Hort Support—It’s a Win/Win for GardenComm and the NWF&GF

Connect_Meeting_at_the_2019_Flower_Garden_Festival_in_Seattle.JPGby Mary-Kate Mackey & Anne Reeves

This year, we’re looking forward to Seattle’s Northwest Flower & Garden Festival, which runs from February 26-March 1, and celebrates once again the strong ties that have been forged between our GardenComm organization and the show during its 31-year history.

Over that time, the popular indoor extravaganza has always provided media passes to our members. More than half of the seminar speakers have been associated with our group. GardenComm Connect meetings have been regularly held at the show, and last year, for the first time, GardenComm sponsored an Outdoor Living Award. This was given to the display garden on the show floor that, as our award’s description goes, “exhibits the most beautiful, creative, and educational ideas for effective use of horticulture and design in functional outdoor living environments.”

So, in 2020, the media pre-show walk-through will take place before the judging on Tuesday, February 25. Our members are again well-represented among the seminar speakers and in other features, such as Container Wars and the Blooms and Bubbles workshops. This year, the Outdoor Living Award is sponsored by Brent & Becky’s Bulbs, and will be judged by Regional Director, Anne Held Reeves, writer Erica Browne Grivas, and photographer Mark Turner.

And be sure to join us for two fun events. First, we are getting together socially for a No-Host Happy Hour on Thursday, Feb 27 at 6 pm at the ground floor bar at the Sheraton Grand on 6th Street—directly down the hill from the Convention Center. Then the next afternoon, we will gather for a free GardenComm Connect Meeting on Friday Feb 28 at 1:00 pm in Room 309, next to the VIP/Media Room on the third floor in the Convention Center. A special thanks to Courtney Goetz, the show’s Operations Manager, for arranging that space. Come on down, members and friends, bring plenty of business cards, and expect to connect. Share your latest accomplishments, industry topics, and ideas for how GardenComm can support you. Please encourage anyone who would be interested to join us and learn what GardenComm now is all about.

Mary-Kate Mackey and Anne Reeves are the Region VI National and Regional Directors, respectively.

Instagram for Garden Communicators

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Instagram is no longer the red-headed stepchild of Facebook, now fully acquired and integrated into the pantheon of social media platforms. With nearly 70% of Americans under 30 using Instagram (1,2) and as the second-most downloaded app in Apple’s App Store (after YouTube), it’s clear that Instagram is visual, mobile, and youthful.

But what if you are none of these things, content to compose your prose on your laptop, share to your favorite Facebook gardening groups, or maybe even tap out a twitter treatise? You have perfectly optimized blog posts for those who prefer to read quietly when they have time, but you may be missing out on a new generation of readers eager to learn.

An Instagram account can be grown organically, to share your written work beyond your usual audience.  If your ideal reader is new to gardening, they crave inspiration and how-tos and are finding it online using YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram as their visual search engines.

How on earth do you distill those perfect 1000 words to an Instagram caption or choose a passable picture from the blurry options on your phone? (And who even knows what’s up with What’s App and Snapchat? )  Sure, taking a photo with the intention to illustrate a point helps, but there are apps and filters that can turn any of us into Art Wolfe or Imogen Cunningham.

Although thumb-stopping content is ideal, the reality is that prose and keywords count far more for discoverability, especially when we’re squinting at tiny screens.  Hashtags help people searching for content to find new accounts and related ideas.  Purposeful prose grabs readers and invites interaction.  Instagram captions are short conversations, telling a story about you, your writing process, your successes (and failures) in the garden.  It’s an ongoing exchange of information and inspiration.  We each learn from each other and get ideas for new projects.

Gardening, being the slowest of the performing arts, is an unlikely candidate for success in the constant consumption whirl of social media.  The craft of writing and the slowness of editing is hard to portray in the instant of Instagram.  But by finding that perfect moment of dew on a petal, a well-crafted phrase about sowing seeds, we connect and grow, one by one.

Instagram is more than chasing likes and followers, it’s about making real connections with real people.

Remember, it’s Social media.

Let’s throw an online garden party, and invite everyone.

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About Grace Hensley

Grace Hensley runs Fashion Plants, a business strategy and digital marketing company she founded to keep busy while raising two young sons, after a career in biotechnology.  As a professional photographer, she became interested in garden communication and social media trends to help you talk about your business on social. She is a Certified Professional Horticulturist and continues to work in seasonal container design to remain current with the hot new plants. Plus, she’s addicted to soil.

Garden Communications Considered

One Garden Geek’s Thoughts about GardenComm and the Green Industry

by C.L. Fornari

When I joined the organization that was called Garden Writers, the members were the main pipelines of information that flowed from those who grew plants or made garden products out to the public. We wrote the columns and books, hosted the radio or TV shows, provided the photographs and gave the lectures that promoted gardening and horticulture.

And then came the internet.

Now we’re in a world where anyone can put out information as they wish about plants and gardens. Companies can post on their own blogs and social media. An enthusiast with a large audience on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook can be hired as an influencer to promote plants and products to their followers. Because of the internet, everyone in the green industry has found himself or herself in a whole new world.

This uncharted area has proved to be compelling, fast changing and complicated for all. The public spends more than 11 hours a day focused on their screens, according to a 2018 Nielsen study. This means that those promoting horticulture need to find ways to make our interests compete with the virtual realm, a place that is constantly shifting. Just as we think there’s a clear path to reaching the public through social media, something alters and that route is no longer as clear. The recent move by Instagram to remove “likes” from the platform is an example of such a change.

It also becomes increasingly more difficult for the public to determine what online information is true and useful, what doesn’t pertain to them, and what is false or an outright scam. Is the advice given by a home gardener in Texas useful to the vegetable garden newbie in Minnesota? Does the ultra-vibrant perennial garden shared on Facebook really look so vivid and colorful in person? Can you really grow rainbow roses, where every petal is a different hue, from the seeds sold on Amazon?

Association memberships are also challenged, whether it’s a garden communication group or not. Back in the day special interest or professional groups were the main place where people could gather around shared passions. Their meetings were a prime vehicle for networking and sharing information. Now interests and knowledge are online and no one has to leave home to connect.

Despite the advantages of online connections, I believe that an association such as GardenComm is even more important to the green industry than ever before.

  • The More Seeds Sown: Let’s face it. The internet is a black hole for distraction. People are bombarded by images, information and click-bait that demand their attention. It stands to reason then that a few mentions of a plant or product can easily get lost. So, the more people you have writing, photographing and speaking about plants and horticultural products, the more likely it is that they will be noticed. More seeds sown result in greater germination.
  • Regional Reinforcement: You’ve probably heard the saying that “all gardening is regional” and there is a great deal of truth there. The plant-buying public comes to quickly understand that some plants might thrive in their area while others do not. So, even when a plant is promoted and sold nationally, people want to know that it will do well in their yard and garden. Having garden communicators who assure regional consumers that a plant or product will work for them is invaluable, to the business and to the public.
  • Relationships and Trust: Good garden communicators do far more than pass on facts about plants and products. They build a strong rapport with their audiences so that the information they disseminate carries much more weight than casual comments or even online reviews. A garden communicator who has worked to establish an affinity with the public is trusted. They are stronger than any crowd-sourced review site and valued as a source of accurate information.
  • United We Stand:  Human beings like to gather in groups and feel that they belong. People have a drive to be part of the tribe, to work toward meaningful goals, and we don’t want to be left out. So when those in horticulture rise together to talk about the benefits of plants and gardens, or to show the wonder and beauty that can be grown, we create something positive that people want to be a part of.  GardenComm members sum this up with two hashtags: #TeamHorticulture and #GardenStrong.

Meet the Author

C.L. Fornari is Treasurer of GardenComm.NCrx7L6A.jpeg