release arrives in time for the next edition you must respect their first of each month deadline. This means your copy destined for that all-important April edition must arrive at the latest by March 1st 2008.
So let’s take a quick look at the media that you are likely to be targeting: your local weekly and daily newspaper, your local radio station and county magazine. If you are a specialist grower then there may be magazines and newsletters, often produced by the relevant plant societies. I shall deal with web and on-line media separately.
Local weekly newspapers: these are read extensively by your target market and are always open to interesting stories from you. Copy deadlines vary according to the publication day.  Always telephone them and check and remember that editorial and advertising work to different times. This information often appears on their websites. Warn them in advance of interesting news and although they publish once a week, deadlines are fixed. Don’t expect to be able to get your story well received if you get it in half an hour before the deadline – by that stage they will be working only on news stories and available space will be limited. And don’t telephone them when they are on deadline.
Your regional daily is most likely to be an evening newspaper although there are a number of regional morning titles. Again, check their own website or with the newsdesk about deadlines and remember that these are fixed. Telephone them a few days in advance alerting them to an important story but don’t ring in the morning – that is the most hectic time in the newsroom. A call after 2.00pm for an evening newspaper will be far better received than one at 10.00am.
In both cases e-mails to the news desk are a good option.
Local and regional radio stations often have their own gardening slots.  Check websites or telephone and find out who the programme researchers are and as these are often weekly/weekend broadcasts, find out the deadlines.
County magazines offer great opportunities for your garden centre. They love stories about seasonal activities but often work to six or eight week deadlines – this means that you are probably already far too late for your big Easter story. Again, find out and stick to the dates. If you are a specialist grower you will most likely know the relevant plant society and whether they have their own newsletter or magazine. They are often desperate for interesting stories but they will have deadlines!
Some regional newspapers are now moving into the realm of video journalism with a trained camera equipped journalist on site. They are looking for picture stories and garden centre operations are brimming with opportunities.  Look up the details on their website, get the contact names and give them a ring in advance. If the story is appealing, they will often send a reporter/camera operator and the story is then relayed on their own website.
One word of warning when you are in front of the camera – keep it straight. The joke that sounded so funny when being filmed often looks so silly when on the screen.
So the monthly checklist is:

  • Make a list of your key local and regional media
  • Check their websites for names and relevant information
  • Write down the names of the news editor or gardening specialist
  • Find out whether they prefer hard copy or e-mails
  • And most important of all – confirm their deadlines
  • Don’t forget video journalists – they are becoming increasingly popular on regional newspapers.