Shrewsbury was announced last night as the Britain in Bloom Champion of Champions, in the contest’s 50th anniversary year. Keeping supporters and media engaged for an annual event or campaign isn’t easy, and a significant anniversary doesn’t mean automatic coverage.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has used some great ideas to keep interest going. Regional blogs on their website highlight Bloom efforts around the country, and the excitement that was building about travelling to Bristol for the announcement of the overall winner. (‘I will text the result from Bristol.. as soon as it is announced’, promised Julie from the Halstead group. ‘This has worked well in the past – apart from the time in Guernsey when I forgot to take my mobile with me. Well, I changed handbags and… you know how it is!’).
These blogs give a large organisation a very local and friendly feel, and make it relevant on both levels. We wanted to know if Julie managed to text her team or did her husband have to come to the rescue with the pre-programmed number in his mobile?!
And this is what really grabs the media’s attention and us as (potential) supporters – the personal stories, the communities that planted the flowers, not the flowers themselves (although stunning images will always appeal to the media). We want to know about the relationships that develop between schoolchildren and their retired neighbours who help them to plant herb gardens after school, the residents influencing change in their community by being passionate about creating a beautiful environment, and the old and lonely or the young and disaffected who are given a new direction by being part of something with others.
The RHS highlights this beautifully on its Britain in Bloom Facebook page where photos of immaculate vegetable gardens and happy sunflowers are almost outnumbered by gardeners on the street in reflective jackets or piling into minibuses on their way to Bristol for the UK final. People share messages of congratulation to their own groups and encouragement to others as they look forward to meeting up and finding out which of them has won. This is great use of social media to engage and inspire.
As with so much PR, it’s relationships that tell the story of an organisation and its impact. Issues, such as the RHS’s effort to encourage towns to include wildflowers in their annual displays in 2012, come and go, but even then the fascinating thing is the politics of each group as they debate whether to stick with their ornamental displays or embrace a wilder but more environmentally conscious scheme.