TOCA Talk is proudly sponsored by EnP. EnP has been Engineering Optimal Plant Health™ for nearly 30 years, manufacturing specialty fertilizers under two brands: Foliar-Pak, and Age Old Nutrients. Because EnP professionals believe that collaboration and the exchange of ideas are essential for innovation, they are proud to support the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA).
Super, Sweet Cincy Is Where You "Get" It
By Lacy Ravencraft, TOCA Board President
Greetings TOCA members!
As the first quarter of 2018 draws to a close (*gasp*) and we inch closer to the annual TOCA meeting in May, I thought I’d check in to see if you’re keeping Cincinnati top of mind. Hopefully you’ve already registered, but if not, let’s get to it!
You are busy people, so I’ll keep it brief with these three reasons to register:
(1) Professional Development Bargain of the Year!
Honestly, where else can you get five educational sessions, informative industry related tours and a plethora of networking opportunities for the very reasonable price of $375?! You probably spend more than that on a trip to Costco or Sam’s Club.
(2) Sweet Cincy Hangs with Awesome Folks
One of the things I like about TOCA’s city selection for annual meetings is that it often takes me to a place that maybe wasn’t on my radar for a visit—and to this day, my experiences have all been positive! When you’re rallying with TOCA friends, though, the city almost doesn’t even matter. I think this group could find a good time just about anywhere. Whether you’re getting reacquainted with old friends or meeting new TOCA members, the culture is one that can’t be beat. I look forward to seeing you soon!
There’s plenty of fun haunts in Cincinnati, including Fountain Square, many local breweries, the Reds Great American Ballpark (fun even if it’s not your team, and a featured spot on this year’s TOCA tour), and of course, the legendary Ohio River. If you’ve seen (or dare-I-say-swam) in the Ohio River (I have—watch out for barges), you’d understand the irony.
Be sure to hit up some Cincinnati Chili while you’re in town—Skyline vs. Gold Star? Or perhaps Dixie Chili is your deal. How about a buckeye or two (bonus if homemade), or some scrumptious goetta? I’ll admit, I wasn’t a believer until I experienced first-hand the joys of these fine Cincy food treasures. Whether a 3-way, 4-way or 5-way is your jam (get your head out of the gutter), you can get your fill.
Good times ahead in Cincinnati, I swear! And if you’re looking for some local recommendations, hit up our friends at Focal Point Communications — Joe Schooner's got all the top secret intel.
(3) Refreshingly Familiar
One of the things I like best about TOCA’s annual meeting is that I get to be surrounded by people who get it. We’re in the same biz. We understand the professional landscape (terrible pun intended). We can talk shop and know the lingo. No one raises an eyebrow when I say I write about irrigation. I can say irrigation, and not sprinklers, and you get me. I can nerd out on soil science, KPIs or customer insights—you can, too! It’s so wildly refreshing to be able to speak with fellow green industry communicators who share the same celebrations and struggles. I am looking forward to it.
So grab that registration form and rally your peeps…before you get caught up in the daily flurry of activity. Book your reservations and travel early to avoid costly delays — we’re all trying to save some cash, right? Besides, it will get one thing off of your ginormous to-do list, so everyone wins.
Until next time, TOCA friends! Lead on…
The Queen City Set to Host TOCA Members
By Den Gardner, Executive Director
The Queen City (otherwise known as Cincinnati) awaits as TOCA members can now register for the 29th annual meeting May 1-3. Head to the web site today – www.toca.org – and join attendees from across the country. See bottom of this article for the full tentative schedule.
Our third trip to Ohio for a TOCA meeting in 29 years (Cleveland and Columbus were the other two) is less than a month away and you can expect the royal treatment, as we gather at the historic Hilton Cincinnati Netherland Plaza. Book your room today, as hotel cut-off date for the lowered rate of $179 is midnight, April 10.
Thanks to program committee members Lacy Ravencraft, Marisa Palmieri and Joe Shooner for their great work on the Cincy program. They and TOCA staff have developed a first-class program.
Our keynote speaker this year is Ren LaForme, digital tools reporter, the Poynter Institute. He manages the program “Try This! – Tools for Journalism,” which is an effort to find, share and provide training around the best digital tools for journalists.
LaForme will conduct two workshops:
Digital Tools for Modern Storytelling - Why stick with text, or photos or videos when you’re trying to share your story online? There are hundreds of tools that can help you share your message in more unexpected, interesting and interactive ways. In this session, we’ll run through some of the best new storytelling tools, focusing on the ones you can put into practice right now. No coding or design experience required.
Tools for Connecting with Audiences - Our work used to stop when an editor had looked at our work. That's no longer the case. Distribution is the new last step of the storytelling process — nothing matters if nobody is engaging with it, right? In this session, we'll talk about why engaging with our audiences is so important and share the best tools for doing it right.
Ren is one-half of the duo responsible for “40 Better Hours,” a project to improve the workweek. He is also the cofounder of ONA’s Tampa Bay chapter and cofounder of Tampa Bay Media & Digital, a meetup group for locals who work in news media or on the internet.
Ren frequently goes by his vanity title – “Executive Director of Awesome.” Ren comes with rave reviews and, as many TOCA members know, the keynote speakers we’ve used from the Poynter Institute in years past have been outstanding. We look forward to his presentation.
Other key highlights of this year’s meeting include:
- A Content Marketing Panel (discussing Green Industry trends) will feature media, agency, association and supplier experts in a re-boot of the very successful program delivered by TOCA at the Irrigation Show in November.
- Peer Roundtables on eight compelling subjects for Green Industry Communicators – Project management to data & analytics, digital assets, employee retention, productivity tools and hacks, Being “green” in the Green Industry, evaluating marketing campaigns and best practices for PR pros and trade editors. Attendees will select a couple of subjects.
- Wednesday afternoon tours of Great American Ballpark (home of the Reds) and Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum (the fourth largest cemetery in the United States and recognized as a U.S. National Historic Landmark). Says TOCA program committee member Joe Shooner of Focal Point Communications in Cincinnati: “It sounds odd, but it’s actually a really popular spot. The area is beautiful.”
- Golfers will play at Devou Park Golf and Event Center, just minutes from the hotel across the river in Covington, Kentucky. Golf will begin at 1 p.m. with successive tee times. Price is just $34 for golf and a cart. A box lunch will be available for players at the course.
- The Thursday morning TOCA Run/Walk/Crawl 5K (or so) may include an optional photography walking tour. See website for race route.
The overall meeting format will take on a familiar look for members. There is the traditional board meeting on Tuesday, May 1, in the afternoon.
New this year for Tuesday evening is a more formal get-acquainted reception/dinner for newcomers and “seasoned” professionals. An optional meet and greet reception Tuesday evening for first timers will be followed by an evening dinner, courtesy of Ewing Irrigation & Landscape Supply and Focal Point Communications. For those “seasoned professionals who want to attend with the first-time attendees, a nominal fee of $35 per person will be charged. You can sign up for this when you register for the meeting.
The format following Tuesday evening is:
- Wednesday morning – meeting begins. Recognition of scholarship, internship, Environmental Communicator of the Year and professional development workshop.
- Wednesday afternoon – tour or golf
- Wednesday evening – opening night reception, silent auction
- Thursday all day – run/walk, workshops, seminars, business meeting
- Thursday evening – Award Reception/dinner
- Friday – home at leisure
The Wednesday night reception will feature our second annual TOCA Foundation Silent Auction. After the great success in our first year in Tampa, we are excited to offer this great event again. Last year’s auction brought in several thousand dollars. All members are encouraged to donate an item for the auction. Download the Silent Auction Donation Form, or contact Kyle Wieskus at email@example.com for more information. Pat Morrow of Bayer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the volunteer chair.
See you in Cincinnati!
2018 TOCA Annual Meeting Schedule (tentative)
Tuesday, May 1
2 p.m. - Board of Directors Meeting
6 p.m. - Informal meet and greet in hotel bar for newbies and “seasoned” professionals.
7 p.m. – Board dinner (invite only)
7 p.m. – Newcomers dinner (open to all) - sponsored by Ewing Irrigation and Focal Point Communications – (tentatively scheduled for dinner at Moerlein Lager House)
Wednesday, May 2
8:30 a.m. – Welcome & Introductions
9:00 a.m. – Scholarship and Internship Recognition
9:30 a.m. – Environmental Communicator of the Year – sponsored by Project EverGreen
9:50 a.m. – Volunteer of the Year
10:00 a.m. – Break
10:15 a.m. – Content Marketing Panel - Discover the latest in Green Industry content marketing trends with some of TOCA’s media, agency, association and supplier member experts.
11:45 a.m. – boxed lunch and depart for tours and golf
Tours: Great American Ballpark, home of the Cincinnati Reds, with head groundskeeper Steve Lord, and Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum
7 – 9 p.m. – Opening Night Reception & Silent Auction – Taft’s Ale House on Mezzanine.
Thursday, May 3
7 a.m. – TOCA Run/Walk Club
8 a.m. – Breakfast
9 a.m. – Keynote – “Digital Tools for Modern Storytelling” with Ren LaForme (@itsren), Digital Tools Reporter for Poynter.org
10:15 a.m. – Break
10:30 a.m. – Keynote II – TBD with Ren LaForme
Noon – Lunch
12:45 p.m. – Group Photo
1:15 p.m. – Peer Round Tables – Choose from 8 Topics (for two 45 minute sessions)
2:45 p.m. – Break
3:00 p.m. – Peer Round Tables – Bring Your Challenge!
4 p.m. – Business Meeting
5 p.m. – Adjourn
6:30 p.m. – Reception
7 p.m. – Dinner
7:30 p.m. – Hall of Fame Induction
7:45 p.m. - Awards Program
Peer Round Tables – Choose from 8 Topics (for two 45 minute sessions)
Each attendee will choose two of the following topics to participate in a peer round table discussion led by a peer facilitator. We’ll have two 45-minute sessions back-to-back, with attendees quickly rotating to the topic of their choice following the conclusion of the first session.
Peer Round Table Discussion Topics
Project Management: A discussion of software, workflows, tips and best practices.
Data & Analytics: The tools we use, and how we apply them to our business. How do you use data to drive content marketing decisions?
Digital Assets: Let’s explore digital asset management systems and how to develop a photography library on a budget.
Employee Retention: How do you measure employee engagement? What do you do to retain employees? How do you handle feedback and employee reviews?
Productivity Tools and Hacks: How we do more with what we have.
Developing Young Professionals: Tools and tactics for cultivating and growing young talent.
Measurement & Evaluation: How are you evaluating the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, social media activity and content development?
Pitch Me: Best practices for PR pros and marketers in working with trade editors.
Peer Round Tables: Bring Your Challenge!
In this one-hour working peer round table session, we’ll brainstorm solutions to real-world challenges as presented by our TOCA peers. Each TOCA member will come prepared to share with the table a current challenge they are facing in the workplace. Each person will have one minute to summarize the challenge. Each table will collectively vote (or randomly draw?) a single challenge to work on. All tables will have 15 minutes to brainstorm solutions to the selected challenge. At conclusion of the brainstorming period, each table will share the challenge they worked on, as well as present a summary of recommendations/solutions.
Following are some examples to get your juices flowing for the Bring Your Idea Challenge:
- I have a promising young staff member who is slated for great things in our organization. This person has very unrealistic expectations for annual salary increases; what tips can others share with me for better managing that conversation and the employee's expectations?
- I want to achieve a goal that requires additional resources. What is the best way to build the business case for approval?
- We had a sudden, volatile social media response that involved our organization. What immediate considerations and tactics should I be minding, and what steps can I take to proactively prepare for “next time”?
We all face challenges every single day, in extremely diverse ways. What are yours? Bring them to the discussion.
Donate to the Second Annual TOCA Silent Auction
By Kyle Wieskus, TOCA Membership Director
Our TOCA annual meeting in Cincinnati is fast approaching! At the meeting we will hold our Second Annual Silent Auction to support the TOCA Foundation. Last year’s auction was incredibly successful – we raised just over $4,000 for the TOCA Foundation. Please consider donating this year.
Here are some items that did very well last year:
- Waste Management Phoenix Open Tickets
- Go-Pro Hero
- Nespresso Machine
- Powerbeats Wireless Earphones
- Yeti Cooler
- Charge HR Fitbit
- Wireless Speaker
- Jewelry – Trio of Bracelets
Some other donation ideas
- School spirit baskets
- Foodie baskets – non-perishables, please! Perhaps pair with a gift certificate
- “Adult beverage” gift basket
- Sports memorabilia
- Event tickets to a college or pro sports team
- And of course – Cash donations are appreciated. We can do the shopping for you!
All donations will be available for bid during the Wednesday evening reception and Thursday lunch during the TOCA annual meeting. Our goal is to obtain a minimum of 20 items donations. (Remember, if you wouldn’t bid on it, no one else will either).
Have an idea? Need help with an idea? If you are ready to donate – please see the donation form.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to Kyle or Kristy!
Ella Boyden, a public relations and communications officer at Ransomes Jacobsen, Ltd. (part of Textron), has received a stipend from the TOCA Foundation to attend the annual meeting in Cincinnati in late April, early May.
This stipend, part of TOCA's outreach to international members of TOCA to grow our presence overseas, has been granted in the past two years to TOCA members across the pond. Boyden is based in Suffolk, United Kingdom. The TOCA Foundation was, in part, established a few years to provide these types of opportunities for professional development.
Fantastic Response for TOCA Membership Renewal in 2018
By Kyle Wieskus, TOCA Membership Director
Membership Renewal for 2018 has been outstanding! At the end of the first quarter, 88% of last year’s TOCA members have renewed!! That is fantastic! “Thank you!” to all our members for such an outstanding response!
If you are a part of the remaining 12% - renew now! To renew online – please click here. This will bring you to the Member Login page. If you do not remember your username or password – please email Kyle. If you have any questions or need assistance, please call the office at 952-758-6340 or email Kyle at email@example.com.
Such a great response in membership renewal tells us that you find significant value in your TOCA membership. It’s time to share that knowledge with your peers in the industry. Can you think of a couple of people that you know would benefit from TOCA membership? We would be happy to reach out to those people. Just drop us a line to give us their info and either staff or a TOCA board member will reach out to them.
Reminder about our very popular Young Professionals Program. With every two paid memberships from an organization, you get a FREE Young Professional membership! (YP must be 35 years or younger). TOCA membership, compared to other organizations, is a tremendous bargain. It’s only $140 per year for the first member and $90 for the second and all subsequent members. Now, with the Free YP program – you can get three memberships for only $230! Please contact Membership Director Kyle Wieskus at firstname.lastname@example.org to take advantage of the Young Professional program.
Thank-you for renewing your 2018 TOCA Membership!
TOCA FOUNDATION NEWS
TurfNet to Host the TOCA Media Intern
By Jon Kiger, TurfNet
(Editor’s Note: Jon first met the new TOCA Media Intern, Parker Stancil, by chance at The Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta last September. Jon immediately started the application process for the TurfNet summer internship. The end result is the latest TOCA editorial intern.)
In 2018 TurfNet will again host the TOCA Media Intern. The intern will be Parker Stancil, a sophomore in the Golf and Sports Turf Management program at Horry-Georgetown Technical College near Myrtle Beach, SC.
Stancil, 19, will spend the summer at Great Northern Golf Club in Kerteminde, Denmark. Great Northern is approximately two hours from Copenhagen and is owned by the founder of the Lego line of toy bricks. He will be a regular member of the seasonal golf maintenance crew and will host a blog for TurfNet on his experiences on and off the course.
Great Northern’s Golf Course Superintendent Aidan O’Hara will supervise Parker from early May through mid-August. This is the fourth time O’Hara has hosted a TurfNet turf student intern. The first three interns in its program worked for O’Hara at Mt. Juliet Golf Club in Ireland from 2012 – 2014.
O’Hara said this about his maintenance team for the upcoming season: “Last year we managed to achieve success by assembling a good cohesive team. So much so, that all but one of our seasonal workforce have signed contracts to return in 2018. They are a multi-national group, coming from England, Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Scotland and Ireland. We look forward to adding Parker Stancil to the mix. It’s also great to be working with TurfNet again on this successful program.”
Stancil’s experience belies his young age. He first worked in golf course maintenance at 16 and has experience in both maintenance and construction on golf courses.
In addition to working at Great Northern, Parker will take a week off in July to volunteer with other TurfNet members at the European PGA Tour’s Men’s Scottish Open in Gullane, Scotland. Tournament experience is nothing new to Parker. By the time he leaves for Denmark he will have volunteered at six tour events.
Of his upcoming summer in Denmark, Parker said: “I’m looking forward to getting real in-person experience with European cultural and management practices to see how they differ from our practices. Not only do I want to learn about the golf course maintenance strategies, but I can’t wait to see and live in Europe and learn more about the culture there. I believe all should broaden their horizons and step out of their comfort zone to experience the rest of the world at some point. Thanks to TurfNet, TOCA and Bayer for helping me with this experience.”
The TOCA Media internship stipend will assist Parker Stancil with his travel to and from Denmark and his expenses related to the seasonal visa application process. Parker will blog regularly and write about his experiences in TOCA Talk.
Past, Present and FUTURE
This year's TOCA Media Intern, Parker Stancil, will work with TurfNet, in an exciting experience that takes him from South Carolina to Denmark, Scotland and other destinations. One destination for the young man was the Golf Industry Show in San Antonio, Texas, where he joined previous TurfNet interns Carson Letot (2013) and Peter Braun (2014) at the TurfNet Beer and Pretzels Party.
TOCA FOUNDATION NEWS
2018 TOCA Marketing Communications Intern Selected
By Amy Keith McDonald, for Gardner & Gardner Communications
TOCA has chosen its first Marketing Communications Internship, in the new-this-year competition. Kayla Kingston, a sophomore at the University of Dayton, is studying Communication and is scheduled to graduate in May, 2020.
Kayla will be interning under the leadership of TOCA member Cindy Code, Project EverGreen executive director.
"Project EverGreen is thrilled to host the first TOCA marketing intern," said Cindy. "Kayla will have the opportunity to contribute to all of our marketing communications efforts to promote our key initiatives and to grow our social media presence."
"We're grateful to Den (Gardner) and Dave (Hansen) for making this internship available," Cindy continued.
The new internship is funded through the TOCA Foundation by Den and Sandy Gardner (Gardner & Gardner Communications, New Prague, Minnesota) and Dave Hansen (Partner/CEO of Swanson Russell, a marketing communications firm based in Lincoln, Nebraska).
TOCA member companies interested in hosting next summer's TOCA MarComm Internship should watch for the application materials in early 2019.
The Professional Development Committee continues its ongoing series featuring TOCA Gardner Award winners.
Gardner Award Winner for New Media – Marketing Communications
by Debbie Clayton (on behalf of the TOCA Professional Development Committee)
We asked Lyndsey Newnam, Account Director at G&S Business Communications, the following questions about the Syngenta WeevilTrak Blog:
Please briefly describe your winning project.
The WeevilTrakSM blog is part of WeevilTrak, an interactive website and program from Syngenta that helps golf course superintendents track the activity of annual bluegrass weevils (ABW). Added to the website in 2015, the blog provides real-time updates about ABW from the researchers who support the program. In 2016, G&S Business Communications (G&S) worked with Syngenta to improve the user experience and increase readership of the blog, while continuing to provide relevant and timely content. Two key parts of the update included making the blog mobile responsive and removing some of the subscription requirements to access the blog. Over the course of ABW season (March through September), the researchers wrote 34 blog entries covering topics ranging from weather patterns, adult emergence reports, treatment options and scouting advice.
What were your main objectives in developing this project?
The objectives of the WeevilTrak blog in 2016 were to:
- Continue providing timely feedback and advice on ABW conditions and issues from expert researchers
- Increase engagement with the WeevilTrak blog over 2015
- Increase subscriptions to WeevilTrak.com
- Elevate WeevilTrak to be a go-to resource for ABW information
What influenced your approach?
Each year WeevilTrak subscribers are surveyed to gauge their experience with the program and identify areas for improvement. By reviewing the survey responses in addition to the website and blog metrics, we were able to identify clear ways to improve the blog and increase engagement.
In 2016, the WeevilTrak blog experienced a 217% increase in unique visitors over 2015 and a 130% increase in page views over the previous year. Additionally, the average time spent on blog pages increased 110% and the bounce rate decreased by 80%, meaning more people found the blog and stayed to read the content.
Please tell us what you think stood out in your winning entry
At G&S, we like to start every project with an informed point of view that aligns with client business objectives. We have partnered with Syngenta to support the WeevilTrak program for several years and worked with them to originally develop the blog in 2015, so we have a deep understanding of their market and target audience.
By basing the blog updates on real feedback from users via the annual subscriber survey, we knew exactly what the target audience wanted and used that information drive engagement. Additionally, our agency digital experts worked closely with the internet marketing team at Syngenta to set up robust online tracking and reviewed the blog metrics closely. This helped us understand the online behavior of the target audience and make informed decisions to drive our communications strategy.
Terrific Turnout for Texas Breakfast at Golf Industry Show in San Antonio
By Amy Keith McDonald, for Gardner & Gardner Communications
More than 50 TOCA members and guests attended the 2018 New Member Breakfast Reception on Wednesday, February 7. TOCA staff joined Jacobsen, Syngenta and GCSAA/Golf Course Management Magazine in hosting the event.
TOCA RUNNING CLUB
We're Off and Running Into Spring
By Dan Gardner, TOCA Special Running Correspondent
The snow is melting (for those in states north of the Mason-Dixon line) and that makes for great running/walking/jogging as spring is here! But that also brings some challenges – mainly water – as in getting wet shoes/socks and also patches of ice on those early morning workouts. Be careful out there. Slowly ramp up your exercising and dress properly.
I usually note some spring marathons in this issue and that tradition will continue. Here are some to note:
- Boston – April 16;
- City in Toledo, OH, and Star Wars Half in Orlando, FL – April 22;
- Wisconsin in Kenosha, Minnesota in New Prague (half-marathon in TOCA’s hometown) - May 5;
- Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati – May 6;
- Fargo – May 19; and
- Cleveland – May 20.
There are many more, check them out at usamarathonlist.com.
We live in very trying times. In my lifetime, one that includes the deeply divisive times of the late 60s, I have never seen such an ongoing attempt from people to proclaim they are right and everyone else is wrong. Some people have called those “right and righteous.” I have also never seen a White House that…I guess you can fill in the blanks here. What can we do as TOCA members? Speak up. Ask for better. We can work together, find the issues that bind us, and make our lives better. We can lead this crusade – not to mention exercise like running/walking/jogging can clear the mind and make us all think sensibly!
Finally, to help make TOCA the best membership association it can be, keep that brain working as you refresh your mind and body and formulate how YOU can play a part in making TOCA the best association it can be. Until next time, be well, be smart, be healthy and be TOCA!