Perhaps the best known name in this growing field is Patch. Owned and funded by AOL with offices in New York, its high-quality, journalistic website/blogs are in 20 states so far (plus D.C.), and when they cover a state, they cover it. (My small state of Maryland has 52 of them, and California has over 130.) Patches are established in towns with populations between 15,000 and 100,000 that are “underserved by media and that would benefit by having access to local news and information about government, schools and business”. They’re run by professional editors, writers and photographers who live in or near the communities they serve, and I was happily surprised to discover how transparent they are. Here’s their About Page, which includes the bio’s for an impressive staff. Click here to find all the Patches (so far) in the U.S.
It wasn’t long after the Potomac, MD Patch launched that their editor contacted the one garden center in Potomac to ask if she could republish some of the garden center’s blog posts on the Patch. It’s part of the business plan for Patches everywhere to solicit (unpaid) blog posts to publish front and center on all the Patch sites under the headline “Local Voices”, and local businesses with blogs are invited to contribute, too. Behnkes Nursery was quick to say yes, and you see their green logo twice here on the Potomac Patch – actually, their very first “Local Voice” entries. One is a teaser to a longer article on the Behnkes website and the other is an introduction to the garden center itself - what it sells, etc. – the editor asked for that one specifically!
It’s clear from Patch’s guidelines for local bloggers that they’re looking for professional writing, including the use of standard journalistic punctuation, etc. All submissions are subject to editing, and may be rejected outright if they require a lot of editing or outright rewrite. Like any respected news source, Patch also cares about copyright law, so both the text and photos in blog contributions need to be in compliance.
How many garden center owners and employees have the time, inclination or experience to produce content like this? Not many (if any), but you know who can produce it? Local garden writers, especially if they have experience and proven success at blogging.
Content-wise, what is Patch looking for? According to the Potomac Patch editor, they want really useful stories, like the “What to Do in May” blog story submitted in full to another Patch site (shown here on the left). See, it’s fine to either publish the whole story on Patch or just post a short teaser that sends readers to your blog to read the whole story. The editor also suggested blog stories announcing the store’s specials! Notice this is FREE to the garden center – not paid advertising.
You can even post the same stories to several different Patch sites, as long as they’re local to your customers. It’s a way to get great reach for your blog stories for almost no extra effort (it takes 5 minutes or so to post the content to each Patch).
More super-local news sites
Patch is just the largest of many local news sites springing up all over the place. There’s also Village Connector and Main Street Connect and lots more that are unique to each town, rather than national in scope. No doubt Patch isn’t the only one looking to republish blog posts by local companies.
Other ways to use Patch and other micro-local news sites to promote IGCs:
- Offer your in-store expert to be interviewed by Patch writers, producing stories like this one.
- Add your events to their Events calendar – all by yourself (and it’s easy to do). They’ll appear not just on the calendar but front and center on the main page of the Patch site. Again – this is FREE of charge.
- Post announcements (like job openings).
More opportunities on government websites and blogs
The Washington, D.C. Council of Governments funds the Metro DC Lawn and Garden Blog, with an excellent gardenwriter at its helm, but they want guest posts, too – and get them. Like this one by a garden center manager listing his favorite native plants. (The introductory language about how wonderful the garden center is was written by the Metro DC Lawn and Garden editor, not by the garden center itself.)
And Plant More Plants is another government effort – this one without funds for their own blog editor (they allocated most of their grant money to two TV ads instead), so they’re really needing blog posts from garden centers.
Both of these blogs have sprung up in the last year.
More reasons to blog
These opportunities come to companies that blog. Facebook updates and Twitter feeds are great, but they can’t be redistributed in this way across the web.