As I told you last month, November and December are busy months for us at Blueberry. We are lucky enough to work with two exceptional Christmas companies – Catsfield Christmas Tree Farm and Badgers Mead Farm – and so it is all hands-to-the-deck for a busy couple of months.
For a public relations company, however, the difficulty is: with such a short window of opportunity, how do we generate maximum attention without spending sums of money that would be unreasonable for family run businesses? The answer is two-fold. We work with social media to create a direct line of communication with customers, interacting with them, and thus expanding the customer base as the friends of this year’s customers see what good personal service and they have had. Customer reviews are critical and Catsfield has lots – all of them give the business 5 stars. Making sure every customer message and post receives an acknowledgement or response is time consuming but it does create excellent bonds between customers and the client and makes them feel special. Catsfield now has a customer who returns every year and tries to be the first person to pick a tree. This year, I went down to Catsfield and recorded the event using Facebook Live – view it here.
The second avenue for promotion is more difficult to plan but, for us and the client, can be very rewarding – it involves taking advantage of small, sometimes quirky things to get attention. For example Catsfield have had exposure on a television channel devoted to children under six. In 2015, former JLS star turned presenter on CBeebies, “Down on the Farm”, JB Gill visited Clive to learn about growing Christmas trees. This episode was shown several times in 2015 and we got additional exposure for Catsfield in local media and online. The episode was even shown again this year and can be viewed on iPlayer here – ‘Down on the Farm – Christmas Special’.
Part of the reason the build up to Christmas is so busy for us is that we have to find a story and then, in a comparatively short timeframe, we have to turn it around and get maximum exposure. A good example of this is Nev Champion talking to his turkeys. Early on, I went down to Badgers Mean Farm to talk to Nev and take a few photographs. While I was there, I saw Nev talking to his turkeys and I videoed it and put it on Facebook. This video has since been seen, via ‘likes’ and promotion, 6331 times – far more than the people following the comparatively new Facebook page. Nev was then interviewed on BBC Sussex’s ‘Sussex Breakfast’ programme, gaining more exposure and reaching a much larger, targeted, audience.
With Catsfield we had an even stranger avenue to promotion, but it does go to show, you can turn any negative into a positive. At the beginning of December, Phil arrived one Sunday morning to find a number of their AA road signs had been stolen. Obviously, this is a real concern as the farm shop isn’t open all year round and people need to know where to find them. A message was put on social media, the police were called, and luckily it didn’t have major effect on that Sunday’s business. But we felt there was more that could be gained from this for two reasons. Firstly, it could potentially damage sales and we needed to make sure people knew the farm was open during this period. Secondly more exposure would hopefully stop anyone doing this sort of thing again.
On social media, we posted to Sussex Police to thank them for their help and they responded – we wanted people to know the police were involved. At the same time, the sign people at the AA had agreed to help us get replacement signs before the next weekend – a brilliant achievement which we thanked them for in person and on social media. Clive was also interviewed by ITV Meridian news and this was broadcast before the next weekend. With new signs in place and a spot on local television, we had turned what could have been a real negative into a positive.
So now Christmas is upon us. I am glad to report both businesses have had a great year and, in a few days, their customers will be enjoying their trees and turkeys. It just remains for me to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!