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Tell the Truth & Tell It First

Can best practices for a garden center help your business or organization?  It sure can.  Read below.


From local newspaper and television stories to social media reviews, coverage of your independent garden center sways the opinions of consumers interested in your store. When press is positive, everyone basks in the warmth. But when negative media hits, what you say and do are crucial to weathering the storm. The following principles can help your organization navigate negative media coverage effectively:

1. Establish a communications plan — before a crisis hits.

Your company may have an emergency operations plan, but have plans for communicating in times of crisis received similar attention? Planned events such as store closings or layoffs allow time for carefully crafted press releases. Crisis situations, from data breaches to #MeToo revelations or sudden changes in management, don’t.

Thomas Fladung, managing partner at Cleveland-based crisis communications firm Hennes Communications, speaks from 33 years of newspaper experience. “Immediacy and urgency set a true crisis apart,” he says. “It’s so important to have that communications plan in place ahead of time, because you won’t have time to sit down and game plan it out.”

Brainstorming with your team can prepare you for the unexpected. Devise crisis communication plans for events most likely to occur, including what to say, how to say it, when to say it and to whom. Craft statements for conventional media, but don’t forget posts for your website and social media pages.

Fladung emphasizes that your initial communications may be the first thing your key employees, business partners and core customers see or hear about a crisis. “A communications plan, done in advance, arms you with the message that you can get out there,” he says.

2. Designate a point person for media inquires.

An effective communication plan for your IGC requires that everyone in your organization knows where to turn when media inquiries come in. Debi Drescher, marketing and branding director for Pennsylvania-based Stauffers of Kissel Hill, stresses that IGCs should route all media communications through a single person.

At Stauffers, media inquiries and feedback from the IGC’s website and social media pages all filter through Drescher. This ensures consistency and accuracy, but it also guarantees one person sees everything — ingoing and outgoing, positive and negative. With that big picture, Drescher can ensure everything gets handled appropriately.

The wisdom of that philosophy was apparent when Stauffers recently decided to permanently cancel a long-standing holiday event. While the team expected public disappointment over the decision, they didn’t foresee miscommunications by outside parties about the reasons behind it. When media inquiries followed, Drescher’s established communications plan allowed her to correct, clarify and control the narrative to minimize negative press.

Even for small IGCs, Drescher says a formal point person is essential. “Have someone be responsible,” she advises. “Whether it’s an owner or a manager, there has to be one key person who’s the ‘reputation monitor’ for consistent messaging and to make sure nothing goes rogue.”

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