PR pros offer tips on getting media coverage
There’s no magic formula to generate media attention for your pizzeria. The media’s perception — or even awareness — of your pizzeria is driven by your restaurant’s word-of-mouth reputation that you’ve built on quality and service.
The same vigor, persistence and follow-through can lead to getting your shop on the media map. Whether you go it alone or hire a publicist, media exposure takes forethought and planning.
Denver-based Publicist Sara Schiffer and Dana Stott of New York-based DLS Public Relations offer their public relations expertise to get your pizzeria some ink, airtime and online buzz.
Schiffer is president of ProofPR and works with Patxi’s Pizza, which operates 12 units in the San Francisco and Denver areas. Patxi’s has appeared in Forbes, Entrepreneur, Eater, Thrillest, Esquire and more. Stott’s client list includes Kesté Pizza & Vino in New York City, along with its owner Roberto Caporuscio; Don Antonio by Starita in New York and Atlanta; and A Mano in Ridgewood, New Jersey. Kesté has been featured in Food & Wine, The Wall Street Journal, The Cooking Channel, New York Magazine and others.
“You may believe in your product and think it’s worthy of media coverage, but the reporters and journalists need to be convinced,” Stott says.
Understanding the interworking of pitching stories to the media can mean the difference between a media splash or a dud. Some tips from the public relations pros are:
• Understand the audience. “Know your audience, both the media to whom you send pitches and the particular outlet’s audience,” Schiffer says. “Try to tailor pitches that make sense for both.”
The media is a wider world than it’s ever been before — from print media, radio and television to online-only outlets and restaurant bloggers. “There are no more ‘soft openings’ and ‘under the radar,’” Schiffer says. “Once a restaurant opens, they should be ready for reviews.”
Stott suggests, “Develop a thorough list of media outlets for your market, ranging from national to regional press, print and online publications. Maintain contact and develop relationships with the journalists/reporters.”
• Learn each media’s editorial calendar. “Pay attention to the calendar,” Schiffer says. “Understand different media deadlines and what kinds of coverage is popular at certain times of year in your market. Tailor pitches so that they are timely and ‘of the moment.’”
• Seek professional help. “Hire a publicist to manage your public relations efforts,” Stott says. “A professional with media contacts, who specializes in crafting newsworthy press releases, can maximize your media exposure.”
Publicist fees can run $100 per hour or require a monthly retainer for an experienced professional. Rates are dependent on region and scope of work.
• Meet the press. Most media professionals can be reached through a published e-mail address and even through their Twitter handle. Be warned: A journalist may be bombarded with several press releases, requests and pitches each day. “Publicists’ main goal should be cultivating personal relationships with members of the media covering their clients,” Schiffer says, an advantage to utilizing a seasoned media relations professional. “The most successful pitches are the ones born from casual conversations about what that particular journalist is interested in.”
“Don’t over communicate,” Schiffer says. Set a schedule that makes sense for the media. Local restaurant bloggers and writers need a lot of content so reaching out to them with a release each week is bearable; while national media and monthly publication may need a more targeted approach, she adds.
• Keep the media ‘in the know.’ “Continually distribute newsworthy information to the media about happenings at the restaurant (new menu, special events, launches etc.),” Stott says. “Also pitch out-of-the-box story ideas, from food trends to lifestyle features.”
Schiffer and Stott say journalists are looking for emerging food and drink trends, quality product, successful and reputable establishments and unique spins on newsworthy topics.
Stott warns, “Don’t pitch yesterday’s news or subjects that have been saturated in the press.”
If success begets success, then the same can be true for press coverage. When you get that elusive media hit, Patxi’s Pizza Marketing Manager Jordana Heinke says, “Shout it from the rooftops!”
“When we receive great media attention, we’ll tweet and/or post it on our Facebook,” she says. Patxi’s also frames hardcopies for its offices and posts media coverage on its Web site — she may even blog about it. She also advises to thank the writer or publication with a retweet.
What can you do to get into the spotlight? Explore the following PizzaToday.com tips that just might spark your local media to take notice:
• Tell your story — Find what makes your pizzeria unique. What’s your origin story? Who’s the person/people behind the pizzeria? What makes your pizzeria uniquely different? Write it all down and put it on your Web site. Make it easy for the media to get to know your business.
• Create your own content — Let your media know that you are the “go-to” person for all things pizza. When they need a featured recipe or someone to give a cooking demonstration, you will be top of mind.
There are a lot of operators who have created blogs to share their expertise. Ask local media to follow your blog. Don’t forget to include bio info on your background and expertise.
• Do good deeds — Philanthropy and community outreach go a long way with local media. With community nights and events like the Pizza Today-sponsored Slice of Hope fundraiser for breast cancer research, pizzeria operators lead their communities in giving back. Make a list of those community programs you host or participate in and create a schedule to let the media know. A good rule of thumb is to reach out a couple of times — two weeks before your event and a few days prior.
• Compete — Getting one good piece of press coverage can turn into several. Just look at national “best pizza” lists. Those reporters have found local/regional rave reviews and buzz. Compete in local “best of” competitions, typically organized by daily and weekly newspapers, city magazines and community blogs.
Denise Greer is associate editor at Pizza Today.