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.