Monday, 13 August 2012

Communications & Reputation, an Interview!

One of my favourite things, as most of you will know by now, well those of you in Fresh Produce and Social Media, is meeting new people, either virtually or in reality, I especially like recommendations or introductions.  That was how I met Sarah Whitelock of Green Apple Communications, via some very good Fresh Produce friends or Social Media "Buddies" of mine Hargreaves Plants Ltd.

Sarah has an enviable and highly respected reputation as an excellent communicator and as an outstanding Crisis Manager (a must read is Sarah's PR Panic blog).  This reputation comes off the back of some 20 years worth of knowledge and experience in PR and Communications; dealing with a number of high profile Crisis Management situations in the Food and Fresh Produce supply chain that Sarah project managed and delivered during her time at the NFU.

Fortunately, in my opinion, the world of Farming, Agriculture, Horticulture and Fresh Produce has gained an excellent and unique new business with Sarah starting Green Apple Communications earlier this year.

Sarah has been spending time interviewing a number of businesses in the Agriculture and Fresh Produce sector, including Hargreaves Plants Ltd via BerryBuddies and AsparaBuddies.  On the back of this interview about Social Media (which you can find here) the team at Hargreaves recommended that Sarah contact me in order to conduct an interview and to get my views and opinions.

The following is that interview, it was an honour to speak with Sarah and since this interview I have been fortunate enough to meet her in person.

I do hope you enjoy reading this, and if you are looking for a simply fabulous Communicator, Project Manager and all round lovely person then I suggest you take some time to introduce yourself to Sarah via the Green Apple Communications website, Facebook, Twitter or Linked In.

Yes, she is Social Media savvy, just like me!

How one business built an excellent reputation – fast

Posted on July 27, 2012 by Sarah Whitelock, Green Apple Communications

Carol Ford has two essential qualities for good communications and for running her own business, she is proactive and imaginative.  I had been aware of her business, Growing Direct, through social media but she also has an enviable reputation within the horticultural industry.
What do you do?
My mission is to offer sales and marketing expertise to businesses in the food supply chain.  That might be anything from strategic planning at board level through to suggesting ways to speak directly with consumers.   It’s a priority for me to help farmers and growers understand the needs and expectations of the person who be cooking and eating their food.  Some suppliers and food processors only like to deal with retailers but even they need to understand what the shopper will be looking for today and tomorrow, they can’t expect the retailer to hold their hand through the process.

How long have you been in business?
I set up two years ago, before that I worked for The Greenery selling fresh produce to retailers and prior to that I was a fish and frozen food buyer for Sainsbury’s.  Although I have expertise in fish and horticulture, fruit and veg are my first love.

Do you think PR is important to your own business?
It depends on how you define PR – if it’s about relationships then absolutely because that’s at the heart of the advice I offer to my clients and it’s how I connect with them.  When I first started I was struggling to reach my customers and experimented with paid- for advertising for a while.  Then I had some training on social media and never looked back.  I mainly use Facebook and Twitter for my marketing.  However, I accept that people, and businesses, like to work in different ways so I also do presentations and make sure that I get out and meet people.

What one thing would you pass on to others to help them with their PR?
You need to understand your strategy and your brand and ensure that everything you do follows those guidelines. When you are a small business, as I am, you have to base your brand on yourself.  You can’t pretend to be something that you are not.
Some companies think that they are ‘doing’ social media when they are pushing out company speak on the social networks but that will not wash.  It has to be about speaking and listening and it has to look real and have personality.

Is there anything that you wish you had realised earlier in the growth of your business?
Not really, starting my own business has been a tough journey because there was so much to learn but I would never step back from it now.

Is there anything you wish you had not done?
I believed when I started that my skills would transfer across all types of suppliers but actually I have found that my first love is horticultural supply and its journey from the fields to the shopping basket.  Realising that was not an easy process but I am comfortable with where I am now.

What about future PR?
I don’t plan any radical changes but I will keep up to date with other social media platforms.

It was great to interview Carol, partly because I knew the interview would make interesting reading – but also because she has so many ideas on how a business can develop its marketing and PR.  To find out more about Carol go to her website, follow her business on Facebook and on Twitter @GrowingDirect.

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