Public Relations for your Restaurant

A well-crafted restaurant public relations campaign is a key ingredient for every restaurant's marketing mix.

There was a time when a good reputation alone - spread by word of mouth - was enough to create and maintain a successful restaurant. Those times; however, are long gone. More than it ever has been, positive public awareness is vital to a restaurant's success - and this positive public awareness is today best achieved through a restaurant public relations campaign, versus traditional restaurant advertising.

An effective restaurant public relations campaign that generates favorable exposure through newspapers, magazines, TV stations, radio stations and the Internet has a wider reach than word-of-mouth alone. And the public lends more credibility to articles they read and stories they hear about your restaurant than advertisements they read and see.

A carefully crafted restaurant public relations campaign will raise both media and consumer awareness of your business. Simply put, the "buzz" about your restaurant begins and remains through the media. By cultivating positive relationships with the media and creating publicity via the media, restaurant operators enhance their chances for continued prosperity.

So what exactly is restaurant public relations, and why is it the best route for you to create positive awareness? People often confuse Public Relations with advertising, but the two are dramatically different. Simply put, advertising places ads while Public Relations places news. Both are designed to elevate consumers' interest in product or service. Both often use the same media - print, radio and television and the Internet. This is where the similarities end.

You may have heard the saying, "Advertising you pay for, but public relations you pray for." Though the adage is old, it is especially true today.

Public Relations Builds Credibility, Advertising Breeds Skepticism

Restaurant public relations helps form a favorable public opinion through the "implied endorsement" of non-biased industry authorities (namely print and broadcast media members). Consider, which holds more weight - an advertisement about a new restaurant opening or a positive article written in editorial style about the hottest new restaurant in town?

The late entertainer Will Rogers once said, "All I know is just what I read in the papers." PR generates news coverage, and news coverage builds credibility. People believe what they read in newspapers and magazines, what they hear on the radio and what they see on television. People are skeptical of what they see in an advertisement. It's easy to toot your own horn. It's more difficult to get someone to believe your claims through advertising alone.

Restaurant Public Relations Allows Personalization of Your Story

Because they are so costly, advertisements do not give you ample room to personalize the story of your restaurant. A restaurant public relations campaign does. By generating multiple story angles designed to reach different media outlets - such as business journals, food service and hospitality trade publications, daily and weekly newspapers, city and regional magazines, regional dining and entertainment publications, and major national magazines - you enhance the number of published and broadcast stories about your restaurant. And each of these stories educates the public of what your restaurant is all about.

Public Relations is Cost-Effective, Especially Compared To Advertising

Compare the cost of a direct mail campaign or a display ad in a publication with the cost of writing and distributing a press release. There is no comparison. The cost of hiring a restaurant public relations firm to produce press releases and get them placed in media outlets is a fraction of what you pay for advertisements. In addition, the articles the press release generates may be viewed by a larger audience since consumers tend to pay more attention to stories than advertisements.

It would be difficult to find an executive who would prefer seeing his company's ads on TV instead of a news feature in Forbes or Fortune. The article builds credibility, positions the company as an industry leader and generates awareness without the costly inefficiencies of traditional advertising.

The Life Span of Public Relations is Longer Than Advertising

To the typical consumer, an ad is like a Mayfly. Its life span is short-lived. This isn't the case with restaurant public relations. A well-placed story can reap benefits for an extended period. The fundamental restaurant public relations strategy is to place a story in one publication and move it up the ladder to another magazine or newspaper, or transfer it to another medium such as radio or television.

Consumers often clip articles they read about a restaurant they would like to try or a destination they would like to visit. Also, a copy of the publication containing your article can be passed around, mailed or generally distributed to customers and other contacts. This is another way to "touch" customers and prospects; they typically like to be informed about special accomplishments and kept up-to-date on both you and your company.

If the newspaper or magazine is noteworthy in your area, you can cite "as seen in" on all printed advertising, e-mail signatures and point-of-purchase marketing. "As seen in Palm Beach Illustrated" or even "The Boston Globe" can give you tremendous credibility and set you apart from your competition in a significant way.

Of course, one public relations opportunity often leads to another. For example, assignment editors and reporters at TV and radio stations read the local and regional newspapers and magazines, and sometimes get story ideas from published articles they read. In addition, editors and reporters at newspapers and magazines sometimes get ideas from stories they hear on the radio or see on TV.

The ultimate goal of a restaurant public relations campaign is to get you noticed, and to attract guests into your location. A flattering article in the local newspaper or regional magazine creates a celebrity status for the person or place profiled. This truly separates you from your competition.

Don't Serve As Your Own Restaurant Public Relations Firm

Some people think they can write a press release, send it to the media and watch the publicity from published and broadcast stories pour in. If that was the case, then public relations firms wouldn't exist. Effective restaurant public relations is an art that involves writing well-crafted press releases with story angles that interest the media, not self-serving marketing verbiage. There is nothing more irritating to reporters than receiving poorly written press releases with no newsworthy angles.

This is why you should hire a restaurant public relations firm to design and implement your public relations campaign. It allows you to focus on your core business. When choosing a restaurant public relations firm to coordinate your restaurant's campaign, it is vital to hire an agency that knows the industry inside and out, does not require long-term contracts and has staff members who have worked as journalists since they will think like reporters and editors.

To find such a firm, you can conduct a search on the Internet, ask for referrals and look for companies that are generating favorable press for their clients. Chances are great that the restaurant companies you read about in trade publications are being supported by an effective restaurant public relations firm.

It's also extremely important to make sure the firm you're considering has a genuine interest in your business, background and future potential. If they can't get excited about what you do, it will be harder for them to get the media excited enough to write about you.

Exposure in Local Publications is Valuable, Too

A major misconception of restaurant public relations is that media exposure is only beneficial if it appears in the Wall Street Journal or the New York Times. Landing a story in a national publication or a prominent television or radio show is certainly reason to cheer - and it will provide valuable publicity that an advertisement could never achieve - but an effective restaurant public relations campaign starts closer to home. There are a variety of accessible, well-targeted media opportunities eager for good story ideas.

Chains of small weekly and daily newspapers, major metropolitan newspapers, city magazines, state magazines, local and regional women's newspapers, local and regional senior lifestyle magazines, local and regional family publications and local and regional dining and entertainment newspapers are among the media outlets that are ideal targets for stories on your restaurant.

Remember, the goal of a restaurant public relations campaign is to create and maintain a buzz about your restaurant, build your credibility, position you in the market place and save you money over traditional advertising. There are lots of media outlets within your reach if you have a well-crafted plan, and the right restaurant public relations firm to execute it.

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