4 Authentic Ways to Improve Your Food PR Approach
Technology is transforming the food and beverage industry, and along with it, our approach to food public relations (PR). Every day, journalists are scrambling to keep up by producing relevant stories, further pressured by the implementation of digital media. Everyone wants to be the first one to publish the latest trends and breaking news. But, with roughly five times as many PR professionals as journalists (according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics), honing your food brand’s pitching strategy is more important than ever.
Authentic relationships remain at the core of every successful public relations team. However, the channels used to engage this network have shifted dramatically in recent years. While desksides are still relevant and helpful, they should not be your only or preferred method. Likewise, wire press releases can be beneficial at times, but without personalization, you can easily be relegated to the spam folder.
Elevate your approach to ensure your investment remains efficient and effective, thus preventing your food pitches from going stale. Here are some things to consider.
Don’t Overlook the Value of Digital
While share-of-book was once the most valuable metric, knowing your food brand’s share-of-voice now takes precedence in the online world. Print coverage still packs a punch, but online outlets can see more traffic in a day than a printed magazine sees in an entire month. This makes online coverage the new target, shifting your team’s focus (and their budgets), from long-lead to short-lead activations. With digital’s added advantage of data and hard metrics, savvy PR pros can track and measure their direct impact against your business objectives. Additionally, digital coverage remains indexed, which means it impacts SEO and drives customer engagement online well beyond its initial publication date.
Amplifying your brand message even further, social media provides ease of access to specifically targeted audiences and additional social metrics to measure ROI. The best PR plans are now a balance between social, digital, and traditional strategies. In fact, many food companies now have separate digital and social media teams to better capture the increase in opportunities. Bottom line, while the essence and goals of PR remain the same, there are now a variety of methods to publicize a brand and its story.
Invest in Your Food PR Infrastructure
Deadlines no longer need to be just met. They need to be beaten. When a request arrives in my inbox, I know it’s a race against the clock to compile a pitch and gather materials, especially in regard to digital articles which have extremely tight turnaround times. On the rare day when I submit a pitch on the due date, I am often too late. The editor has already built their story without my food brand’s information, photos, or recipes. This is why it’s imperative to empower your PR teams so they can move swiftly in securing coverage ahead of your competition.
To relieve the pressure PR can put on your creative team, consider investing in organizational infrastructures such as a Media Room or a CMS (Content Management System). Programs that provide ease of access to marketing materials allow pitches to be compiled within minutes. Having these internal systems in place establishes an easy and organized method for pitching. It also allows your teams to independently curate compelling media responses, better manage exclusive assets, respond to high-priority media, and efficiently manage agency partners.
Nurture Authentic Food Media Relationships
Certain relationship-based PR methods are still the cornerstone of good food PR practices. But it’s time to start blending the old and the new. Employ new techniques and software that are more efficient with the valuable, traditional approach to building relationships. For example, media databases like Cision offer access to media contacts within minutes. But with the advancement of technology comes a decline in organic relationships. The time and effort once needed to find and nurture a contact can almost be entirely bypassed. This can be a double-edged sword. The goal is to blend these tactics while maintaining a relationship with your editor and catering the pitch to their unique style and needs.
There’s a delicate balance between meeting the demand for tight deadlines and providing quality content through personalized communication. An organization that recognizes this well is the International Foodservice Editorial Council (IFEC). The council not only holds a conference and mixers throughout the year but also created a Story Request system that emails members every time an editor is looking for resources. It is an extremely practical and efficient system also allowing opportunities for relationship building.
Empower Your Teams to Say “No” When It’s Right
In Public Relations you can always do more. More events, more free samples, more calls, and emails. But, as the old adage dictates, more isn’t always more. Food PR is certainly no exception. One of the best skillsets you can encourage is the ability to say no – to the right things, that is.
The ultimate role of PR is to safeguard a business’ valuation by positively influencing the reputation, perception, and influence of the company in the marketplace. This begs the question, is your food PR work delivering upon this promise? Stack the deck in your favor by focusing your team on the right things.
To accomplish this, bring your Food PR team into the fold much earlier in the planning process. Improve your investment by providing your team or food PR agency with your long-term plan and invite them into pre-season budgeting meetings. This gives them time to devise a proactive, strategic plan, avoiding the reactive rut in which many PR teams find themselves. In return, you’ll elevate your PR from generating noise to placements servicing the brand vision and influencing valuation.
Food PR Continues to Evolve
Just as journalism has evolved over time, so, too, has the process of capturing editorial coverage for your food brand. While traditional PR approaches still provide a strong foundation for media relationships, technology has pushed former pitching practices aside making room for more modern methods and systems. (Remember Bacon’s Media Directory?)
Make no mistake, PR continues to play a fundamental role in sharing story ideas and shaping editorial content. It is just as important, if not more valuable, than ever before. Keeping your team organized and up-to-date will prove invaluable. Invest in the necessary technology and time, having content on hand to dish out at a moment’s notice. Encourage your teams to foster authentic relationships. When they know an editor’s angle and how your brand story seamlessly fits in, they will create highly targeted pitches that deliver impact.