“People don’t buy products they buy brands” is true no matter what market you work in – whether its consumer, retail or foodservice. But it is especially important to build your brand out of home where brands can be predominantly back of house, or maybe considered a commodity – and it’s by building a strong brand which will differentiate you from your competitors and give end users, the brand value and reassurance they’re looking for.
So how do you build a food brand?
This is where food PR or food public relations can help, PR is about brand reputation and management – it’s not just about writing press releases and champagne lunches (a rarity) – It takes strategy, a lot of hard work and is a cruel mistress as it is not always guaranteed.
So, if you’re looking to do food PR, here’s our guide to foodservice public relations:
- What is PR?
Let’s start with the basics. PR is about reputation. The Charted Institute of Public Relations defines public relations as the following:
“Public Relations is about reputation – the result of what you do, what you say and what others say about you.”
In a nutshell it’s about managing your reputation and building trust with your key audiences…with food PR these could be chefs, operators, wholesale customers, journalists, staff, associations. What these audiences think and say about your brand will impact on your business.
- So, what does food PR success look like?
Every brand will have its own food public relations goals, but ultimately, they will fall into three categories – brand awareness, attitude change (what do you want people to think about your food brand) and behaviour change (what do we want people to do). Working in foodservice and being a food and drink PR agency, the ultimate goal is for our clients’ brands to be bought by their customers, but it’s important before you start your food PR plan to think about what your wider business goals are, and how public relations can help you get there.
- Who are we talking to?
Foodservice is a complex, fragmented industry, so who so you need to think about? Good food PR and reputation management starts internally, if a company’s employees don’t believe in a brand (especially your sales team) how will your customers?
Next consider your key influencers, with food public relations this could be associations, opinion leaders in the industry – what they think and say about your food or beverage brand can have a positive…or a negative impact on your reputation and foodservice business.
Then there are the ‘gatekeepers’ the people who hold the keys to your food or beverage brand reaching your customers. Ask yourself who are you targeting, what do they read, watch, follow and where does my food or beverage brand need to be seen. The rise of social media means food public relations extends far beyond journalists and the foodservice trade press. A mention by a high profile chef, a retweet from a thought leader, article by a blogger can make or break a food public relations campaign, so it’s important to take the time to pull together a comprehensive foodservice press list. There are well over 80 foodservice titles and so prioritising them so they’re relevant to your business and audiences is crucial. Brand awareness is all very well, but if you’re not reaching your target audiences than your food PR efforts will be for nothing.
- Key Messages
Basically, what do we want to say. Food public relations is about brand reputation so think about what you want your customers to think. Is it that you are the expert in your field, is it that your products consistently deliver, or you are the professional choice? Whatever it is, it is important to detail out your top key messages, which will underpin all your food public relations activity and materials
- Making a Plan
Food public relations planning and strategy is critical, it’s not just about a big launch or stunt – foodservice PR is long term and you can’t switch it on and off. Your plans need to be creative, timely, relevant i.e. reflect food and beverage industry trends and credible, every foodservice magazine will have their own take on what’s newsworthy and relevant to their readers – especially if you want earned food PR i.e. Food PR on its own merit, as opposed to owned or paid food public relations. Working with foodservice consultants or a food and drink PR agency can help set you on the right path and get a strong strategy in place.
There’s a lot of tools in the PR toolkit you can use, and a mix is needed in order for your foodservice PR to be successful. It can include press releases, features, events, interviews, speaker opportunities, newsletters, social media, testimonials, insight, sampling, end user engagement. One isn’t better than the other and the right mix of food PR will depend on your brand and your business goals for out of home.
- Review, review and review again
As with marketing, food public relations needs to be monitored, reviewed and – if needed updated. At the beginning of your activity set our what your food PR KPIs are and keep referring to your brand goals – is what you doing achieving what you want? PR goals and KPIS’s can vary. This could be brand awareness i.e. number of press clippings, opportunities to see or key messages. The number of entries to a competition, sample requests or back links to a website. Whatever it is, it’s important to review these KPIs throughout your food public relations campaign and do a full review at the end. Every campaign should be reviewed so you can understand the ROI for your food PR and the value it has brought to your brand.
- Work with a Public Relations Foodservice Consultant
Food public relations is hard work and brands need to be committed for the long term, you need a number of skills to be a good food PR, from copywriting and planning, to being creative and strong research skills. Contacts, relationships and specialist understanding of the food and beverage industry is also essential.
If you haven’t got this in-house then partnering with a specialist food and drink PR agency can help! You can see examples of our award winning food PR work here.