AmericanFarm.com

Garden writers plan exhibit booth at MANTS

By KATHY JENTZ

(January 2015) Are you looking to increase your company’s public profile? The upcoming Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Sow (MANTS) from January 14 through 16, 2015, in Baltimore, Md., will have a new presence at this year – an exhibit booth sponsored by the Garden Writers Association (GWA).
Never heard of it? Well, that is part of the reason for their participation. The professional association of more than 1,800 gardening communicators was established in 1948 and represents individuals across the horticultural media spectrum from radio show hosts to amateur bloggers to newspaper columnists.
Many of these individuals have been attending MANTS for years on their own — you may have noticed a few “press” badges on the show floor – but this year, they will be hosting a coordinated exhibit as well for industry outreach, identity and networking.
Incoming GWA president Kirk Brown explained, “The vendors should know about us because we can offer communication coordination and writing/marketing skills. The attendees should know about us because a lot of them are potential members: small green industry firms who are doing a lot of the business of professional communications on their own.”
GWA started exhibiting last year with a booth at AmericanHort's Cultivate Show in Columbus, Ohio. Maria Zampini of UpShoot LLC, a horticulture marketing firm, commented, “When it comes to ornamentals, in the green industry, MANTS is viewed as not just a regional show but as THE major show in the country for both attendees and exhibitors.  It used to be Mid-Am in Chicago, but that show is now regional in scope. AmericanHort now holds all its major meetings at Cultivate in Columbus and at MANTS in Baltimore.  Since the major growers and ‘movers and shakers,’ as I call them, are in attendance at both these shows, I think this is a great 1-2 punch for GWA. It helps give us great coverage in reaching a good cross section of the green industry and in turn them meeting and learning about us, too!”
Garden communicators have, of course, been using MANTS for years as a source of new material. “I can get 10 stories out of the MANTS visit or more, plus ‘up-to-the-minute’ daily blog and social media coverage including lots of videos,” said Doug Oster, staff writer/videographer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I look at every booth and stop whenever the mood hits me or fate intervenes. I'll start a conversation, tell them who I am and see if it's interesting. It becomes apparent pretty quickly if what they have to say will be of value for the readers.”
Oster advises exhibitors to “Have a nice, friendly pitch ready. You never know who might stop and want to tell your story. When that happens it's something that's good for both of you. If you can't get a card from the person who interviews you, be sure you figure out who they are so you can see what they write. Hopefully it will be nice and it will help both you and the writer.”
Other GWA members are also looking to connect with potential employers and partners to offer their communication skills for writing marketing and promotional literature, blog posts, and more. They can discuss the value of having garden media professionals managing your company brand.
“We're changing to adjust to the nature of social media and the incredible vitality of younger members,” said GWA’s Brown. “Information channels are bursting with the news that we will be seeing all things related to garden marketing and communications with new eyes through new media. It's a win/win situation.”
For more on the GWA, visit www.gardenwriters.org.
About the author: Kathy Jentz is a longtime member of the Garden Writers Association.