We’ve all heard the old adage: Any PR is good PR. Well, not always – especially in our industry, where ‘PR’ doesn’t just mean relations with professional media, it’s actually working with the public to manage your brand, your business and your reputation. Bad press or negative word of mouth could do irreparable damage to your restaurant’s reputation – and it happens much faster today than it ever did.
Public Relations, defined by Merriam-Webster, is “The business of inducing the public to have understanding for and goodwill toward a person, firm, or institution.”
As a basic definition, that works. But, it’s truly the process of working directly with the media as trusted sources of news and information to get that information to everyone and anyone that will read it or absorb it.
For PR to be effective, we believe in transparency. We believe in giving guests a peak behind the curtain (i.e. revealing more than just a basic understanding of a business, but highlighting practices, motivations, goals, etc.). And we believe in our secret weapon: VSAG Vice President of Marketing, Jennifer Motruk Loy. (JML)
Along with her team, JML has a seemingly endless array of smart, savvy, successful Marketing & PR strategies that have allowed us to really connect with our clients and their guests. Here is a peek into her best practices arsenal:
- Have a plan for using public relations to your business advantage. Have a strategy, and an implementation plan, to be more precise. Who will be your spokesperson? Who will monitor your reputation? Who will be responsible for turning it around? What are the outlets/tools/resources to manage public relations? Think about budget and actual time spent to keep your brand in check.
- Have a clear, true, interesting and relevant story about your brand. This story is consistently shared, messaged in house and through outreach, and becomes the filters for everything related to public relations about your brand.
- Talk to your guests and ask them to talk to you. Make sure you’re listening and responding to your guests! If your business is big enough, it is a part-time job to follow the online conversations in social media, to respond directly to guest feedback from your website or from comment cards, and to make sure that guests are being heard. They make or break the business – and can often be converted to your own Brand Ambassadors and biggest fans – it’s where public relations ends and public affairs begins.
- Make your team members Brand Ambassadors. Everyone that is involved in the business should really be involved – know the story, share the news, engage with anyone they meet to grow brand awareness. You never know who knows whom, and you never know when a reporter or blogger or restaurant reviewer might be sitting in your restaurant. That is, unless they’ve made an appointment for a formal interview.
The evidence of the effectiveness of our overall Marketing & PR strategy that we share with our clients is in the amount of press coverage our clients receive. For example, the latest restaurant opening for VSAG clients Farmers Restaurant Group and the North Dakota Farmers Union, Farmers Fishers Bakers, opened in Washington, D.C. recently to great success due in large part to an effective Marketing & PR campaign.
So, whether starting a restaurant or breathing life into an established one, creating savvy Marketing & PR strategies and concepts that fit your restaurant business plan and enhance your brand is good for your business.