With so much competition it can often be difficult to gain the attention of local reporters and bloggers, but once you master these basic skills you may soon find that the media starts coming to you for stories.
1. Remember that human interest drives media interest. Unless yours is the hottest concept in your category—you know, the one with lines out the door on opening day—the media probably won’t care about another restaurant opening in the market, says Nick Powills, founder and c.e.o. of No Limit Agency. “You have to stand out, and the easiest way to do that is by understanding that human interest drives media interest. What did you do before you opened the restaurant? How are you going to impact the community? What’s special about your team? Find the people moments and deliver those to the media. They will care more.”
2. Provide newsworthy angles. Jamie Izaks, founder and president of All Points PR, says that it’s crucial to give the media what they require—something newsworthy. “Provide journalists and bloggers with timely news that affects your community, such as restaurant performance reports, awards, unique philanthropic events, culinary trends and how your business is different from others in the community,” he says.
3. Build relationships with local media. Your local reporters and bloggers could also be your neighbors and customers, so take the time to get to know them. “Publicity is a relationship-driven medium,” says Izaks. “Befriend your media contacts by inviting them to an event or out for a cup of coffee. Share press releases with them, engage on social media and take the time to drop off restaurant samples at press outlets.”
4. Create an exclusive blogger invitation. “We always say, if the blogger is influential enough, give them the house. Bloggers are much more willing to accept free menu items, so invite them in for a meal with a friend, and in return be very clear about your desire to have the experience reviewed,” says Izaks. “Make it clear that you are providing this as a unique opportunity for that particular blogger. The more straightforward you are with bloggers, the more likely they are to follow through on the arrangements. A manager should be present to oversee the greeting, seating, preparation of food and exit. Give the blogger a parting gift such as a goodie bag or extra desserts. As follow-up, send the blogger photos and video of the food and restaurant, as well as any other relevant press releases that provide information they could use in the post.”
5. Throw an anniversary party or a grand “reopening.” If you’re passed the grand opening stage of your restaurant, it’s never too late to hold an anniversary celebration with all of the same bells and whistles of a grand opening. “Grand openings have the potential to be great,” says Powills. “I’m not talking about simply getting the mayor to show up. Offer the first 50 in line free food (one item per week for a year); hire a band; give away free food; connect the day to charity. Go big. When you go big and create a lot of noise around your event, the media will care.”
6. Familiarize yourself with local blogger niches. “Blogger audiences are niche, so it’s important to have a clear understanding of who reads the blogger’s site and tailor your incentive to meet that audience,” says Izaks. “For instance, if a blogger targets hard-working families, you could incentivize a blogger with a giveaway for their readers that provides a family with a free meal once a week for a year to take the pressure off of parents to come home and prepare a meal.”
7. Be more creative. “Think about moments that can happen throughout the year that can drive the media, such as eating contests, allowing a school to take over as the staff of the restaurant (all proceeds go to them), or an autograph signing with a local celebrity,” says Powills. “When launching a new product, create an event around that. Creativity creates interest.”