Success can be very difficult to measure for a public relations company, but perhaps the best way is through your relationship with your clients.
Last Saturday Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm opened their Christmas farm shop for 2018. I have been working with Clive, Emma, Phil and the team since 2011 and it is a privilege to have watched them grow enormously over that period. Working with a company for several years gives you the opportunity to see how your work impacts on a business. It’s also reinforces the idea that PR isn’t a quick fix. Instead, it builds upon itself until you ‘suddenly’ find your client has made significant progress.
I first met Clive at the local swimming pool. I was hanging around waiting for my son to finish his lesson and I got talking to Clive. The conversation inevitably turned to our work and he said he grew Christmas trees. At that time, he said he often had a few cut trees left at the end of the Christmas period – like mulled wine in a Barbados summer, no one wants a Christmas tree in January!
Clive was left with no real option but to burn them. This was not only bad for his profit-margin, it was also heart-breaking because it takes at least seven years to grow a good Christmas tree. That is seven years of tending, pruning, fertilising, etc. in all weathers – from sapling to sitting-room perfect tree.
Working with a company over such a long period, you get to know and trust one another and that means we are given access to confidential information. We are lucky enough to have a couple of businesses that are willing to share their business figures with us. This is very gratifying, and it goes without saying this information is sacrosanct. For us, it lets us make connections between our work and the performance of the business.
A week ago, Clive sent me some figures which showed their growth since 2011. As I said, at that time they were sometimes left with cut trees on 25th December. The figures showed a phenomenal improvement – growth of over 370%. This has happened incrementally over the years and it does tend to suggest a link between working with professional PR and business growth.
At this point I must be very careful. We cannot make a direct link between business growth and successful public relations. It is not the role of PR and marketing to create new customers – that is the job of the sales team. Instead, our job is to bring their message to more people, who then visit the Christmas shop, and who can then be converted into customers by Phil and his team.
Emma, Clive and Phil do an amazing job at Catsfield. They understand the importance of exceptional customer service. The shop Phil creates is beautiful and inspirational. It feels like a Christmas grotto and, with excellent customer service, this creates great sales figures. I’m certain we are a vital part of that process, but our hard work would be for nothing if their product, the way it is displayed, and their customer service, weren’t brilliant.
Businesses always benefit from having a great relationship with their customers and Catsfield is particularly good at this. We have witnessed this first hand and helped to encourage it with our social media work. A great example is Kevin Brookshaw. He and his family have been coming to Catsfield for a number of years. It is his ambition to always be the first to collect their tree, get it home, and then decorate it. As I write, I have just posted his picture for 2018. It has become an annual ritual for him and his family, and that speaks volumes for the way customers feel about Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm.
Obviously, an increase of over 370% is a great indicator of success, but I think it would be wrong to ignore some of the other successes this business has had in that period. In 2016, they were named Small Business of the Year and Clive was named Business Personality of the Year at the 1066 Business Awards. In the same year, Clive was also named Business Personality of the Year at the JP South Business Awards. We have also benefits from our work with Catsfield as, in 2017, our work with Catsfield received a Silver Award at the PRide Awards.
It is only with hindsight that you can look back at a partnership such as ours with Catsfield and see the impact our work has had. Public relations isn’t a quick game. It can take years for the real fruits of your work to become apparent. It is lovely therefore when one of your clients shares figures that show exceptional growth and you can be certain you had a part in it, however small.
If you want a measure of success, then I’d say a happy client that is achieving and exceeding their goal is a great measure of success.
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