Show garden PR

As the world’s largest flower show is dismantled this week this is an apt opportunity for us to deconstruct the PR benefits of show gardens for designers and sponsors.

Since 2009 we have been fortunate enough to provide show garden PR support to a hugely varied selection of designers – newbies to veterans, solos to duos – and their sponsors – charities tiny and large, businesses global and very local. All have produced show gardens for the RHS Chelsea and Hampton Court Palace Flower Shows and for the Gardening World Cup in Japan.

And all three show garden events have provided the designers and sponsors with great opportunities to promote their messages, organisations and, ultimately, their ability to produce beautiful and thoughtful gardens of the highest calibre.

This year we provided show garden PR support for The Chelsea Barracks Garden at RHS Chelsea and The Crohn’s Disease Garden at Hampton Court. Both required a six month lead in period to capitalise on editorial opportunities in long lead publications, briefing BBC researchers and rooting out the all the stories that could be told about the garden, the sponsor and the designers.

Here are our reflections on show garden PR gains and pitfalls:

Media coverage – there is a huge difference between the amount of coverage given to Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and Chelsea. The latter gets at least three or four times more coverage and some papers don’t even mention Hampton Court. The BBC output for Hampton is 2 ½ hours compared to over 12 hours for Chelsea – with Hampton Court billed as the world’s largest show it’s even more difficult to get a name check and particularly if you are charity. So be realistic and focussed about what you want and expect to achieve in terms of media coverage.

Social media – this is more of a balanced playing field and there are some great opportunities to share the garden and its stories on social media. The build period, press day and when the show opens to the public certainly provide lots of great visual content and a chance to benefit from what others are saying. Charities have also used it to fundraise linking it to an appeal launch on press day. Use the lead in period well to establish networks, ambassadors and those you want to reach.

Awards – a gold award or a ‘best in show’ does make a difference in terms of media coverage and, usually, design commissions.

PR – for many the over-whelming benefit of having a show garden is the contact with visitors. It provides a great platform for conversations that make a lasting impact in terms of getting across key messages and raising awareness of anything from designer talents to incredible charity stories.

Fundraising – charities at Hampton Court have successfully used show gardens to launch fundraising appeals which attract anything from coins in buckets, to large one-off donations and future legacies.

Cost – it is possible to produce a show garden on a very low, or no, budget with materials, expertise, plants and time donated. However most show gardens at Chelsea need an investment of at least £250,000.

If you are thinking of producing a show garden at either Hampton Court or Chelsea Flower Show we hope this basic overview is helpful. If you need any more help or information please get in touch with us – we’ve a vast amount of experience to share.