The previous three articles in this series explored trouble areas in every business including location problems, involving customers to give them a sense of value, and utilizing social media to promote your business in the digital world. Last, but not least, we look at how to incorporate press and advertising: which outlets are relevant, how to get involved, and how to avoid bad press.
Press can be a great outlet to advertise your company with its multitude of audiences. Press includes all agencies that print, broadcast, or transmit news including newspapers, radio, and the Internet. Social media is a brave new world in terms of advertising, but we will exclude it in this conversation as the last article in this series already discussed its relevance.
So what forms of press are best? One of the largest trends within the food industry is “going local.” This applies to press too. Radio is still a great way to get your business in front of potential customers. People listen to local radio stations in their cars to and from work, or on mobile media devices during their commute. Many stations are available for streaming via the Internet, giving listeners access during office and working hours. Utilize a local radio station by purchasing ads. Of course, each station has its own price, but the cost to advertise on radio is much less expensive than some other forms of advertising. Strategic Media, a radio advertising company, explains that while television ads can run into the thousands (and even millions, e.g., during the Super Bowl), “you can air a radio spot for under $100 at agency discounted rates, and you can air a full week’s radio advertising test on multiple stations for as little as $2,500 and it can be geared to a specific audience.” Speaking of specific audiences, a huge advantage of radio advertising is that different types of people listen to certain radio stations. If you want college students to frequent your business because they reside or attend class nearby, advertise on the college station. Most stations should include a breakdown of their audience in their media kit to help you determine what is best for your business.
Community newsletters and newspapers are also great sources for publicity. For example, if your community contains communal living spaces, such as apartment complexes and condominiums approach these environments for advertisement space in their newsletters, and offer exclusive specials for those living there. The same goes for cooking schools; students attending cooking classes are already enthusiastic about food trends and new eateries. More than often, these students are happy to share the news with others. Unique newsletters or publications can help hand-deliver the exact clients for your business. Traditional newspapers and local magazines, however, can also be very influential and help you gain visibility. And like radio broadcasts, newspapers are often posted online as well. In this respect you get a “two for one deal.” In addition to purchasing advertising, it is important to seek out the editors of food columns in the local papers and establish a relationship. Editorial coverage of your business helps lend third-party credibility and can promote your business without costs. Invite the editors to see your shop and/or send some samples; but beware as many newspapers may have policies on freebies and handouts. Once you have created a relationship, keep the lines of communication open especially when you have good news to share with the community about your business.
After you’ve got a handle on what press is best for your business, consider developing a media kit. Media kits include menus, business history, bios of the owners, and the business’s offerings. Keep a flip book with this information handy for customers to browse. You can also include this information on any basic website, so consider going digital. Print signs or business cards leading customers to this online resource.
The last item to consider in seeking out traditional media coverage is to monitor the papers for opportunities for your business. Many publications have annual “Top” or “Annual Best” lists for restaurants, businesses, etc. – find out how you can apply for these and/or be nominated. Also, check to see if they have an editorial calendar. Knowing the content the editors are going to cover can help you pitch your story or serve as a resource for them in their articles. Editorial calendars can often be found on websites.
Now that we’ve looked at general types of press and how they can work for you we need to tackle the issue of bad press. The term “bad press” often causes uneasiness in business owners. You can control some of what is being said about your business in the media, as you always have a chance to disprove an allegation. First, don’t hide from what is being said; embrace it and actively work to change people’s perception. For example, if your competitors say you have poor customer service, make it a point to revamp up your customer service efforts, whether it be customer surveys, a Q&A section on your website, or just a friendly face to greet customers at the door.
Don’t let yourself become an agent of bad press. It becomes tricky when you are the one being asked to give a statement, either about your business or competitors. Always be mindful of what you say, and how you say it. The first rule of a good public personality is to never, ever badmouth an opponent or competitor no matter how tempting. It’s almost impossible to redeem something negative you’ve said. Always compliment your opponent; it may be difficult, but taking the high road will keep your image clean and your customers thinking about your product and not your negativity.
Press is a great way to get your business and name out there and should not be left out of your business to-do lists when reevaluating your business. The credibility that journalists provide can raise the visibility of your brand, and strategic advertising can help people recognize who you are and encourage them to try your products. While a great mix of marketing tactics is important in growing your business, press, while traditional, is still a major force in curating customers and continues to foster success for those who utilize it. Many publications have annual “Top” or “Annual Best” lists for restaurants, businesses, etc. – find out how you can apply for these and/or be nominated.
Strategic Media. “About Radio Advertising”. 2009. http://www.strategicmediainc.com/radio-advertising.php.
ADV Media Productions. “Online Reputation Management”. 2011. http://www.advmediaproductions.com/online-reputation-management.html.