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Marisa Dobson is guest blogger this month.  She is the founder & principal of Scintillate, a publicity and marketing consultancy that specializes in food & lifestyle clients. For over ten years, she's worked with professional creatives to turn their passions into passion projects. Visit www.marisadobson.com or follow her on Instagram: @marisa_dobson.

RESTAURANT PUBLICITY PRIMER

Promotion is one of those activities, like networking, that comes easily to some and is like pulling teeth for others. In my line of work, I often come into contact with talented Chefs and Owners who have a great concept and determination. But, they don’t quite know how to go about getting attention for their work, or don’t have enough distance from the work to get perspective on what’s most interesting. What follows are three publicity ideas that can be scaled depending on your budget and time (both being scarce in the restaurant world!).

Launch Party

Launch Party

$$$ / Launch Event

You have a new restaurant or a new menu and you want to create the biggest splash possible in your media market. You also have a budget for promotion/marketing. Host an event. Make it open to the public if you can afford it (with a private media preview or VIP space) and invite-only if you’re trying to limit costs. Create a unique and short hashtag for the event.

Must do’s 

  • Secure a sponsor whose customer base aligns with yours, OR who is trying to reach out to your audience.
  • Find a host/ess that is on-brand and willing to tap their network for little or no cost.
  • Create gift bags or a door prize for attendees. 
  • Prepare wrap-up materials (# of attendees & other relevant data, restaurant press release, sample product) to distribute the following day. Do not neglect follow-ups!

PR working for you.png

$$ / PR CAMPAIGN

You don’t have quite enough money or time to throw an event, but you can devote resources to publicity. Obviously I have a horse in this race, but it often makes sense to hire a professional to handle your publicity. Not only do they have relationships with media, but they have access to constantly updated contact lists (i.e. Cision) and a honed awareness of what kind of pitch works. 

MUST DO's IN YOUR PR CAMPAIGN

  • Find a newsworthy hook. “New” is the key part of newsworthy. You must have a new menu, new design, new leadership in order to garner real press coverage.
  • Give the campaign at least 3 months. One month to prep, one to pitch, and one to follow-up and close.
  • Follow ALL of the relevant editors, producers, influencers on social media. They notice, believe me.
Brand Ambassadors.png

$ / BRAND AMBASSADORS OR ONLINE ADVOCATES

You are cooking amazing food, but have no dollars to spare. That’s fine! Make it as easy and enjoyable as possible for people who are already fans to promote your business. Offer free or reduced-cost items for a social media post or a Yelp/Google review. Congregate online using a hashtag, and take part in the conversations already occurring. 

MUST DO'S TO ATTRACT BRAND AMBASSADORS OR ONLINE ADVOCATES

  • Always retweet/regram and thank them publicly whenever they post
  • Write sample tweets or posts and distribute to your fans via a newsletter
  • Make beautiful low-res restaurant/food & beverage photos available to a select group for posting

NOTE FROM MARTHA:
Hopefully this Publicity Primer gets you thinking, "which avenue should I try"  for your restaurant, cafe, brewery, catering company or food truck. This summary is incredibly useful as you face there reality that you are always working on building a following. Let me know if you find this useful, and if you are planning to put these in your planning for next year. 

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