STARTUP SERIES: Public Relations and Advertising

Restaurant Startup: Public Relations  Part of any businesses’ marketing plan should be their PR campaign. There was a day that a PR campaign encompassed nothing more than word-of-mouth, but with the focus on grassroots marketing PR has become more and more important.  In this time of chain restaurants and selling to the masses, the way to stand out from the competition is through PR.

Let’s look at how positive public relations, word-of-mouth, perception can compliment your advertising campaign.

From the beginning a traditional advertising campaign might include various media resources like: newspaper, magazine, tv, radio, and internet. Savvy restauranteurs are incorporating myspace and youtube into their campaigns. This new breed of marketing is far wider reaching than simple word-of-mouth. In a sense, word-of-mouth has grown up and we must embrace the changes of it. Just as human relations and communication methods have changed, so must we embrace the idea that word-of-mouth methods has changed. When once we might talk to our neighbor over a cup of coffee or picking up the mail, now we are seeing e-mail and voice mail take over.

So let’s look at how a carefully planned and executed public relations campaign can generate positive talk and raise both media and consumer awareness about your establishment- in turn generating more walk-in traffic.

What is the difference between PR and advertising?

Advertising is the use of ads on different media outlets and is generally paid for. PR places news- like media releases and articles. However, often one can mix advertising and PR for an interesting outcome. For example: you hire an A list celebrity to attend the grand opening of your restaurant. This photo opportunity is then released to the media and the local paper interviews you about them. This is a paid PR piece. You have engineered miles of news from an event.

In Central Florida, some of the best PR is getting a favorable review from Scott Joseph (local restaurant reviewer). Many restaurants will place a sign outside their establishment that shows how Scott rated them. When you walk in the restaurant you may see the accompanying article framed. This is also placed in future adverstising as an implied endorsement.

Now how do you make a press release?

Press releases come in many forms. Simply put the first one you should have is one announcing your grand opening. Add a chef with great credentials? Create a press release. Have a special event planned? Press release. Involved in public good works, volunteering and donations? Create a press release. There are actually companies out there you can pay to write your own press release and release them to the AP wire, you can buy software that helps you write it or you can come up with it on your own. Writing a press release is not rocket science.

Let’s play with this- what is your daughter is diabetic and since her onset you’ve really worked on expanding your menu offerings for diabetics? This would be a great thing to showcase. In fact, you could offer a percentage of Saturday’s earnings to the American Diabetes Association and create a press release on this. Simpler even, you could release information on your expanded diabetic menu. Most of all be sure your press release includes plenty of possible article topics in it- so that it’s more than an advertising ploy but actually has meat a reporter might use to contact you for more information and follow up article.

Remember, most business sections of your daily paper do have a focus area for new businesses.

Who do you release it to?

Restaurant business journals, tourist magazines, local magazines, food service & hospitality trade publications, weekly newspapers, regional magazines and major national magazines. For example, if you offer a NUT FREE dining experience you should target press releases to nutritional and dietary publications.

In essence when you’re working to create positive PR in your restaurant, you’re creating something that is vital and will have longevity. In fact, it may take on a life of its own. An article in a local newspaper may easily become fodder for conversations and create curiousity among new clientele.

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