Empower Your Food PR Team to Say “No” When It Counts

No matter how well-oiled the machine, your food PR team simply can’t be everywhere and act on everything. Nor do you want them to. Only a handful of the “opportunities” that cross their desks have the power to truly move the needle for your food brand. And these “big boulders” will require more than enough of their time and energy. That’s why it’s so important to empower your team to use the one word that is almost unthinkable in the PR profession – no.

Whether you’ve been a PR pro yourself or managed this department, you know this marketing role never sleeps – literally. As trends emerge, the market shifts, consumers evolve and new products drop, your PR team is tasked with staying ahead of it all. In fact, right now they’re likely sifting through countless ideas, partner pitches, trends and urgent (and often competing) deadlines … all in an effort to find your food brand’s next big headline.

In a field where FOMO sometimes gets the best of you, knowing how to spot your big boulders and say no to the rest can truly be a game changer. Here are three fundamental PR strategies that, when mastered, will help your team identify and pursue only the right opportunities – leaving the others happily behind.

Hone Your Food Brand’s Key Messages

Your brand’s beliefs and values are the core of your PR program. Knowing how to spot the right opportunity begins only when you know what your food brand stands for and why. Think about being stuck in an elevator with someone. What’s the most important thing you’d want them to know about your brand before the doors open back up to the world? If you’re like most people, this idea induces panic. But for the seasoned PR pro, this minute and 20 seconds (the average length of a news segment) is where they shine. That’s because they know how to package up and seamlessly integrate your brand’s most important key messages in just about any conversation.

However, don’t believe for one second that delivering a key message with pizzazz comes without time spent carefully crafting each point, coaching via media training and lots (and lots) of practice. If your brand’s key messages aren’t codified, this needs to be elevated to the top of your to-do list and tackled right away. While mapping out your key messages takes effort, it will prove to be an invaluable tool time and time again. These key messages will guide your PR department, ensuring their efforts always pay off to your strategy. They will also support your C-suite or any other spokespeople you’ve identified in your organization.

Your brand should have key messages crafted on evergreen topics like your brand history, your customer and your approach to various channels of your business (e.g., your supply chain or product development). You should also focus on seasonal messages related to your retail programs, marketing initiatives and

product offering. However, don’t forget about critical cultural hot topics like the environment, diversity and equality.

The point is, pick the topics that are right for your brand, document your position on them, share them with your stakeholders, and refer to them often to guide all of your external communications. All of your stakeholders should not only be familiar with them but also naturally be able to speak to them with confidence at any time.

Nail Your Block-and-Tackle PR Game

As I mentioned earlier, but especially if you’re managing a global brand, a PR person’s to-do list never ends. There is always someone to get back to, deadlines to meet and ideas galore to keep you on your toes for days. The problem is, with so many things coming in, sometimes the ground-level opportunities get overlooked in the wake of more exciting things like influencer campaigns and campaign launches. Don’t make this mistake. The idea of making ordinary things extraordinary should be your mantra here.

Burdened by their own tight deadlines, the media wants to work with PR pros they can rely on and trust. One of your PR team’s top priorities is to make the media’s job as easy as they possibly can. Outside of knowing who to pitch to and when, you should consider setting up a password-protected media room.
This allows your media contacts to follow up on a pitch when their time allows. Often this is after (normal) hours, so be sure your room includes high-res images, product detail sheets (including MSRPs), where to buy and an easy way to reach you.

Beyond this, whether working with trade outlets to influence sell-in or consumer publications to influence sell-through, product reviews are the low-hanging fruit of the PR world. To be considered, send a sample of your product along with the product’s details I mentioned above to the right editor, at the right time.
Product review opportunities are everywhere – in print and digital. Publications usually run annual product review issues, which means you can pitch the same issue every year. Be sure your pitch calendar includes these if it doesn’t already!

Never Be Afraid to Push Your PR Boundaries

Unlike some of the other marketing disciplines, PR has permission to push the boundaries of what is possible for your food brand. When your brand is associated with new trends or used in unique and surprising ways (think Martinelli’s apple juice bottle crunch viral moment), the impact can be momentous. These moments might be few and far between, but they’re worth looking out for and pursuing when they arise.

Your brand team usually has their protective guardian pants on when it comes to ideas like this, so why not brainstorm with your media contacts. They’ll naturally be able to think outside the box, where you might be more confined by your brand’s history. When talking to your media contacts about what they’re working on, let them offer creative ways to integrate your brand. Allow them to play, test and hawk some of your products to see what happens. They might spot an opportunity way before you could – which is

OK, this is what they do! Remember, as it’s been said, the well-behaved woman never made history. Ideas that push your brand’s comfort zone may sound outlandish at first, and they may be hard to manage, but they can be revolutionary for daring brands.

Think about what is trending in the world of your consumer. What is happening in modern culture – art, music, fashion and technology? What is making headlines? How can you insert your brand authentically into these moments? Are there any parallels you can leverage?

The Transition to Proactive PR for the Ultimate Win

No matter how much you wish it, PR is not synonymous with psychic. So be prepared: saying “no” may lead to a few missed opportunities, but don’t dwell in these moments too long. Learn from them and charge forward. Instead, celebrate with your team the high-impact, on-message wins that have allowed you to deliver your brand message to a right-fit audience with impact – every time.

Take a look at your PR program right now. Is there anything you’re doing that isn’t servicing your long-term marketing strategy? Saying “no” to these may make room for the bigger boulder that will undoubtedly transform the future of your food brand.

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Jaime Eschette Marketing Director EvansHardy+Young
Jaime Eschette, Marketing Director

Jaime is responsible for building and managing new business strategy at EvansHardy+Young. She brings a fresh perspective to her role from her nearly 20 years of marketing and communications experience within the fashion, active, and outdoor lifestyle industries.