How one small business developed an excellent reputation from a standing start.
Thanks to WiRE member: Sarah Whitelock
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 http://www.growingdirect.org/services.html, follow her business on Facebook and on Twitter @GrowingDirect. To read further business interviews and blogs go to www.greenapplecommunications.co.uk or follow @sarahgreenapple.