When the Press Calls

When the Press Calls...

by Danny Summers

Sometimes things just don't work out the way you first thought they might. That is most often the case When the Press Calls. About 2 weeks ago I was contacted by email by a writer with Associated Press (AP). The conversation began with...

"Hi, I cover small business for the AP, is there someone at The Garden Center Group that could speak to me about what challenges the industry is facing these days, i.e. high labor costs, volatile weather, etc. and what are some bright spots?"

Within a couple days, we connected by phone and had a lengthy conversation. She asked about the areas first introduced in the email, centered around challenges, increased costs and weather.

I gave an overview of what The Group has experienced since 2019 as you might expect. I stepped through the tremendous growth we saw in sales through 2020 and 2021, some single-digit slipping in 2022 and then 2023 being even with the previous year, and currently remaining on this new plateau of +20% or more over pre-Covid years. Of course, while stepping through the years of growth I discussed the large number of new younger customers we have gained, how they are now buying so much more than just Tropicals when we first saw their newly-founded interest in plants.

The writer asked, "What head-winds do you see looking forward?"

My reaction may not have been what she expected (or was looking for). I said, overall with the large new audience we now have, given their strong interest in subjects like Plants and the Garden, Organic, Buying Local, and Sustainability, the Garden Retail Industry is fortunate to be serving these needs and we are very positive about the future. I told her probably the biggest challenge is keeping all the new audience engaged.

By the end of the conversation, I felt pretty good about how the conversation had gone and thought the coverage would come out in an positive way, considering the increased popularity of Gardening and Nature we all have seen. The call was followed up in a short Zoom session where we covered a few of the same points again to provide some actual video comments to support the written article.

The writer told me they had several Garden Retailers they were also getting comments from but by the names, I knew they were not Retailers in The Group.

This past week, I received a followup email with a thank you message and a link to the finished story titled, "Gardening bloomed during the pandemic. Garden centers hope would-be green thumbs stay interested."

You may know, The Associated Press (AP) is a nonprofit news cooperative which was formed in 1846 by five New York newspapers. It also sells content to other media organizations. Today, they are responsible for creating 400,000 stories, 1.2 million photos and 80,000 videos for current news distribution per year.

I have to admit upon a first quick read of the article I was disappointed. The lead Garden Center was from San Fransisco who said last year (2023) was their worse year ever and the message gleaned from their comments was pretty bleak at best. The second Garden Center was from Delaware. Their comments were much more balanced and parallel to what I had provided, but in the video portion the editing shifted the comments from being on this new higher plateau to being back to pre-Covid levels. Only the third Garden Center, located in Tennessee, was thoroughly positive saying, "Sales boomed during the pandemic and haven’t slowed down since."

Experiencing something like this makes you realize When the Press Calls, they do so with a vision of where the story will lead. And in this case, they extract only portions of the story from multiple sources to follow the direction they think the story should go.

Here's a few thoughts on what to do When the Press Calls... some are notes from Sid Raisch (thanks Sid):

  1. Request the proposed title for the story.
  2. Request an outline of questions or topics in writing ahead of the interview.
  3. Be careful not to say too much so that portions can be taken out of context.
  4. Emphasize your major points more than once so not to be overlooked.
  5. Request a pre-publication preview of the finished story where you will be quoted.

For our Garden Centers, most likely requests will come from local press who are generally more eager to publish positive stories about local businesses – success stories. That's a good thing. If you do pick up "vibes" of a search for struggles and bad-news, be careful.

And of course, you are always welcome to call me to discuss the request. I admit I am not an expert in this, but having been through it several times with mixed results, my built-in radar for how to avoid the pitfalls is becoming more acute.

You may remember, in January of 2020, I shared a blog message titled, "When a Writer Calls." In that story, we were able to show the writer a different path and it came out much more positive than the original direction.

The three Garden Centers in the current AP story each had different levels of their current level of success. The first was pretty bleak. The second was more balanced and optimistic. The third was extremely positive. I am thankful most of The Group Centers would share the experience of the third center.

When the Press Calls... The Group Experience can make a world of difference!

If you would like to read the entire AP story (and watch the supporting video), "Gardening bloomed during the pandemic. Garden centers hope would-be green thumbs stay interested." Follow this link see it all.


Sharing is at the heart of The Group and your ideas are very important. If you have any trouble logging into The Group WebSystem, please let me know. Are you and your staff all subscribed to our eLists such as GroupEs, Retail-Grower, Retail-Landscape, Owners-Only, and a number of others? Need help subscribing? Let me know so I can show you how you can sign up.
Thanks for sharing!

Danny Summers
[email protected]
Tel: 678-909-7770
Cell: 678-761-7145

REMEMBER: Your interaction (by phone and email) with Group Service Providers such as Tim Quebedeaux, Sid Raisch, John Kennedy, Jean Seawright, and of course Danny Summers are included in your retainer!

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