The countryside can be a tough place, especially when running a rural business. Deep in the Yorkshire countryside, Rhiannon Bates from Garnet PR specialises working with lifestyle and tourism businesses. Her passion is to champion small rural businesses that connect people with nature and the countryside.
Sam Hobden from Haynet recently caught up with Rhiannon to find out more about the personality behind Garnet PR:
You seem very at home in the countryside. Were you brought up in this environment as a child?
I was indeed! I grew up on the edge of Bourne Woods in Lincolnshire, with a wildlife photographer for a Dad, so I was pretty hooked on the countryside, nature and animals from day one. Most of my free time was spent at the stables or in the woods, so it’s safe to say I had a pretty muddy childhood! I really value it now and am a real advocate for ‘free-range’ children; letting little ones get muddy and spending lots of time outdoors.
What were your childhood dreams and career ambitions?
I remember one of my first childhood dreams was to become a world-famous showjumper. I grew up watching John Whitaker and Milton, longing to one day have a pony who would help me to fly the way these two did. I think that’s what started my soft spot for a grey horse – weirdly I’ve always had bays but long for the right grey to cross my path!
What would be your best advice to a school leaver who is thinking of making rural marketing and PR their career?
Embrace every opportunity and be a bit fearless. Try your hand at lots of things and try to get some work experience. If you’d like to work in PR it’s really helpful to become as well-rounded as you can as it really helps you understand the industry – for example, try an agency, try in-house at a brand, and see if you can get a placement or work experience at a magazine or newspaper.
It’s also really important to build relationships as your network will become one of your most vital tools. Remember to always be polite and pleasant to everyone you meet as you never know when your path might cross again. There’s a story I heard when I first started out managing celebrity and charity relationships about an actress who was incredibly difficult and rude to all the junior staff on her shows. Well now they have all climbed the ladder and become the Executive Producers or Directors and she can’t get any work. It’s a good lesson to always be mindful of your manners as you never know where paths may lead.
You have a wide variety of PR experience working with wildlife, pets and celebrities. Which were the easier ones to work with?
They always say never work with children or animals don’t they, and as I used to work at ZSL London Zoo I had both on a daily basis! I’m quite lucky in that most of the people and animals I’ve worked with have been great, there’s been the odd exception but hey they make the best stories for later life don’t they. One thing I learned was that animals rarely do what you want, when you want but that’s their nature and as they should be, I’ll never get tired of working with them.
Tell us about your business and all about the team behind Garnet PR.
Garnet PR was born of my passion for everything rural, wildlife and outdoorsy. I’ve been in the PR industry for 10 years now, telling the stories of conservation and animals charities including the Woodland Trust, ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos and their parent charity, the Zoological Society of London, Dogs Trust and most recently working with an award-winning communications agency.
I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the world’s most incredible animals (I’ll never forget making Christmas presents for tiger cubs for a photocall!), conservationists (Sir David Attenborough genuinely is as incredible in real life as he is on the TV), and some wonderful celebrities who genuinely want to make the world better.
It was a brilliant place to be, but I knew my rural roots were growing stronger. My passion was with lifestyle and tourism businesses that connect people with nature and the countryside or bring families together for wonderful days out and adventures. I’m also a champion of small businesses that create beautiful products at home in the country and wanted to help them.
So I made the jump and set up Garnet PR at the start of 2019. Now, I support businesses of all sizes; telling their stories, driving visitors to their attractions or destinations, increasing brand awareness through media coverage, and protecting their reputations. All from my office in Yorkshire with the help of my Cavapoo puppy, Teddy and my lovely other half, Tom, who has fully embraced country life!
What have been the triumphs and challenges of running your own business?
I think the biggest thing I learnt in the first six months of business is that when you run your own business it’s really important to celebrate the small wins, as well as the big ones, and not to get knocked back by the challenges.
Setting up a business is fairly simple, it’s running it, growing it and managing it all which is the biggest challenge. Especially in the first couple of years when you’re likely just you or a small team. My biggest challenge is switching off – I’m so passionate about what I do at Garnet PR and the brands I work with that I’m always thinking about ideas and what’s next. Sometimes the best thing you can do is turn your phone off and be completely present in the moment or you risk burning out.
The biggest triumph has been building a fab network of brilliant fellow rural business people; clients, colleagues and friends. I truly love getting up in the morning feeling super excited about every day.
The world of social media is a very challenging place at the moment! What do you feel is the future of promoting a rural brand socially?
What with ever-changing algorithms, cyber-bullying and other elements it can feel like quite a beast at times can’t it? It’s key to remember that social media was set up to be just that – social. To share information and to be a positive place to make connections. If you keep that at the heart of what you do, and stay true to your brand and its values you can’t go far wrong.
A key thing to remember with social media is that the clue is in the name. I always tell my clients, don’t ‘post and ghost’, there is absolutely no point constantly posting content and never actually interacting. Be social, talk to people, comment, like, share, build up meaningful connections. Some of my business besties have come through social media, it’s a brilliant tool and place to be if used right.
What are your future plans with Garnet PR?
I plan to expand the charitable focus of the business, while my core focus is on rural businesses, I’d like to work with more conservation, environment and animal charities, helping to tell their stories and build support for them. The natural world is at a tipping point and it really needs as many of us as possible to stand up and say it’s not ok that we’re here. I also plan to coach more small business owners in PR, so that they feel capable and excited to do it themselves. PR should be accessible to everyone, not just for big businesses with big budgets, that’s one of the reasons I wanted to focus on small rural businesses in the first place and I never want to lose that, it’s a core pillar of Garnet PR.
On a day off, where would we find you?
When I get a new horse I’ll likely be at the stables (waiting on that grey!). Until then I’ll be curled up on the sofa after a lovely dinner, glass of red in hand, fire on, cheesy movie, puppy snoozing and my phone on airplane mode! I try to be super present when I have time off.
Where do you hope to be in ten years’ time?
Hopefully, Garnet PR will be one of the UK’s leading rural PR agencies, with an arm dedicated to supporting conservation, wildlife and environmental charities. I’d like to have a fabulous team who are as passionate about supporting rural businesses as I am. On a personal note, I’d like to have a place in the country, be surrounded by animals, and just generally enjoying life while running a business which makes a difference, oh and regular champagne Fridays!
Against the Clock
Canines or Equines: Oooh tough one, I really can’t choose – I’d like to have lots of both! PR Pooch Teddy is totally wonderful and we’re just about to move to a sleepy village further out in the Yorkshire countryside so I hope to get a new horse next year.
Gin or Champagne: Champagne!
Cheese or Chocolate: Cheese every time, the stronger the better!
Sunshine or Snow: I love snow but after the first flurry of excitement it can get difficult so we’ll go with sun.
Home Counties or Far Away Shores: Both! Any adventures are good with me. Rural England is special though, we have so much to explore right here on our little island.
Spend or Save: I should save but I’m a total spender – I just find it so hard to resist adventures and nice things!
Home Cooked or Eating Out: My other half, Tom, is wonderful cook so I’m really spoilt with his cooking at home, but he’s a total foodie so we also love finding new places to eat out. It’s nice to go out and not have to deal with the washing up!
Music or Film: Film – although I’m a secret folk music lover!
Wellies or Heels: Both – I absolutely adore being in the country in my wellies, but after many years trotting around London in my heels I’m pretty nifty in them too!
Rhiannon Bates is the Founder and PR Director of Garnet PR.
Based in Yorkshire, Garnet PR specialises in public relations for rural lifestyle & tourism brands across the UK, as well as supporting regional clients.
From heritage to hospitality, wildlife to pets; country fashion & products, rural adventures and days out in the UK are at the heart of what Garnet PR does.
To find out more visit www.garnetpr.com
To keep up to date with all things PR, special offers and Rhiannon’s musings on rural life and business, sign up Garnet PR’s newsletter via the website.
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