Many small restaurants and food businesses don’t enlist the services of a professional PR. They simply can’t afford it. While that’s understandable, there is a lot they can do to garner the interest of the media without spending a dime or missing out the benefits the exposure entails.
Speaking from personal experience, it’s in a food journalist’s interest to seek out the best restaurants, whether they’re under the radar or not. In fact, I’m more inclined to talk about restaurants that deserve a great deal more press than they get. Tied to that, there is the problem of some big-budget PR firms being a bit disorganised (think many cogs in a big wheel) and impersonal when connecting with the press – a problem many small-scale PR operations don’t have.
However, due to the neglect of a few simple PR practices, many of my efforts to better understand these businesses are often quashed. Even right at the get-go. So, if you want to achieve a bigger public profile, consider these tips when engaging with the media.
1) Set up a dedicated press email account or contact page
And assign a member of your team to be responsible for any relevant correspondence. That way, bloggers and journalists know you’re open to queries, and are easily contactable without you having to wade through a multitude of booking enquiries first.
2) Respond to emails as briefly and swiftly as you can
Journalists run on tight deadlines. In that 24 hours you’ve failed to reply, we’ve probably moved on to seeking a quote from your competitors.
3) Decide on what you want to offer for free, and make it clear before a visit
Offering complementary meals to journalists and bloggers, though a rocky issue, is entirely your prerogative. It’s rare restaurants do this, but consider stipulating, in a friendly way, what you expect in return. Or the £80 the restaurant absorbed for that plus one could be for nothing, and your relationship with the writer gets off on the wrong foot.
4) Alternatively, don’t offer any special treatment
Many journalists and critics serious about their work don’t like to be pampered any more than your usual clientele, as it gives them a false impression of what you’re about – especially a problem when readers increasingly want transparency. Besides, sycophancy is never attractive.
5) Keep menus accessible and up–to-date
Your menus are your biggest selling point, and the first thing journalists (and, more importantly, customers) look at, so don’t neglect them.
6) Build up a database of press contacts, and who they write for
Bear in mind freelancers may contribute to several publications, so use this knowledge to your advantage when seeking an angle. Once you’ve got a nice list of contacts, email platforms like Mailchimp make sending press releases more straightforward. When doing this, look into getting across your new event or announcement in as succinct a manner as possible. And please, make it unique – don’t try and create a buzz around something that’s already been done several times over. If you lack confidence here, hiring a PR or journalist on piecework can release some of the stress involved.
7) Have a good selection of high-resolution images at the ready
Shots of the restaurant’s food and interior at the very least. If this means hiring a photographer, it’s worth the investment – the same images can set you up for years, and increase the attractiveness of your website. Consider setting up a ‘press room’ on your site with these images readily available. Not enough businesses do this, but it’s often last on the journalist’s to-do list, which can lead to some unfruitful last minute chasing.