Elevating home and garden brands to feed content-hungry consumers

Honest Communications, a specialist garden and home PR agency, social media management, content creation and communications agency

Here at Honest Communications, we specialise in helping to raise the profile of brands in the home, garden and lifestyle sectors. The current situation, although it needs to be navigated carefully and sensitively, presents a unique opportunity for brands in this sector to shine.

It’s imperative not to profiteer from the pandemic – doing so would be crass and damaging to any brand but meeting your audience where they are (at home) and addressing their needs in a relevant way is fine. It’s important to use the right tone and check that all your customer communications are being delivered with empathy.

Be there to help.

People are stuck in their homes, looking at the same four walls day in and day out. People who may have previously spent little time at home due to demanding jobs and long commutes are now at home all the time. They are seeing the flaws and seeking renovation and shopping inspiration. They’ve also, perhaps for the first time, got the time to be making changes and using lockdown for a spot of DIY, decorating and revamping. Combine all that with boredom and time to be more creative – there’s a whole pool of people looking to invest in their homes and gardens emerging.

In the same way that the kitchen design industry booms in January after people have tackled Christmas dinner and realised their kitchen doesn’t fit their requirements anymore,  lockdown is bringing about a new wave of custom for home, garden and lifestyle brands.

Fortunately, garden, home and lifestyle media channels are thriving.

With people looking for ways to pass the time, magazine readerships have increased in recent weeks. We took part in a Homes 4 Media webinar earlier this week where the panel featured Lucy Hall, editor of BBC Gardeners’ World; Andréa Childs, executive editor of Country Homes & Interiors; Jason Orme, content director at Real Homes; Sarah Warwick, a freelance interiors writer; and Arabella Youens, a freelance interiors and property writer. It was really insightful and if you’ve got a spare hour, it’s well worth a watch. You can view it here.

A key theme in the webinar was how magazine subscriptions and digital content around home and garden are on the up. RealHomes.com had one million users in a day last week – the same amount they usually have in a month. Views on the garden category on IdealHome.co.uk have gone up 50%, and visitors to the Gardeners’ World website are up 200%, with longer dwell times too. English Garden’s newsletter subscriptions are up 20% and the English Home has gone up 17% so people are certainly devouring content in our sector!

Numbers of newsstand copies might be down with supermarkets, quite rightly, prioritising food and medicine deliveries over magazine stocking, and with shops like WHSmith being shut, however print and digital subscriber numbers are up.

Social media usage has rocketed too, with people constantly scrolling their newsfeeds, searching Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. Nielson reported that staying at home has increased online content consumption by 60% so there’s plenty of opportunities to get your brand seen – you just need to find them.

More people than ever are exploring and discovering new brands and the demand for content from home and garden brands is vast.

Whilst there is of course financial uncertainty, times like these also encourage a ‘treat yourself’ mindset. People may also have more money to spend on their homes as other luxuries like travel and eating out aren’t currently possible. Gym memberships are being refunded, money usually spent on nights out or trips to the cinema is sitting in bank accounts, so people are looking for new ways to treat themselves as a distraction from what is going on.

Plan for life after lockdown

Another point to remember is that magazines work three to four months in advance. We sit here in lockdown at the end of April, but editorial teams will be working on their August and September issues, and Christmas won’t be far away after that. We obviously don’t know what is around the corner, when lockdown will be lifted and what a post-lockdown life will be like, but we’d hope that by September the worst of this will have passed and we’ll be returning to normal life. Therefore, there are opportunities for brands to be securing media coverage now to reap the benefits in the long run. If you delay your PR strategy until this passes, you will be another four months behind and it could be early 2021 by the time customers are seeing you and your products.

But don’t sit back and do nothing for those four months, waiting for the autumn issues to come out and the sales to come in. Digital media gives you a means of acting now for a more immediate response. Think about content strategy and channels. What material and messaging can you be putting out now to position yourselves in front of these content-hungry consumers? Consider your channels and think beyond your own website and social media. A digital PR outreach campaign can work wonders at times like these where digital editors and writers, as well as influencers, can respond very quickly without having to factor  in print magazine lead times.

Prepare your autumn and winter content now and use any downtime to be working on your communications strategy and be ready to hit the ground running as soon as lockdown lifts.

Everything we do at Honest Communications is to help brands be seen at the right time and with the right message. We specialise in the home, garden and lifestyle space and can use our connections to help get your brand coverage. If you’d like to have a chat about how that might work, and what opportunities there are for your brand in the current climate and looking ahead, then get in touch.