TOCATalk – Winter 2014


Any Good Round Includes a Stop at the Clubhouse

While enjoying the excitement of Golf Industry Show in Orlando, check out the BASF “Pro Shop” (booth 1321) to learn more about game-changing products and innovations under way. Stop by for a chat with our pros, attend one of our featured presentations, or just rest your feet and enjoy some hospitality after a long day at the show—our doors are open!  You’ll learn about our advanced plant health solutions that produce resilient turf, from tee to green, and ways that BASF can help your course achieve extreme playability. 

Editors, please contact Dave Folkens at or 612-455-1741 to set up meeting and interview opportunities.

TOCA Talk is proudly sponsored each issue by BASF


Standing the Test of Time

By Jason Schmaderer
VP / Account Supervisor, Swanson Russell
President, TOCA Board of Directors

Welcome to the 25th year of the Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association. Yes, TOCA has been around a quarter of a century—and I’m proud to say I’ve been a member for a big chunk of that time.  And I’m not alone. Twenty five years on, TOCA has grown up a little but it remains, at heart, a tight-knit group of communications professionals who love what they do enough to get together on a regular basis to try to become even better.

As wise as Den is, I don’t think he or any of TOCA’s founding fathers envisioned the fragmented and complex communications environment we currently deal with. What they did envision, though, is the enduring need to provide the industry a forum for communicators to interact and strive for excellence. And that vision holds true today. In fact, I believe the vision is stronger than ever as we grow the association membership and provide more opportunities to build relationships and improve our craft.

As we kickoff this milestone year for the association, I invite you to help us celebrate by getting active in any number of ways:

-Attend the annual meeting in New Orleans in May to experience our flagship event. (You won’t regret it.)

-Submit entries of your work in our annual awards contest to compete against the industry’ best to see how you stack up.

-Tune into our next professional development webinar.

-Join us for a member breakfast at the Golf Industry Show or GIE+EXPO.

-Volunteer for a committee or sub-committee – branding/communications, professional development, membership or sponsorship.

-Recruit a new member (or two).

-Share an idea with a board member.

-Underwrite a sponsorship.

Our 25th year is shaping up to be the best yet for an organization that has stood the test of time.  In fact, I’m happy to announce at the start of this milestone year that Den recently signed a letter of agreement with TOCA’s Board of Directors for a 3-year agreement to continue his executive director duties effective January 1, 2014. We will continue to benefit from Den’s passion (and Barb and Kathy) for and knowledge of the green industry while we move toward our 5-year plan goals and while we kickoff our exciting new foundation endeavor.

There is no question that we have a lot celebrate from these past 25 years, but more importantly, we have even more reason to be excited for the next chapter in this organization. I look forward to writing it along with all of you.


25th Annual TOCA Meeting – “In the French Quarter Celebrating a Quarter Century”

By Den Gardner
Executive Director

Fasten your seat belts (maybe your pants belt if you have one) because TOCA is embarking on the premiere annual meeting of its 25-year history. The theme of our meeting is: “In the French Quarter Celebrating a Quarter Century.” And the meeting is set for the quaint and award-winning Hotel Monteleone, nestled beautifully within New Orleans French Quarter. The meeting will be held May 6-8.

Although full details of the meeting in terms of the agenda are not totally locked in, the foundation is in place with a revised format that will provide more professional development, more variety of workshops, more reasons for you to attend this special anniversary meeting.

The tentative agenda is at the bottom of this article in much detail. But here are the highlights:


Arrivals Tuesday during the day. Ad Hoc business meeting. (Board meets from 2-5 p.m., followed by dinner.) Informal TOCA member gathering in the Carousel Bar & Lounge set for 6:30 p.m.


New format begins the program on Wednesday morning. The program will include recognition of legacy leaders/past presidents, student scholarship, Plant Health Writer of the Year and Environmental Communicator of the Year winners.

Keynote address Paul Burton. Regaining Command of Your Day.

Fully-sponsored tour Wednesday afternoon. New this year, and in celebration of our 25th anniversary, attending members can choose from a round of golf at the Audubon Park Golf Course, or a historical tour, followed by a behind-the scenes groundskeeper tour of the Audubon Park/Zoo or historic plantation.


Tentative early-morning Thursday jog. The optional jog around Jackson Square is on the schedule.

Insight into Local Business and Environmental Reporting. This session will feature local writers focusing on covering New Orleans and surrounding areas with a slant toward environmental issues such as the gulf spill and wetlands restoration.

Tips for Today’s Multi-tasking Interviewer. This session with Jason Jenkins will cover tips and best practices for those who wear multiple hats when interviewing that may include serving as photographer, videographer and more.

Afternoon Breakfast Sessions. These best-practices peer roundtables will be led by various experts (some TOCA members) on a variety of topics, such as traveling on a limited budget, using a DLSR camera, social media and more.

Business Meeting concludes afternoon. Are you ready for excitement? The business meeting brings members up to date on all the activities of the organization, including the new foundation.

Evening Awards Reception/Banquet. Learn about our communications contest winners and the TOCA Hall of Fame inductees.

Optional “Stay-Over” Tour. Join your TOCA peers and guests on Friday morning (after our meeting) for an optional non-sponsored Culinary Crawl in the French Quarter! Experience a cooking demonstration, learn the basics of Louisiana cooking, and appreciate the differences between Cajun and Creole cuisine as you tour historic restaurants and sample their culinary contributions.

Yes indeed: TOCA is set to be “In the French Quarter Celebrating a Quarter Century.”

Thanks to our annual program committee – Felicia Gillham, Kenna Rathai, John Reitman and Lacy Ravencraft – for their excellent work.  What follows is a more detailed agenda for this year’s meeting.


Tuesday, May 6

All Day – Travel/Taking Care of Business (Ad Hoc Business Meetings by TOCA members at leisure)

2:00-5:00 p.m. – Board Meeting

7:00-9:00 p.m. – Board Dinner (by invitation only)

6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.  – Informal TOCA Member Meet-up (non-hosted) – Carousel Bar & Lounge

Wednesday, May 7

8:30 a.m.         Registration Opens

9:00 a.m.         Welcome: Presidential Remarks; Recognition of Board & First-Timers; Recognition of Legacy Leaders/Past Presidents; Agenda Overview; Student Scholarship; Plant Health Writer of the Year Award; Environmental  Communicator of the Year Award; Networking with Personal Interests; Meeting Overview.

9:45 a.m.         Session I (20min): ENVR Communicator Presents – will discuss overview of projects/activities that contributing to winning the award.

10:05 a.m.       Break (10min)

10:15 a.m.       Session II (Keynote) (1.5hrs) – Paul Burton, Regaining Command of Your Day

11:45 a.m.       Sessions Conclude

11:45               Break (30min)

12:15   Depart for Afternoon Activity – Golf & Group Tour fully funded in honor of TOCA’s 25th Anniversary

Golfers: Boxed Lunch & Audubon Park Golf Club Course

Group Tour: Trolley car/bus historical tour en route to tour, followed by behind-the-scenes groundskeeper tour of Audubon Park/Zoo or historic plantation. Lunch included.

5:00-5:30 p.m. Golfers and Tour Attendees return to hotel

6:30 p.m.         Meet in Lobby (to walk to dinner)

7 p.m.             Dinner off site @ TBD

Thursday, May 8

7:00 a.m.         Runners Unite (Optional) – Join fellow TOCA members for a 45-minute run near the Jackson Square area.

8:30 a.m.         Breakfast + Ad-Hoc Committee Meetings

9:30 a.m.         Session I (1hr, 20 min) – Insight into Local Reporting: Representatives from local consumer and business media share their experiences reporting on local environmental issues, including the gulf spill and/or wetlands restoration. (30 min/speaker + 20 min Q&A)

10:50 a.m.       Break (10min)

11:00 a.m.       Session II (1hr) – Best Practices Round Tables [Part A]: Choose two Round Table topics that most interest you. Participate in two 30-minute facilitator-led, Round Table format peer discussions.

12:00 p.m.       Lunch (1hr)

1:00 p.m.         Session III (1.5hr) – Jason Jenkins, Tips for Today’s Multi-Tasking Interviewer: How to Successfully Integrate Video + Photography into your One-Man-Interviewing-Band.

2:30 p.m.         Break (15min)

2:45 p.m.         Session IV (1hr) – Best Practices Round Tables [Part B]: Choose two additional Round Table topics that most interest you. Participate in two additional 30-minute facilitator-led, Round Table format peer discussions.

3:45 p.m.         Session V (45min) – Speaker and Topic TBD.

4:30 p.m.         Business Meeting: Election of board, other appropriate business, closing remarks

5:00 p.m.         Adjourn

6:30 p.m.         Reception

7:30 p.m.         Awards Banquet (Hosted by Performance Marketing) & TOCA Hall of Fame Award

9:30 p.m.         Concludes Awards Presentations

Friday, May 9

Informal breakfast on own or head home at leisure.

Optional Activity — New Orleans Culinary Crawl

10:00 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. (Cost is $75/person)

We’ll start our adventure with a cooking demonstration and learn the basics of Louisiana cooking while enjoying a tasty lunch. Lunch is followed by a culinary tour of the French Quarter that will immerse you in the history of New Orleans and how its unique cuisine has evolved. Learn to appreciate the differences between Creole and Cajun cuisine and discover the varied ethnic influences that contribute to New Orleans cuisine.


Website Update

By Brian Schoenthaler
Associated Integrated Marketing
TOCA Board Member

Work is nearly complete on the Phase II TOCA website upgrade. This upgrade will include enhanced member login capabilities that will allow members to set their own login and password information. The member area will include the standard “Forgot Username?” and “Forgot Password?” portals that will remind members of this important information via email. Group numbers will be assigned to companies with multiple TOCA memberships.

This enhanced login and group membership capability will allow members to renew their memberships individually or simultaneously for the entire group with a choice of payment options: Pay by Check or Pay Online.

The tracking capabilities that the new membership login and payment system offers will provide members with enhanced event registration and contest entry features as well.

Through the use of an online registration form, members will be able to enter their names and the name(s) of any guests or additional group members who will be attending an event such as the Annual Meeting. Along with capturing information for meeting fees and other event charges, there will be a button linking the member to the event hotel to book their room reservations. Payment options will be identical to those offered to pay for membership dues.

Finally, the contest entry process will be streamlined.  A contest entry management system will provide members with an online form that can be filled out for one or multiple entries. The system will track multiple entries while allowing the member to save an entry session and return to it multiple times before submitting the entries and paying for those entries via check or online. While the forms will be completed and submitted online, the actual accompanying entries will continue to be emailed as PDFs or mailed to TOCA. Future upgrades are being discussed that would allow those entries to ultimately be submitted online.

Best wishes to all as TOCA prepares to celebrate its 25th year in New Orleans. See you all there!


TOCA Communications Contest Clarifications and Update

By Den Gardner
Executive Director

The annual TOCA Communications contest has grown over the past decade from about 200 entries to 400+ in the past few years. We anticipate continued interest in our members in entering this contest.

Why? First, it provides our members recognition for writing, design, photography and new media efforts. And it does that in the context of competing against others who are peers in the industry – whether an editor, designer, photographer, public relations or advertising specialist.

Second, TOCA awards are coveted because it shows all Green Industry communications professionals of the depth of talent that exists in this industry. It provides all marketers an opportunity to see which publishing companies, associations, end-user supplier companies and their agencies are the best of the best in this industry. And to prevent any biases, the judging is done by experts in business-to-business communications who are outside the Green Industry.

This background is important because annually the contest is reviewed by the contest committee.  What’s new for this year?

The deadline for entries is pushed up a week this year to March 7, 2014. The contest managers and judges are just too pressed for time to complete the judging if the deadline is any later. TOCA has two judges reach each category which presents a number of challenges that an additional week for judging will cure.

The following sections of the contest this year will require entries to all be submitted online: Writing; Photography, Video and Multimedia Categories; New Media; and Special Projects/Programs.

The only section that will have some entries submitted via mail will be in the Design Section. Those will be clearly marked on the contest information (now available on our web site).

Some categories have been eliminated (after several years with only a few entries).

There are some new categories. These were categories recommended by our judges, members and committee folks. Some new ones to keep an eye on this year include:

Writing/Publishing – Best coverage of an on-site event.

Design/Publishing – Overall Media Kit Design.

New Media/Publishing and New Media/Marketing – Best mobile application.

Special Projects/Programs – Best Integrated Marketing Campaign.

As TOCA works to grow from 201 (our total after 2013) to 250 members in the next two years, it’s important for us to annually look at our contest and provide the fairest playing field for all our entries.

Please contact us regarding this issue or others affecting the organization. We only grow better by continuing to involve you, our members, in our decision-making process.

Thanks for your time and attention. TOCA is going strong as it begins its 25th year. You are why we have been successful.

For complete information about the contest and entry forms for 2014, go to, link to the Contests & Awards section and click on the Communications Awards section.


TOCA GIE+EXPO New Member Breakfast Sets Record for Attendance

The 2013 New Member breakfast hosted by TOCA at the GIE+EXPO in Louisville in October had record attendance — nearly 60 people. The breakfast, sponsored annually by Bayer, is an opportunity for TOCA members and prospects to relax for an hour, get re-aquainted with members and meet new prospects for the organization. Executive Director Den Gardner updated the group on board activities, including highlights of the upcoming 25th annual meeting in New Orleans in May, the creation of a new foundation for TOCA, plus updates on the web re-design. The next breakfast will be in early February at the GIS Show in Orlando.

At  the GIE breakfast (L to R): Cindy Code,
Dan Jacobs and Dave Blasko.


FMC to Sponsor TOCA Breakfast at GIS

TOCA members attending this year’s Golf Industry Show in Orlando, FL
(2/5-6/14) are encouraged to visit the annual TOCA GIS Breakfast Reception. Join us Wednesday morning (2/5/14) at the Rosen Centre Hotel, Room: Salon 7/8, for a delicious buffet, an update on TOCA topics and some otherwise scintillating conversation. Breafkast is from 7 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. Then, news conference for media at 7:45 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. It is sponsored by FMC for the second year.

An Evite will be going out soon. Call us at 952.758.6340 to RSVP for the
event or e-mail us at

See you there!


Environmental Communicator of the Year

As always at this time of year, TOCA begins its search for the next Environmental Communicator of the Year. Nominations for the 2014  winner are now being accepted. The award, sponsored by Project EverGreen, may be given to anyone in the Green Industry. It is presented each year at TOCA’s annual meeting and will be awarded for the 16th time in May 2014  in New Orleans.

Phil Fogarty of Weed Man and Crowley’s Vegetation Management was named the 2013 TOCA Environmental Communicator of the Year; the association’s fifteenth recipient.

If you’re interested in obtaining an application or receiving further information on the award, contact Den Gardner at TOCA. Applications must be emailed or postmarked by March 1, 2014. You can call the office at 952.758.6340 or e-mail  TOCA at You can also find application forms on the TOCA Web site:

TOCA Internship

The Turf & Ornamental Communicators Association (TOCA) announces year two of the TOCA Internship Program. Please help us publicize our paid internship program. The attached information has all the details. We would appreciate it if you would make this internship information available to your students. We know some have an interest in the Green Industry and horticultural fields. This internship would be a perfect fit for those looking for valuable experience in the field at a Green Industry publication.

A selection committee will choose the student for the internship. The deadline for applications is Feb. 28, 2014. We ask that you publicize its availability in the upcoming months.

Thanks so much in advance for your time in helping us provide students with real-life, working situations in Green Industry communications. Sponsored by Bayer, the internship pays $3,000 for an eight- to ten-week summer employment with a Green Industry publication that’s a member of TOCA.

The 2013 intern was MariClaire (Molly) Bealin of John Carroll University, University Heights, Ohio. Molly interned at Landscape Management magazine (part of North Coast Media).

Please go to  for application and further information.  Thank you!

Plant Health Writer of the Year

Larry Aylward, editorial director of Superintendent magazine, is the first winner of the TOCA Plant Health Writer of the Year program. Sponsored by Bayer, the program is provided annually to an outstanding writer for excellence in plant health issues to the appropriate green industry audience through writing, including New Media, for a publication or publishing company. The winner of this program must be a TOCA member.

The award winner will be chosen by a selection committee chosen by the TOCA Board of Directors.  Only articles and other communications that predominantly have plant health as the subject matter will be eligible for the contest. The selection committee is the final authority for determining whether an entry meets that standard.  Non-English entries may be accepted, but must be accompanied by a complete and accurate English translation.

Entries are to be submitted electronically as a PDF online, including the entry form.  Entries submitted must be published or been presented between Jan. 1, 2013 and Dec. 31, 2013.   Entries are due March 1, 2014.

The winner will be announced in April of 2014 and receive his/her award at the 25th annual TOCA meeting in New Orleans, LA, May 6-8.

For more information about this program, contact TOCA at  or via phone: 952/758-6340.


Perhaps you know of some deserving student currently pursuing a career in
Green Industry communications. A niece or nephew? The kid down the block who used to mow your lawn but now studies marketing and landscape architecture at the University of Minnesota? Maybe it’s your intern, the one answering your phone as you read this very sentence. How about nominating him or her for a TOCA scholarship?

Matthew McKernan  was named the 2013 TOCA Scholarship winner. Currently a sophomore student at Kansas State University.  Matthew is majoring in horticulture.   He would like to utilize his horticulture experience and communication skills to own his own landscape business.

The TOCA Board of Directors will award one $2,500, fall semester scholarship (2014-2015 academic year) to an undergraduate college student pursuing a career in Green Industry communications. To qualify, students must major or minor in technical communications or a Green Industry related field such as horticulture, plant sciences, botany, agronomy, plant pathology, etc. The applicant also must demonstrate an interest in using this course of study in the field of communications.

Detailed information and applications are available at Deadline is March 1, 2014, but it’s never too soon to identify, encourage and reward deserving students outstanding in the field, or on the lawn.

TOCA International Contest

TOCA will again conduct a program for international entrants in the 2014 TOCA Communications Contest. E-mails will go out in early January to international corporate folks and international turf publications to encourage participation. Interested parties will be directed to the TOCA Web site for more information. Entries must be in English and will compete only with other international entries, not in the general U.S. TOCA contest.

Last year’s First Place winners included (Photography), Alan Mahon, Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of Ireland (Design One – Best Design Publication – full magazine article layout), Kelly Neis, GCSAA/GCM China (Design Two – Best Design Publication – one-page design), Alan Mahon, Golf Course Superintendents Association of Ireland (Design Three-Best Design Publication – two-plus page design), Alan Mahon, Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of Ireland (Design Three-Best Design, Brochure), Alan Mahon, Golf Course Superintendents’ Association of Ireland.

Entry fees will once again be waived for the 2014 contest, which is sponsored by Syngenta International Professional Products. Applications must be emailed or postmarked by April 1, 2014.  You can call the office at 952.758.6340 or e-mail  TOCA at You can also find application forms on the TOCA Web site:


(Editor’s Note:  The following article is the second in a series of profiles about TOCA members. Conceived by the TOCA Professional Development Committee, this column is part of an effort to provide meaningful content to the newsletter.)

Learn more about your TOCA Team

TOCA Member Profile #2: Lacy Ravencraft
By: Kyle Brown (GIE)

Lacy Ravencraft serves as the board secretary and Professional Development chair, and has been involved with the group for 10 years. She’s also the public relations manager for Ewing Irrigation Products, Inc., a job that keeps her moving.

What exactly do you do?

Every day is different, and every day is jam-packed—something I am sure that all TOCA members can attest to.

I oversee internal and external communications, media relations and social media efforts. I provide public relations counsel and strategic planning in support of company objectives and initiatives. This includes developing and executing public relations campaigns and collateral. I also provide internal education and training on various aspects of public relations—all of the usual activities associated with a bustling PR office.

Where do you live?

I’ve spent the last decade or so in Phoenix, Arizona, where the “winter” temperature is currently 66 degrees and sunny [muahahaha east coasters!]. I grew up in Southern California (Lake Elsinore), and lived in Northern California (Stockton) for six years before migrating to Phoenix.

What kind of family do you have?

I am a very proud parent to Stacey, an 11-year old aspiring musician and architect. He plays the guitar, violin, and most recently adopted the saxophone. I am also the proud parent of four Italian Greyhounds, and soon hope to add an equine into the mix.

FUN FACT: Stacey is about to transition to the trumpet because ‘he needs more of a challenge’ – his words.

What kind of hobbies do you have outside your work?

Outside of work (ha), my personal hobbies and interests include yoga, horses, fishing (mostly trout), and World War II history. I also volunteer at Wildhorse Ranch Rescue in Gilbert, Ariz.

What’s it like living with four Italian Greyhounds (I imagine they each have their own little Vespa)?

Animals have always been very much a part of my world. It’s virtually impossible to have just one Italian Greyhound (aka IG), for starters. They are often confused with baby Greyhounds or Whippets. I tell people they are actually “the next size down” – as IGs typically weigh in between 7-15 pounds.

It is hard to speak in generalities when it comes to IGs, but one thing is certain: Once you become an IG owner, you never sit or lay down on any surface before thoroughly patting any blankets, pillows, or anything else that an IG might burrow under. They’re big, big snugglers that demand your attention and affection.

FUN FACT: “I spent several years as an Arizona state rescue rep for The Italian Greyhound Club of America’s Rescue program, so I have a great deal of experience with the breed.”

What’s it like volunteering at the Wildhorse Ranch Rescue?

I’ve been volunteering at Wildhorse for about a year, and am one of many who are responsible for the daily care of the current herd of 35 equines (horses, mules, burros and one pony). Currently, I work on a feed team shift, and participate in grooming days and other ranch projects and activities as my schedule permits.

FUN FACT:  I grew up with Mustangs and am interested in owning again, so it’s a nice way to brush up on my skills. Spending time with horses, for me, just feeds the soul.

The Ravencraft Pack, left to right: Zak, Giovanni, Beebs and Phoenix



By Rob Stevenson,
Canyon Communications

Gardner Award Winner Summary – Swanson Russell, Rain Bird Spraynalysis Campaign

Not All Wet

In a crowded irrigation marketplace, Swanson Russell helps Rain Bird rise above with innovative

Spraynalysis campaign

Rain Bird has long been a champion of The Intelligent Use of Water™, ensuring that its irrigation sprays and nozzles deliver water as efficiently as possible — and that its customers are equipped and educated to use those products as effectively as possible.

As efficient as its products are, however, Rain Bird faces increasingly stiff challenges from competitors, and not because the competitive products are better – in fact, Rain Bird’s internal and third-party data demonstrates the superiority of its line of spray heads.

But how do you cut through the noise, and reach an end-user with impactful, empathy-driven messages that ultimately lead to product conversion? That’s where Swanson Russell comes in – led by Jason Schmaderer, vice-president and account supervisor. The larger team developed a strategy and tactical implementation plan recognized at the 2013 TOCA award banquet as a prestigious Gardner award winner in the marcom/writing category.

Action-packed, spray head-to-head comparisons

“The cornerstone of Swanson Russell’ solution for Rain Bird was “Spraynalysis”—a series of fast-paced, 1:30-2:30-minute videos that brought the test data to life,” said Schmaderer. “ Housed online, played on loop in Rain Bird distributorships and used during sales calls, these videos illustrated in colorful, quickly-digested factoids, which helped viewers understand the data, while making it fun, interesting and enjoyable to consume.”

Based on budget, research and experience, Rain Bird emphasized online and point of sale as primary outreach to contractors and specifiers. Flash digital ads on popular irrigation sites provided users a sneak peek of the test data, driving users to the campaign landing page for the full story with strong calls to action. Email also drove irrigation contractors and specifiers to the page, and sell sheets distributed at point of sale and used during sales calls translated the tests and results into a print-driven narrative.


The Spraynalysis campaign has driven thousands of video views and an average time on site an impressive 3 minutes and 28 seconds. As outbound communications efforts have slowed, traffic to the landing page has remained consistent, indicating a lasting word-of-mouth effect that continues to benefit the campaign beyond the initial launch.

And the best part?

“The Gardner award is icing on the cake, and something we’re very happy to celebrate,” said Schmaderer. “But what we’re most pleased with is the ROI Rain Bird has realized through our collaborative efforts. That’s what this campaign is all about.”



Interviewer: Jessica Simpson, public relations associate, Swanson Russell

Award Winner: Karen Varga, Editor, Garden Center Magazine, GIE Media

Award: Gardner Award for Writing – Publishing

Entry Name: Branch into Berries

What was the purpose of your project?

The main challenge behind the article was to convince garden center owners or managers to invest in berry plants and shrubs, even though over the last two years we’d seen a decrease in sales among tree and shrub sales. I wanted to make garden center owners understand the importance of the category and make the point that if they do invest in berry plants, there’s a good chance their sales could increase and pull the category up.

Can you describe the process you went through?

The project started in August 2012. I met with a berry breeder at a trade show and made some contacts. Then it became a conglomeration of talking to people and doing research. I talked with people about grocery store demographics – who’s buying berries, their age, how often, if they have kids. I had to find a way to make that information connect with garden centers, because garden centers sell plants, not ready-to-eat berries. I also talked to garden centers about selling berry plants and found out what was working and what wasn’t. Then, I incorporated the grocery store demographic data into that information.

Did you run into any challenges?

A couple of people [at garden centers] I interviewed didn’t have a clear idea why something was or wasn’t working. There were some people who were very adamant about where their plants were placed in the garden center, like next to the shrubs or near the edibles, but they didn’t really know why. I couldn’t get clear answers, so I had to work around that and keep interviewing people until I got the answers I needed.

Why was your article so successful?

I think the reason it was successful in reaching people — and not necessarily people in the market — was because it was broadly relatable. I even convinced myself that I needed to buy a berry plant from a garden center. The story was something that even non-retailers could understand. It had universal appeal.

What was your award-application strategy?

This was the first time I had ever submitted a project for an award at all. My strategy was looking at which article would be best understood and appreciated by an audience that may or may not directly understand the industry. For example, if I submitted a technical feature on why one greenhouse structure was better than another, it probably wouldn’t have done as well, because it’s not as widely understood. Winning the Gardner Award was really significant for me. I was really honored.


5 Social Media Mistakes to Avoid

Credit: posted 9/19/13, article by Wendy Parish

Neglect, overreach, and lousy measurement are all too common in the online marketing world. We all make mistakes, but we can learn from them and move on.

Even better, you can learn from others’ mistakes and avoid making them altogether. This is especially wise on social media, where a mistake can haunt you.

Learn from these five common social media mistakes so you can avoid making your own.

1. Leaving an account inactive.

When a consumer searches for your business or businesses in your area and comes across an inactive account, certain assumptions will be made. Either the consumer will assume you are no longer in business, that you don’t care enough about your customers to keep up-to-date information, or that you don’t understand social media. You don’t want any of these, so post and update your profile regularly.

2. Attempting too much.

It can be tempting to create an account for every hot social media platform, but it’s not always the best thing for your business. Take a deep breath and evaluate each network to see whether it can provide value for your business. Ask yourself: Does your accounting firm really need Instagram, or would you be better served focusing all your energy on Twitter? Spreading yourself too thin across social networks will run you and your brand image ragged.

3. Failing to use analytics.

How can you know if a social media campaign is effective if you don’t have proper measurement tools in place? It seems like common sense, but so many marketers and brands make the mistake of launching social media campaigns for the sake of launching a campaign. If you have proper measurement and analytics tools in place, you can accurately gauge which tactics are working and which you should drop. Taking time to read measurements might seem like it’s slowing you down, but it will save you tons of time and money in the future on potentially wasteful endeavors.

4. Talking without listening.

Social media is filled with chatterboxes who have plenty to say, but who never listen. Don’t let your brand be one of those chatterboxes. The word social is built right into the phrase, so it should be no surprise that you must devote energy to both aspects of social interaction. Take the time to listen to what followers and customers are telling you on social media. Especially make sure you respond to any direct communication or you’ll risk public ridicule.

5. Not learning the mechanics of each platform.

We can all conjure memories of people and brands making embarrassing mistakes because they didn’t understand a social platform. If the person handling your social media doesn’t understand which messages are private and which are public, you could run into big problems down the line. There have been recent examples of employees who mistook brand accounts for their own and posted inappropriate messages. Mistakes like this are sometimes unavoidable, but understanding all the mechanics will help avoid most of them.


TOCA Membership News

By Kathy Heyda,
TOCA Membership Director

TOCA Membership Update

We have received 37 membership renewals since the renewal notices were emailed in October. And we have received 10 NEW memberships this fall. If you have not renewed your membership yet, please do that right away.

You may pay dues with a check made payable to the Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association. Send it to 605 Columbus Ave. South, PO Box 156, New Prague, MN 56071.  Or you may pay dues online with a credit card (VISA/MC/AMEX) at  If you go to our website, look under Membership to get an application or to pay with a credit card.

TOCA membership, compared to other organizations, is a tremendous bargain. It’s only $125 per year for the first member from your organization and $75 for the second member and subsequent members from your organization. The first member renewing/joining from a company will receive a Group Number to be used on subsequent renewals.  In this way your company can save considerably per person by renewing as a group. Let us thank those companies and organizations who have continued to support us with a high level of membership. We also hope you will ask others in your office to join TOCA who haven’t heard of us. Please don’t hesitate to call the TOCA office at 952-758-6340 with questions about your membership.

We are in the process of updating our digital edition of the TOCA Directory.  It should be completed by the first quarter of 2014.  When updated, you will be able to view it online. This directory is updated once a year.  To access the Members Only area, use tocamember as the username and tocapassword as the password.  The member names listed here are updated quarterly.


Calendar of Events | 2014

February 5-6, 2014
Golf Industry Show (GIS)
Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, FL

February 5, 2014
GCSAA Breakfast Reception
7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., Room: Salon 7/8

February 28, 2014
TOCA Internship Student application deadline

March 1, 2014
– TOCA Scholarship application deadline
– Plant Health Writer of the Year application deadline
– TOCA Environmental Communicator of the Year application deadline

March 7, 2014
TOCA Communications Contest entries deadline

April 1, 2014
TOCA International Communications Contest entries deadline

May 6-8, 2014 (Tues-Fri)
25th annual TOCA Meeting
The Hotel Moneleone
New Orleans, LA
TOCA New Members – Welcome!

Sally Behringer, MustangRED Communications Business
Dominic Corriveau, Ewing
Kyle  Ellsworth, Ewing
Pete Farno, Bayer
Josh Huffman, OREGON
Wendy Komancheck, freelance writer
Ellie Parry, Forte Marketing & Public Relations (Loughborough, Leicestershire UK)
Joseph Perez III, Ewing
Jesse Tallman, Ewing
David Wells, Bayer