From Press Releases and Influencers to Self-Promotion and Collaborations. What’s News When You’re No Longer New?
My bio states that when I left my life as a chef, I “traded my apron in for the almighty press release.” It’s been 22 years now, and needless to say, I’ve written a ****load of press releases!
My early history with press releases was a love-hate relationship. Probably because I was trying to be a creative writer, clever, and all too often, overly detailed. I graduated to “telling it” instead of “selling it” and my writing became more fluid and the information provided was more of a cook-by-feel style than a follow-the-recipe approach. I believe press releases (still) work in a fickle market and those writers, editors, influencers, and consumers who read them, plagiarize them, or share them will always rely on these circulated nuggets of information to stay informed.
The food industry is a wonderful newsmaker with an always freshly paved information highway from which to tell a story. Its’ pop culture-like status has made room for such information beyond trade publications and stuffy big city newspaper restaurant reviews (who even has those anymore?). Today, restaurant openings, food trends, chef profiles, sustainable practices, seasonal round-ups, and Yelp controversies find themselves in the “pages” of lifestyle publications, business sections, community news, social media, and digital outlets across all platforms.
With such a wealth of information to share and so many places for this information to be found, why are publicists and business owners still clamoring to get their voice heard and their information placed? Are we missing something, or is the media? Is social media dumbing down the information? We know there aren’t enough people to support the amount of restaurants we continue to open. Are there also not enough news outlets to accommodate the amount of information out there? How does one play this game?
The Honeymoon Stage
“New” is a solid news item. But don’t take it for granted. A new restaurant or product must still be communicated properly. Nobody is owed coverage and these days, many outlets are not going to work hard to find the information. Take advantage of your honeymoon stage and be sure to get ahead of a consumer review or online listing and get the right information to the right people. Always send artwork along with your press release to increase your placement odds even more. Take advantage of all of those great local news outlets that allow anyone to post content. Publicists and business owners should have a list of these news sites at the ready and stick that 500-word press release and photo in as many outlets that offer this option. Keep in mind, next month you won’t be new anymore.
It used to be about the “feature” or those sacred restaurant reviews. It’s a new day. One-offs don’t work like they used to. Staying relevant when your restaurant is operating in an overly saturated market and your audience is grappling with information overload is challenging. The key to keeping your toe in the water is to create what my office refers to as “excuses” for outreach. Do not confuse this with sending out a media alert for every weekly special you prepare. This will merely cause media/influencers to tune out when they hear from you. Give them something that will cause their readers or followers to “like” their post, write a comment, or share it with others.
Consistent placement comes in many forms and within many formats.
- Map out national food holidays, seasonal menu change dates, unique events, and business news (if any) such as significant hires, renovations, or the planting of a massive herb garden. These are media alert worthy. Media alerts are short, simple, and sweet, 300-word announcements. Add that photo too! Show off your hand rolled pici dish for National Pasta Day for a quick media placement or social media post.
- Invite social media influencers to your restaurant, whether as a private dinner or in a group with a few of their fellow-instagrammers. They tend to travel in packs – it’s a “thing”. Take advantage of it. It’s a win-win for everyone. They get seen and take their food pics for free. You get your food pics, raves, and information posted and tagged to social media.
- Collaborate. These type of events, offerings, and promotions are intriguing to the media and the consumer. Slow August? Chef swap for a night! Do you own multiple locations? Create your own damn restaurant group week. Is every restaurant or coffee shop on your block anticipating a slow month? Rally together and create a “West Main Street” August discount card. Again – newsy! And all of your neighbors are promoting one another.
Media Darlings and Favoritism
It happens – all too often. The same establishments or chefs will often rule the media airways for a time. Their perceived hotness and high readership or engagement when their restaurant or food graces a particular media outlet is just too good for a struggling outlet to pass up. And lest we not forget, nowadays, a large majority of influential social media pages and news platforms are being operated as someone’s hobby or side job. Gone are the days of accountability and ethical responsibility. It’s their world and we’re just living in it.
We stopped whining about the fickle market and simply employed a few strategies.
- Most digital platforms run their content in tandem with their social media posts. And no outlet will turn down advertising, sponsored content, contest giveaways, or special offers for their readers. Insert yourself into the fold, even if it costs a little bit. Create your own relationship with that outlet and provide them with the content and engagement on their page that they crave.
- Take a beat. Limit outreach to unique content only. Offer an exclusive. Do all the work. Write the article, provide hashtags, provide edited artwork, include links, and possibly include an exclusive tasting or behind the scenes visit to your restaurant’s pre-opening stages.
- Share a post or an article that’s been written about someone else’s business on your own social media pages. Offer support or congratulations. Tag the media outlet. Get right in there with them and engage with their audience. If you can’t beat them – join them.
Go ahead, write that press release. But, it’s only the beginning. Staying in the game is where the real work begins.