Can Mexicans be converted from beer to wine consumers? As a kid growing up I remember my dad coming home from work with a tall can of Sapporo on most weekdays. He always sat in the same seat in the kitchen and chatted with my mom as she cooked dinner. A drink after a long day at work – in his case, in the hot sun – is a pretty common way to relax for many people. For some it may be a glass of wine and for others it may be a beer or a cocktail. For those of us of Mexican heritage here in the U.S, usually, it’s an ice cold beer. According to a 2012 report by market research organization Mintel, wine is the least popular alcoholic beverage among Hispanics. Mintel’s research provides us with some insight into why that may be: Many U.S. Hispanics, particularly Mexicans, have simply not been exposed to wine in their home country. They come from a culture that largely consumes beer or tequila.
My dad surprised me one day when he brought home a bottle of Riunite wine after work. Huh? I’m pretty sure up until that point the only wine that he ever drank was the sacramental wine served in church every Sunday. His boss had given him the bottle.
Over the next 15 years I would come to see my dad’s love for wine grow exponentially. Initially it was slightly odd to me and I was self conscious when he would show up to family gatherings with a bottle of wine rather than a 12-pack of Bud. I thought family and friends would crack jokes (surely they did) about how we were trying to be high-browed or snobby – feelings tied to the fact that my family was raised in a culture in which wine was viewed as a beverage for only the affluent. But in today’s world and dominant market culture, wine is abundant and there is a perfect price point for everyone.
Since my dad brought that first bottle home, I really haven’t seen him touch a beer. Nowadays he is a frequent visitor to wine country, he buys wine by the case and has planted three acres of grapes in his backyard to support his new hobby – making wine. His present day favorites include Cabernets and a wide variety of dessert wines.
Over the years, I have noticed that dessert wines have the strongest appeal to Mexicans who are delving into wine for the first time. This observation is supported by findings from Wine Market Council Research released in January of this year which found that dessert wines were the favorite among Hispanics. In my own family it is the wine that I have seen most successfully convert die hard beer-drinkers into wine drinkers – it’s the gateway wine, if you will. Why is this? Dessert wines are sweet, and easy to drink for “non-sophisticates.” Looking back at it, Riunite was the perfect introduction to wine for my dad. It wasn’t dry and it wasn’t bitter. It was sweet, soft and supposed to be served chilled. Had a Cabernet or Merlot been his first real wine experience, things may very well have turned out differently.
Since there is no prior wine culture or tradition among us, that means there are no rules. Common wine etiquette doesn’t apply. Sure most people are aware that dessert wines are, well, meant to be poured after dinner. But we don’t care. We drink dessert wines before, during and after dinner. We don’t do many food and wine pairings. It’s just not the way we operate. A glass of wine that tastes good while we enjoy the company of our family and friends – that’s what really matters. Of course, that may change as our communities open up to new experiences.
My dad’s success in introducing wine to various family members and friends is proof that it can be done. His hobby as a winemaker has turned him into a bon afide wine aficionado at least in the eyes of our relatives, who frequently ask him if they can bring friends over to his house to try it. Many people bring a bottle themselves, and pretty soon it turns into a tasting of homemade wine and a few brands found at your local Safeway supermarket. It’s a very relaxed and fun environment.
According to the same 2012 Mintel report I cited earlier, the Latino population is one of the largest untapped markets for wine, but that phenomenon is trending in a different direction now. The volume of wine consumed by Hispanics between 2005 and 2010 increased by nearly 50 percent, and levels of acculturation are impacting wine consumption, as a greater proportion of U.S. Hispanics become second and third generation here.
Wine makers need to begin taking baby steps into our community. Why wouldn’t they? Like grapes, the market is ripe for the picking.
Brown University issued a report, Hispanics in the United States: Not Only Mexicans, in March that provides insights into the changing picture of Hispanic populations in the U.S. We summarized some of the study’s main findings and provide some recommendations on how to best use this information when developing communication programs.
1. Socioeconomic advantages for some groups
Some Latino groups have an advantage, socioeconomically, over others. For example, Cubans, Puerto Ricans and South Americans are showing a socioeconomic advantage over Mexicans and Central Americans. All of the South American groups, especially Argentines and Venezuelans, have higher average incomes than the Hispanic average. This is despite the fact that most South Americans are foreign-born.
This new finding is important because marketers looking to target more affluent Hispanics have traditionally communicated in English with the more acculturated (second- and third-generation U.S. born) target. It has been the belief that recently-arrived Hispanics did not have significant socioeconomic power. However, this new finding dispels that belief and tells marketers they should add immigrants to the affluent Hispanic target and include Spanish-language communications in their outreach.
2. Other Latino population growth in top markets
It is well-known that Hispanics have historically concentrated in certain regions of the country. Mexicans live mostly on the West Coast, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York and Cubans in Florida. Although this is still very much the case, new immigrant groups are now settling in these regions and the growth of these dominant groups (Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans) is decreasing. For example, New York’s Puerto Rican population has dropped from 40 percent of local area Latinos in 1990 to 31 percent. The Mexican population in New York City has grown from 4 percent in 1990 to 15 percent. Miami’s Hispanic population is now predominantly Cuban, but the makeup of this population has dropped from 62 percent to 55 percent in the last 20 years. By contrast, the South American population in Miami has increased from 12 percent to 18 percent.
For marketers, this should be a reminder of the ever-changing trends in the Hispanic population. What was true only 20 years ago could very well be different today. It also provides additional opportunities for companies seeking to target a specific segment of the market. For example, distributor Mexilink, an importer of well-known consumer products made in Mexico, owes its success to the nostalgia of Mexicans for the products with which they grew up. Mexilink imports well-known consumer products such as popular hair gel brands and snack items. Based on the results of this study, companies such as Mexilink should now consider increasing their targeting of New York City as a Mexican market for its products.
3. Hispanics are integrating
Another interesting finding from the study is that for the last 20 years most Hispanic groups, with the exception of Mexicans, have become more residentially integrated. In other words, Hispanics are increasingly moving to neighborhoods inhabited by non-Hispanics. The Mexican population is behind this trend likely due to the fact that Mexican communities tend to be large and have well-established roots in neighborhoods throughout the West Coast. Desegregation among other Hispanic groups is happening because smaller immigrant groups are moving to more integrated destinations that may not be known for being traditional Latino neighborhoods.
Knowing this, marketers must understand the cultural sensitivities and keep in mind that when they are directing their communications to non-Latino neighborhoods, they may in fact also be communicating (without knowing) with some Latinos who are integrated into the community. The significance is that local businesses and organizations should take a closer look at updated population data rather than assuming that previous population figures remain stagnant. Take, for example, a local healthcare district; it is important for the district to know if Hispanics are moving there in increasing numbers. The Hispanic population is generally 10 years younger than the non-Hispanic population (average age 26) and, therefore, more likely to be of childbearing age, having more children than non-Hispanics (average of 3.4 versus 2 for non-Hispanics). The Hispanic population is also more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease, MTHFR polymorphism (a genetic mutation that affects women in pre-natal stage) and diabetes than non-Hispanics. These statistics appear to hold true regardless of the level of acculturation and country of origin. This is vital information that any healthcare district needs to guide its planning, programs and resources.
Will the day come when presidential candidates are scrutinized by the content they shared as young people on social media?
It’s about as certain as tonight’s Facebook news feed containing an Instagram photo of your friend’s dinner. Social media is not just changing the way in which we communicate with one another. We, too, are changing.
Times they are a-changin’
Last year, eventual GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney hit a snag when it was revealed during the primary that, as a teenager in 1965, he bullied a classmate believed to be gay, pinning down the teary-eyed boy and cutting his hair. Romney apologized and the story largely moved to the background, but social has changed the game for today’s young people.
If the same incident were to happen today, one of Romney’s friends may have created a Vine (a short, looping video from Twitter’s mobile video app) or blasted out a post-haircut photo on Snapchat (60 million “disappearing” photos are shared by Snapchat users every day).
In this new world, where the average Facebook post lasts for roughly 60 minutes, content is king and it can go viral more quickly to a bigger audience than ever before.
Don’t Do – Be
We don’t need to “do” social because we are social. Technology allows us, and the brands we represent, to express ourselves in new ways to develop a clear voice and build meaningful relationships.
Here are five tips for being social:
1. Be an early tester and a late adopter – The key to social is to experiment. Get to know what’s out there and see if it fits your needs. The next biggest thing could be the next biggest failure, so don’t throw your precious budget dollars into a new venture until it has been thoroughly vetted and shows staying power. If you’re looking for a place to start, begin with your personal use. Check out Timehop, Flipboard and RebelMouse, listed among Sree Sreenivasan’s five biggest media innovations of 2012. If you’re watching a long-awaited game or TV show, monitor Twitter – roughly 90 percent of all TV conversation happens on Twitter.
2. Social for brands is not about their friends; it’s about the friends of their friends – Word-of-mouth and earned media are still the best ways to build your customer base and reach new audiences. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising. Users don’t share your content because they like your brand; they share it because they like their friends. Create shareable content that is compelling or timely, such as interactives and infographics. You can also excite your friends and fans by engaging them in fun, creative contests – gamification – as long as the results speak for themselves and are worth the initial, and sometimes costly, investment.
3. Tell a story – Enhance your content and its appeal by crafting stories that are meaningful for the users who share them. Posts should connect people with people and headlines should be intriguing. While keywords are important, the message is what provides meaning. Check out BuzzFeed to get a better sense of what’s shareable (Hint: don’t just see animals; learn about their secret lives).
4. Measure your effectiveness creatively – Social analytics should be built around a common goal that is specific to your program. Once your goal is identified, an agency can put in place unique, key performance indicators that measure the effectiveness of the campaign and allow for course correction; any plan is only as good as its first point of deviation. These course corrections should be driven by data-based solutions – not knee-jerk reactions. For creative measurement options, pre-crisis analytics can help a brand respond effectively in times of crisis.
5. Manage your expectations – Don’t forget, just about everything you do on social will be missed by almost everyone. If you count on one post to make the difference, it’s not going to happen. Incorporate social into your regular activities – make it a part of who you are – and you’ll get what you’re looking for.
If this fails, show more pictures of last night’s dinner or cute animals.
Follow Travis on Twitter at www.twitter.com/travistweets
This past year, Fineman PR marked another year of success with further development of the agency’s crisis communications practice, especially in Higher Education. The agency’s food and wine practice continues to provide stability, Brand PR work, event marketing, media relations success, depth in digital and social media, and public relations value measurement.
Here are snapshots:
- Delivering on more than a year of strategic planning, in March 2013, Fineman PR launched a milestone animal welfare campaign for West Coast poultry brand Foster Farms. The campaign officially announced Foster Farms as the nation’s first major poultry brand to earn humane certification by American Humane Association, the country’s first national humane organization. The launch was met with great success and major media placements in the first week alone, including front page cover story in the San Francisco Chronicle, feature articles in the Fresno Bee, Merced Sun-Star, Modesto Bee and Bakersfield Californian, and extensive broadcast news coverage in key California markets. The comprehensive communications program includes event marketing, national and regional media relations, social media promotion, community relations, measurement and corporate social responsibility elements.
- Fineman PR planned, managed and promoted Foster Farms’ third annual Fresh Chicken Cooking Contest with premier culinary judges and extensive media coverage throughout the West Coast.
- Fineman PR launched Foster Farms’ new whole grain corn dogs for the foodservice market. The agency succeeded in changing perceptions of media and foodservice decision makers by promoting the product as a nutritious lunch option with kid and parent approval. The agency highlighted the product’s value as a fun food that kids would actually eat while positioning the lower sodium, lower fat, whole grain product as a healthier alternative to popular lunch staples like pizza, burritos and even sandwiches. Social media and parenting blogger outreach was crucial to the program’s success, including a Seal of Approval from Parent Tested Parent Approved Media, the nation’s largest volunteer parent testing community.
- The agency worked with new women’s retail client The Limited to promote its California expansion and the opening of several new stores throughout the state.
- Throughout the year, the agency developed and implemented communications projects for a number of clients, including Mendocino Wine Company, which began with an issues management assignment and continued with a revamp of the company’s digital and social media vehicles and a launch of the Parducci “Small Lot Blends”; Autism Research Institute (ARI); Moone-Tsai wines; the launch of KonaRed antioxidant beverages; Sterling Meat Company and the Girl Scouts of Northern California, among others.
- The year also included multiple rounds of crisis counsel to help support the needs of several private colleges and secondary schools in the U.S. on behalf of higher education insurance company United Educators.
- Fineman PR earned additional client wins for sustainable food service industry leader Guckenheimer and XL Construction, one of the top commercial builders in the Bay Area.
- Mosaico, Fineman PR’s multicultural division, continued its run of multicultural client success with the development of a new CSR program promoting Xoom’s sponsorship and support of Peru’s Olympic team. Mosaico was also successful in working with New Orleans-based pharmaceutical company, Pamlab, Inc., in launching a pre-natal campaign informing the Latino community about a little-known mutation causing complications in Latina women’s pregnancies.
- Fineman PR’s clients continue to rely on the San Francisco-based agency for digital and social media strategy, monitoring, response and measurement. In crises, social media can be crucial in disseminating information and mitigating the spread of misinformation. In Fineman PR’s work with schools and universities, where students and communities are a primary audience, a Facebook post and/or tweet is often more effective than a traditional statement.
On the HR side, Fineman PR made another outstanding hire. Travis Taylor, previously a VP at the agency’s IPREX partner, Communications Pacific in Honolulu, joined the agency last summer. Initially appointed Group Supervisor, Taylor joins a sterling team of seasoned professionals including VP Heidi White, a 16-year Fineman PR all-star; VP Lorna Bush, a 10-year Fineman PR hall of famer; Group Supervisor Toby Baird; Account Supervisor Katie Young; Account Supervisor and Social/Digital Media Director Karmina Zafiro (an 8-year Fineman PR veteran); Mosaico director Juan Lezama; and Senior Account Executive Serene Buckley.
Issues Management for several clients, including: Westmont College near Santa Barbara, Chadwick School in Palos Verdes, Calif., Olympus Calistoga LLC Calif., UC Hastings College of the Law, Golden Gate University School of Law, Mendocino Wine Company and San Diego-based Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
The concept of this blog has been all over the map this past week, because, every time I seemed close to finishing it, the news kept shifting. And, truth be told, I ended up being completely wrong regarding the outcome and the lessons learned. Well…lesson learned.
The original title of this blog, also a play on words, was: Don’t Water Down the Truth: A Lesson from Maker’s Mark.
Last week, numerous media outlets around the country reported that famed bourbon producer Maker’s Mark announced it would begin watering down its whiskey, taking it from 90 proof to 84 proof, in an effort to meet rising global demand. I read the story first on CNN.com, which reported that Rob Samuels, chief operating officer of Maker’s, said the reduction is the only way to meet higher demand. Essentially, production at the distillery is maxed, demand cannot be met and the solution – to maximize sales and therefore profits – is to add more water to the bourbon in order to make, and sell, more of it. They also claimed that taste tests showed no discernible difference.
My first reaction was: This is one of the dumbest business decisions, PR blunders and example of brand mismanagement I’ve ever heard of. Potentially altering the way a product tastes, even though people buy that product specifically because of the way it tastes, and not to mention, purposefully diminishing a product that carries a vast amount of brand loyalty, all to make more money and then freely admitting it to customers, was a huge mistake.
Upon further review, however, I changed my original stance and disagreed with the majority of the media’s read on the situation. I looked at it from a crisis communications standpoint. One of the first rules of crisis communications is to be honest with customers and get all the bad news out at once. Maker’s Mark was completely truthful about the reasons for the change and, apparently, made assurances that the product quality would remain unchanged.
I believed that they were expertly advised to proactively communicate to customers and the media about the planned change. I decided the vast majority of media were blowing the story out of proportion, the damage to the brand would be minimal and the whole thing would go away within a few days at most.
Man, was I wrong.
Not only did the media coverage continue to escalate, but thousands of the brand’s many devotees took to social media and the blogosphere in protest, many vowing to never again buy what has been their favorite bourbon.
Ultimately, as it has now been widely reported, the backlash was intense enough that the company reversed its decision.
In a tweet, the company said to its followers: “You spoke. We listened.”
In his public mea culpa, Samuels said, “We’ve been tremendously humbled over the last week or so.”
So what are takeaways from this debacle?
1) The best laid plans and “cardinal rules” don’t always provide the outcome you hope to achieve, especially if the idea is harebrained on its face – Maker’s Mark thought that by being proactive, forthright and transparent they would incur some backlash but would ultimately weather the storm. They wildly miscalculated. Aside from the decision itself, they did, and said, all the right things. Marketing communications is not an exact science, and sometimes no matter what you say or how you say it, a bad idea just won’t be received as hoped.
2) The customer is always right – This is probably the oldest adage in business, and in this case, spot on. Maker’s Mark can adjust its formulation to meet demand, but what’s the point if the process results in a product no one wants to buy anymore? The customer base spoke, and, in the end, Maker’s Mark was forced to listen.
3) Don’t mess with success – If you produce one of the most popular brands in a product category, don’t change it to make a few more bucks. Maker’s Mark is rushing to build more distillery facilities, so production will eventually increase, as will sales. In the meantime, ironically, the brand could actually be strengthened by the perception of scarcity coupled with high demand.
Remember that really annoying (but memorable) mobile phone ad where this guy makes his way into various locales testing his phone service? His image came to mind when I was pondering the topic of this blog. We’re in the communications business, but so much of what we do each day – and the counsel we give – is also dependent upon our interpretation of the situation, messages, what is said and what is not.
Everyone wants to be heard – clients, media, colleagues, friends, kids, spouses, parents, even the family dog. What I’ve learned in my more than 20 years in PR and ten years as a mom, is that often it’s what is unsaid that matters most. In fact, research shows that 93 percent of messages are communicated non-verbally. If you don’t “listen” carefully, you might miss those subtle cues, nuances and takeaways and things could go horribly wrong.
These are some the things I’ve learned along the way:
Don’t be tone deaf – Monotone, dismissive, frightened, anxious, angry, frustrated, resigned, determined — whatever the emotion, the tone of someone’s voice can be telling. They could be blowing you off while saying they’re interested or vice versa. Tuning into tone can provide a greater takeaway than the words themselves and help you truly get where the individual is coming from and what approach to take next.
Consider the climate – There’s a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes – whether it’s internal workings at a company, market factors or personal life. Taking a read on these factors can provide valuable context if you pay attention. Asking your sister to cough up $1,000 for a bridesmaid dress when she’s in the midst of divorce and foreclosure seems like a no-brainer, as does expecting a huge bonus when your company is bleeding money, yet it’s surprising to me how often these factors are discounted, often to someone’s detriment. At best, you’ll come off as clueless and at worst, downright insensitive.
Speak the same “language” – “It’s a go” could mean approved, or no go. “Go big or go home” sounds like support of thinking big – but just how big is up for interpretation. A “great” from a boss or client could be the highest form of praise or feedback that your work is mediocre. And guys, when a woman asks you how she looks, don’t tell her she looks “fine” unless it’s “lady, you look FINE,” (as in you’re the most beautiful woman in the room). “Fine” should also not be used to describe the dinner that your significant other slaved over. Comprende? Just like visiting a foreign country, understanding the language of an organization – or an individual – can help you better navigate and communicate in a way that is clearly understood and appreciated.
Silence can be deadly – No news is good news doesn’t always apply. A long pause at the end of a phone line, days or weeks with no response or no “likes” on your Facebook post, all could spell trouble. Don’t struggle to fill that silence but analyze the cause. Does your idea bite or does your client just need a little time to digest? Is that new business prospect MIA or is the proposal review process taking longer? Maybe the individual with whom you are communicating is frustrated, disappointed or at a loss for words and is struggling to maintain composure or develop a response (as was the case of my stunned silence when the question about “the talk” was presented by my then 9-year-old (see my crisis blog).
Get a cue – If you are at a client event in the evening, it’s not the time to break your college drinking record, especially if the client is abstaining. Those of us who are parents have all been lucky enough to be on the receiving end of blank stares and nods as our children completely ignore us. The same applies in the professional world – texting, IM’ing and checking Facebook during a meeting (or worse, a dinner) are a sure sign that the individual is tuned out. And a smile that doesn’t reach someone’s eyes may mean they are gritting their teeth and bearing it or just humoring you. Take note and change course.
Read between the lines – “I’ll do it.” “It’s OK.” “No problem.” “It’s (or I’m) fine.” “No worries.” “You’ll hear from me soon.” “I’ve got it covered.” There is a laundry list of these responses that often carry double meaning. Depending upon who this response is coming from and under what circumstance, it could mean just the opposite. Don’t always take these at face value. Sometimes a little probing will uncover a completely different piece of information – what the individual is not coming straight out and saying. The effort you put into finding out more about where they are coming from will often pay off in spades.
A picture is worth a thousand words – Whatever words are coming out of a person’s mouth, a frozen smile, rolling or shifty eyes, crossed arms and closed body language, a smirk, yawn, raised eyebrow or sideways glance may tell you otherwise. It could be fleeting and last a few seconds, but paying attention to these slight signals can provide insight into what the person is really saying or thinking.
Keep these in mind and people might just think you are enlightened, or a fortune teller, or both! Nonetheless, your attention to nonverbal communication will be appreciated.
As PR professionals, we stay up on the hottest trends to help our clients connect with their key audiences, especially if that new trend is free. Instagram, an interactive social photo sharing application with an estimated 90 million monthly active users, may not come to mind when thinking about social media outreach; however, we’re living in a society filled with visual learners and a visual element is an important part of our consumer approach.
As an avid Instagramer, I‘ve researched how companies are best utilizing this platform to engage consumers. Combining research with knowledge (okay, obsession) of the app, I compiled a few easy and effective ways for brands to use Instagram.
PR firms should monitor Facebook, Twitter and even YouTube frequently to make sure their clients know all levels in which the brand is being discussed – whether or not the brand has its own presence on social media. Our agency includes Instagram as a component within our daily monitoring, as we found significant chatter on the app about several of our clients. Thankfully it’s good chatter!
Here are some great ways to incorporate Instagram as an element of your outreach strategy.
Find a way to upload photos that are interesting and create a conversation with your followers. Posting a question along with your photo is a great way to engage followers and create a platform to gain consumer insight. CNN’s page, CNNIREPORT, recently shared a photo of an egg that froze due to severe cold weather. With the photo, it asked “How cold is it near you? Share your best unfiltered images by tagging #cnnireport.” The prompt led to more than 12,000 posts using CNN’s proposed hashtag.
A hashtag is a great way to connect users on the basis of a common word or phrase. Even if it doesn’t directly relate to your company but it relates to the photo you upload, tag it! For example, Macy’s uses hashtags such as #sunrise, #shoes, #NYC, #beauty and other words that relate to the Instagram photo. Using these hashtags is a simple way to draw traffic to your page. Be sure not to overwhelm your viewers with tags; three to five is plenty.
Publicly sharing your brand’s information in a unique way gives your audiences another opportunity to give their opinion about your company – both good and bad. Make sure that if you choose to publicize your company using this tool, you are monitoring all feedback. Engage with consumers who give positive thoughts and reward them by acknowledging their comment. On the other hand, make sure you address any criticism or questions that arise as you would on other social media sites. There are databases you can use to monitor your Instagram analytics such as Nitrogram and Statigram.
Bottom line: be creative. Find a way that people who view your photos will forget it’s a company’s page but rather a profile to follow that will make them excited to see what else you have to share. Instagram is far from a traditional means to reach and engage consumers, but its power shouldn’t be taken lightly.
When was the last time your team talked about “impressions” outside of the context of analytics?
For PR pros, impressions are at the foundation of what we do… that is, public relations. We help individuals, organizations and businesses communicate at every level and through just about any medium, in hopes that what they say makes a meaningful – ideally positive – impression. It’s tough to be meaningful with egg on your face. Or with a typo in your recipient’s name. Or when you’ve hopped on a conference call ready to negotiate with another party only to discover that it truly is a small world and you’re on the phone with that person whose bridge you’ve burned in a prior life (pre-yoga).
Thanks to social media, most of us are “friends” or LinkedIn with colleagues and contacts online that we’ve never actually met face-to-face, who may not have the benefit of knowing our likeable quirks through water cooler chit-chat. Studies show that those of us on our computers daily have social networks of around 700 people, never-mind potentially thousands of professional contacts.¹ That’s a lot of competition for attention! Making meaningful personal impressions in a deceivingly personal online world is more critical and advantageous than ever. Here’s a quick refresher for all of us (myself included) on making impressions that count in our daily work.
5 tips for making meaningful PR Impressions:
1. Make A Sandwich
Honesty is good. Brutal honesty? Not so much. Even the most constructive feedback on a decision, program or project will fall on deaf and likely fuming ears if delivered in a harsh or rushed way. That extra time and thought put into how you deliver your feedback often results in a much more receptive response. Try a “PR sandwich.” Offer genuine feedback of what worked or what you agree with, then provide constructive comments on what will get this project to the next level, then top it off with a mutual agreement of timing, note of appreciation, etc. But if you can’t be genuine, don’t. Just be polite.
2. Know your audience
Basic, but bears repeating: be thoughtful in your correspondence. Show your client, media contact, colleague, vendor and industry that you understand what they do and how they do it. Your background knowledge will add substance to your work and lead to more meaningful conversations.
3. If you don’t have time to send a thoughtful response, DON’T. SEND. ONE.
Split-second typing is dangerous. If you don’t end up with a typo or a mortifying auto-correct selection, you end up cc’ing your spouse, mortgage broker or worse. That is, if you auto-select the right person in the first place. Even with the best of intentions, rushed responses to a client, colleague or member of the media will likely – if not always – do more harm than good. Being responsive is great, but not at the risk of quality or tone. Why waste an opportunity to engage meaningfully in your very best light?
4. Less is More
Do you know that it takes 64 seconds for our brains to recover from reading one email?² Ouch. Avoid strings of emails that could have been addressed with a concentrated initial approach. Provide context in your writing to avoid easily anticipated questions. Your recipient (and their brain) will thank you.
One of the easiest ways to make a memorable impression professionally is to connect. Ask questions that show your care and interest. Use someone’s name and their professional title when appropriate to show respect. Take the time and make the room for friendly conversation.
“Public” = “People”
At the end of the day, our profession is about helping people. Let’s keep that in mind when we are tempted to tally “impressions.”
The depth of public discourse about food these days is extraordinary. Every step of the food production process – from ingredient-sourcing to materials used in packaging – is scrutinized. We are obsessed with food and everyone, it seems, is a food expert. When it comes to working with the food media, it’s important to carefully consider your approach with bloggers and journalists. These are some of the factors our team at Fineman PR considers when selecting media to approach for our food PR clients.
Influence is not defined strictly by the size of one’s audience. Influence is a result of reaching the right audience. Say you’re introducing a new gluten-free product. It’s a crowded marketplace and you are competing with so many other gluten-free products hitting the market. Sure, a brief mention in the Los Angeles Times will help drive awareness and earn credibility, but a rave review in a gluten-free blog will probably influence more of your key audience –gluten-free minded consumers– to seek out your product. One percent of L.A. Times readers may be interested in gluten-free products1 while 100 percent of a gluten-free blog’s readers are actively seeking out gluten-free products and will likely be driven to purchase said product Both media have something valuable to offer with the right approach.
Just as you have regional and national traditional media, there are national and regional food bloggers. But unlike traditional media, the blogosphere is not divided into designated market areas (DMA). The Pioneer Woman may write from Pawhuska, Okla., but she has readers all around the country. Conversely, you have bloggers with national renown such as Carolyn Jung/Food Gal, who also write for regional audiences. Again, the right approach will increase your topic’s relevancy (and your credibility).
Preparing for Questions
Sure, your product is delicious, but where did it come from? How was it made? Do you treat your employees well? Consumers want delicious food, but they also want to feel good about buying it. Expect probing questions from traditional journalists AND bloggers. And be prepared for an ongoing dialogue – once an article or blog hits – that may be just the beginning of an in-depth conversation.
Compared to the blogosphere, consumer engagement is more limited in traditional media. Bloggers often welcome meaningful interaction with food companies. We work with our clients to create blogger and traditional media sampling programs, party sponsorships, blind tastings, contests and giveaways in addition to trends and issues-focused food news. A robust, diverse approach with both types of media can help differentiate you from your competitors and keep you top of mind among your target audience.
Food PR is an exciting and challenging area of public relations and requires fresh thinking to break through the crowd.
1 An estimated one percent of Americans have celiac disease.
List of Little Known wineries from a Wine PR expert
Wine lovers and wine tourists often travel across the nation and worldwide to the West Coast to discover wine country, whether that be Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino in Northern California; Santa Lucia, Paso Robles and Santa Barbara near California’s Central Coast; or Oregon’s lush and green Willamette Valley. They usually want to go somewhere their circle of friends and acquaintances have not visited or discovered.