Marketing & Publicity Tips
From Janet Isabelli
Try to set aside a budget that allows you to market your restaurant several months prior to opening – or, if you have an established business, as you plan for your fiscal year ahead.
Many news outlets work weeks and even months ahead, even in the digital space, so work backwards to optimize your timing for initiating your campaign. It takes time to build traction via both traditional and social media channels. A strong marketing partner or savvy in-house team member can help shape your brand story and pull out the components that will guide the spotlight. The goal is to generate a smart campaign that will lead to editorial placements and consumer demand prior to your opening or milestone, which will also give your restaurant invaluable opportunity for continued press exposure in the months that follow.
If you’re spearheading a marketing and publicity campaign, below are some tips to a successful effort:
Create a robust, relatable brand message that will resonate emotionally with your customers, and carry that message through every aspect of your business. From your restaurant’s name, logo, tagline, uniforms, packaging, even the artwork in your space – your brand should reflect a highly thought-out culture that draws people in and keeps them craving more.
Get to know the key journalists covering restaurants, dining and beverage. It takes time, but start with one news outlet and build your network from there. Read their reviews and feature stories, watch their television programs and listen to their radio shows. Get a feel for the coverage they provide. Reach out one reporter at a time, one idea at a time, and with a targeted angle that will resonate with their (and your) audience. If the reporter is able to accept invitations, invite him or her in for a meal, which will serve to build your relationship and bring your restaurant’s story to life firsthand.
Social media is a must when it comes to reaching diners, and is a cost-effective way to build brand loyalists. Familiarize yourself with major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat and appoint a member of your team who can champion these consumer-facing channels for your business. The goal is to engage smartly, interact with other users and create a sense of community for those who have opted in to follow your channels.
When it comes to user-generated review sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp, develop a complete profile and engage with those who have taken the time to share their experience, whether positive or negative. Customers see right through cookie cutter, canned replies, so customize your responses and get back to EVERYONE, no matter the review. This level of engagement sends a clear message to your customer base that you are watching, listening and learning.
Participate! Research relevant, external events (both industry and consumer) that your team can be a part of, or forge events hosted by your own company to introduce potential partners and customers to your restaurant.
Share results with your associates. There’s no better way to foster team spirit than by sharing a positive news article or customer review!
Janet Isabelli is the CEO and Founder of Isabelli Media Relations, which provides expert communications services for the travel, hospitality and lifestyle industries. Visit www.imrchicago.com.