Planting the Seed for Strong Marketing Partnerships

As most of us have learned through experience, anything forced is likely to fail. (Think square peg, round hole). Conversely, as I’ve seen during my PR career, organic connections and partnerships – those that develop authentically, based on shared values or goals – tend to yield optimal results.

A case in point is the pairing of EHY’s client, the National Honey Board (NHB), with the Culinary Vegetable Institute (CVI). While these two entities might not seem an obvious match at first, the affiliation developed so naturally that it now seems almost predestined. I’ll walk through the steps leading up to the NHB/CVI “marriage,” to demonstrate how fruitful partnerships can grow from a mere seed of thought with patience and tending.

Sowing the Seeds for Collaboration

The EHY honey team first learned of the Culinary Vegetable Institute in 2013, as it promoted its inaugural “Roots” conference. The NHB was invited to serve as a sponsor; however, our marketing program was already locked in for the year. But a seed was planted, and we watched as the Roots conference (and CVI) flourished.

In 2016, we met up with CVI’s Executive Chef Jamie Simpson at the Worlds of Flavor Conference in Napa, and quickly established a rapport. We learned of his passion for beekeeping, and agreed we both would be open to a collaboration. It was mostly a matter of finding the right opportunity that made sense for our client.

An Organic Partnership Blossoms

Over the next couple of years, CVI quietly expanded its apiary under Chef Jamie’s care. In the foodservice arena, the “veg-centric” movement was growing, followed by the plant-forward and plant-based movements. At the same time, NHB’s foodservice marketing program was shifting to highlight not only honey, but honey bees and their connection to sustainability and the planet through pollination.

Ultimately, the convergence of these forces led us back to CVI. We identified CVI as the ideal partner and setting for our 2019 NHB Chef Immersion event. (EHY plans and executes an NHB “Honey Summit” every year or so to inform and inspire corporate executive chefs and key influencers.) After all, where better to connect the dots between honey bees, pollination and the food supply?

Cultivating Growth and Innovation

EHY worked with CVI to plan what would prove to be the ultimate “hive to table” experience for our foodservice VIPs. In fact, the 2019 Honey Summit was described as “eye opening” even by the most seasoned chefs.

We knew that we had found an ideal co-host in chef/beekeeper, Jamie Simpson. We enlisted him to create a custom honey curriculum we called “Honey 10 Ways.” The program highlighted honey innovation techniques that he could showcase in CVI’s world-class kitchen.

NHB Honey 10 Ways EvansHardy+YoungChef Jamie’s trend-forward “Honey 10 Ways” debuted in the November/December issue of Flavor & The Menu, as an advertorial. EHY will leverage the content in myriad ways moving forward, to help NHB inspire chefs about honey well beyond this year’s Honey Summit.

Harvesting a Bounty of Opportunity

Soon after confirming the 2019 Honey Summit dates, CVI was selected to host a Bocuse d’Or Fundraising Dinner featuring Chefs Daniel Boulud and Thomas Keller. We gladly shifted our dates so that CVI could accommodate both events. We then seized the day by securing a Gold Product Sponsorship of the dinner for NHB, as it would now take place on the heels of our honey immersion.

Not only did the Bocuse d’Or sponsorship afford us exceptional exposure for NHB and honey, but it deepened NHB’s relationship with CVI, while supporting chefs and the industry. NHB was honored to have a small part in history that night as CVI hosted Chefs Boulud and Keller for the first time. It was organic and perfect, and it all really started from one small seed that was planted in 2013 – underscoring the importance of patience and care in building strong partnerships.

Planning for Next Season

When you find synergy like this, you don’t want to stop at a “one-off.” In fact, before we left CVI, we had already booked additional dates for 2020. But that was just the start. We are now looking at additional partnership opportunities year-round – some of which were ideas planted during the NHB Chef Immersion Event.

When you find something this good, it only makes sense to build on it for mutual benefit. The process takes patience, trust, inspiration and tending along the way. But organic partnerships really do bear the most exceptional fruit.

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Andrea Schepke PR Director EvansHardy+Young
Andrea Schepke, PR Director

After serving as Managing Director in the Los Angeles and Chicago offices of Hill & Knowlton and supervising accounts like the Almond Board and Network For A Healthy California (5-A-Day) for Porter Novelli, Andrea joined us to take the reins of the National Honey Board foodservice account. Her strategically directed combination of events, media relations and advertising have helped create significant buzz in a very important market for our client.