Public relations (PR) should be a significant piece of your overall marketing plan. Despite its value, PR is often overlooked when budget is limited. However, when it's part of the right marketing mix, PR plays a huge role in protecting reputation, increasing brand awareness and contributing to business growth.
Why PR is Important for Food and Beverage Companies
Companies in all industries can reap the benefits of PR, but each one has its own set of challenges to consider.
Here are five reasons why PR is crucial for companies, brands and organizations that fall into the food and beverage (F&B) category:
1. PR Helps Build Brand Image & Awareness
People need to know that you have skin in the game. An award-winning chef could be preparing the finest and most exotic meals at your restaurant. If patrons don't know about your brand, you can't expect to be tagged in "foodie" photos on social media.
The most well-known food establishments and product leaders got there by creating recognizable brands that go beyond simply existing; they continue to evolve. They also continue to delight existing customers while executing strategies to reach new ones.
With the help of a solid PR plan, launching a new brand or transforming an old image from “not” to “hot” can be realistic goals.
Pizza Hut: New Ingredients for a New Image
Stale pizza isn’t great. Neither is a stale brand. That’s why Pizza Hut, which has been in business for over 60 years, announced in May 2019 that its “Original Pan Pizza” is getting a makeover. The updated product launch is good timing, considering its closest competitor Domino’s, for the first time, boasted higher sales in 2018. The makeover is part of a larger strategy to update its offerings to keep up with the competition and progress to meet customers’ needs.
Read these blogs for more examples of how brands can gain awareness and improve their image:
2. PR Adds Credibility
We are a culture obsessed with what others are thinking, doing and saying, especially when it comes to following trends and choosing brands. Much of it is centered on FOMO or “the fear of missing out.” Between food bloggers, social media influencers and frankly, anyone with a following and an opinion, getting validation for your brand is a top priority.
PR supplements traditional marketing tactics by balancing the exposure that comes from paid strategies with third-party credibility that is needed to build trust and authenticity.
Connect with Industry Influencers
Successful PR is a result of building and nurturing relationships with influencers that your audience turns to for news, industry updates, reviews, recommendations and more. Journalists, reporters, bloggers, food critics, subject matter experts and celebrities all fit into this bubble.
Click the links below to learn more about how you can leverage influencers in your next PR campaign.
3. PR Allows You to Own Your Narrative
A big part of the PR process is developing messaging that informs your brand voice and influences how people think and feel about your product. A good PR strategy uses the messaging in every communication opportunity so your audience learns who you are, what you stand for and how they can relate.
It's important to stay true to who you are as a company. It's not about inventing a new narrative, but rather uncovering who you already are and telling that story in a compelling way. Hear more from JConnelly President Ray Hennessey:
Consider these messaging tips to help your brand stand out in the competitive food space.
Tie Your Message Back to Your “Why”
Describing what your company does and what it offers only touches the surface. People want to know the story behind the brand and why it matters. The narrative should answer these questions: Why does the company exist and how can audiences feel connected? When in doubt, tie it back to your mission and values.
Stand for Something Bigger
Responsibility and sustainability are a must in the F&B industry. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not only a standard business practice, consumers look for brands that care about the greater good. Not every brand can replicate Ben & Jerry’s social mission, but doing something is better than nothing, and communicating your brand’s efforts will help audiences connect with you on a deeper level.
Have a Consistent Tone
A big part of communicating your narrative is to establish a tone of voice that’s used across mediums. The tone helps breathe life into your brand’s personality. It also contributes to stronger brand recognition.
Be Authentic & Transparent
A story without conflict is boring. It’s also less believable. At its core, a story should provide a problem or opportunity, the solution to it and how it’s made a difference. While it’s tempting to focus mostly on the solution (i.e. the part about your product or service), it’s important to take your audience on the complete journey. Communicate the challenges that were faced along the way so people can appreciate and empathize with the outcome.
Click these links for ways you can differentiate your brand and share your story:
4. PR Protects Your Brand Reputation
F&B companies can face a myriad of damaging situations, from product recalls and food safety concerns to unfair trade practices and viral consumer complaints.
While PR helps with your defense strategy, it also creates a positive brand image by nurturing relationships with media and other industry influencers. If something does go awry, you've already built a strong foundation.
Preparing a crisis communications plan is an imperative first step to getting the business back on its feet and ensuring peace of mind in the meantime. Here are three tips for creating an effective crisis plan:
Identify the Crisis Team
Select your core team members and clarify their roles. Most crisis teams include top business executives, legal counsel, as well as the head of communications and your PR partner.
Map out the Outline for the Crisis Plan
Each type of crisis will have its own set of challenges, but most will require a similar set of tactics, which include creating messaging and Q&A documents, media policies and communication strategies. Lay out these steps in advance, so when it comes time to act, everyone on the crisis team is working from the same set of guidelines.
Create a Communications Strategy for all Stakeholders
Employees, shareholders, consumers and investors all require a communications strategy during a crisis. The underlying message will be the same, but think through what matters to each group and the way in which they should be communicated to.
Read these blogs for more advice on how food companies can navigate crisis situations.
5. PR Amplifies Your Message
A marketing plan without PR is incomplete. It’s the piece that creates and communicates your brand narrative and messaging. Keep in mind, PR is much more than just distributing a press release. It builds trust and brand exposure by promoting different types of content that's beneficial to your audience.
A good PR strategy increases your credibility as a subject matter expert through earned media opportunities. The success of a well-rounded communications campaign is determined by the right mix of PR and marketing strategies and how they work together.
Click these links for more ways PR and marketing can work together to create a successful communications campaign.
How to Master Media Relations
Social media and digital platforms like Yelp and Zomato have made it easier for consumers to share experiences and swap recommendations for the hottest new products, brands and restaurants. These types of social interactions have made third-party credibility more important than ever.
Earned media opportunities help generate buzz, increase the validity of your product and influence positive chatter around your brand.
How you approach media relations can raise your chances of being included in the story and increase the potential for future opportunities. Think about what it can do for your brand if New York Times Food Critic Pete Wells or Forbes Contributor Elana Golub has something positive to say about your restaurant or new liquor brand.
Consider these four tips when building relationships with media.
1. Get Media Trained
Whether you're scheduled for a phone interview, on-camera appearance or meeting a journalist for coffee, how you present yourself can greatly impact the outcome. Take the time to get properly media trained by a PR professional so they can coach you on different engagement techniques, how to answer hard questions and the best ways to prep for interviews, prepare talking points and more.
Click these links for some quick tips:
2. Stay Informed of Industry News and Trends
Stay in the know about the latest trends and developments in the F&B industry and within your specific niche. Be prepared to discuss what these things mean for consumers and the larger community. If you're only willing to talk about the brand, your value as an expert goes down.
Read our blog for highlights on the latest technologies like 3D food printing, automated restaurants and animal-free meat that are already impacting the food industry.
3. Be an Authority on Relevant Topics
For media to consider you as a go-to expert, you must establish yourself as an authority on a few core topics within your business. Content marketing and SEO can help you achieve that status by enabling you to create and distribute content that's optimized for search. The bigger the impact you can make on your audience, the more you'll be a trusted source.
4. Have an Opinion
Reporters seek out spokespeople who are willing to take a position and provide personal perspective. It also makes for a more interesting interview if you can provide a contrarian view. If you're constantly skirting questions and hiding in a neutral zone, trust may start to waver.
Click the image to download our free ebook to learn more about what it takes to have a successful media interview: