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Pitching Food Bloggers: My Point of View

23 September 2009 30,561 views 54 Comments

As a public relations professional and a food blogger, I’m in a unique position to give feedback on public relations efforts targeting food bloggers.

While I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while, reading Food Mayhem’s thoughtful post on the subject really inspired me.

Overall, I think it’s great that blogs are being recognized as influential by restaurants and companies. Bloggers generally have loyal readers who trust their opinion and count on them for reviews, opinions, and insight. Companies are and should be building these relationships and getting their relevant products and businesses on our radar.

by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

This post will focus on Austin and aims to provide feedback to food public relations professionals, small business owners, and others working to promote their great work locally.

How do I find the Food Bloggers?

  • Check out Statesman food writer Addie Broyles list of local food blogs in the sidebar of her blog, Relish Austin. She also has an excel list of local food bloggers that she’ll share by request.
  • Do a search on Google for “Austin Food” “Austin Food Blog” and “Austin Food Blogger” and take note of  results on the first few pages. If you know bloggers have covered some of your competitors, search for  their business and take note of those that have written about them.
  • Begin following Austin foodies on Twitter. Here is a list of almost 100 local food accounts that I follow regularly: Austin Food Tweople. After all, Austin food bloggers are all about community.
  • Read at least the last five posts along with comments before pitching a blogger. This will help you understand whether the blog is appropriate for your client and give you an idea of how to approach.
  • You may also be able to get an idea for the audience by reading their comments. However, according to one article I read, only 1/4 of 1 percent of online readers actually leave a comment!
Inspector+Clouseau

Inspector Clouseau hot on the trail of The Pink Panther

  • Most bloggers are not professional journalists and more likely than not receive no income from the endeavor. Most of us write for love of the topic, to connect in a meaningful way with our community, and to explore an interest in writing and photography.
  • Bloggers do not have copy editors. The lucky ones have a significant other or friend who proofs their work. Generally, we write about an experience or topic, include a few photos, and post in as timely a manner as we can in between work, parenting, etc.
  • A blog blurs the lines between “church and state.” We’re like a one man band, playing all of the instruments at once while in traditional media, there is an orchestra with each member playing their parts.
  • Food bloggers usually eat out on their own dime. They may choose to identify as a blogger (usually to avoid the embarrassment of taking so many photos of food). At a newspaper, the food critic has an expense account and can afford to treat themselves and guests to a handful of meals at a specific restaurant, eating there in secret, before publishing their review.
2. 'All the President's Men' - 1976

Hoffman and Redford in All the Presidents Men

How are blogs the same as traditional media?

  • In many ways, blogs are the same as traditional media coverage in that it is considered “earned media” and therefore comes with no guarantees.
  • A blogger accepting an invitation to an event or meal or trying a product does not assure positive coverage, or coverage at all.

As a blogger, I appreciate when companies and PR people:

  • Regularly read my blog
  • Leave relevant and helpful comments
  • Come to me with ideas on what might work for my blog and/or for an upcoming food tour that might include their business but not focus solely on it.
  • Provide opportunities for giveaways that would be of interest to my readers
  • Understand that this is first and foremost a labor of love. If I covered everything I was pitched, it would no longer reflect who I am and no one would read it.
-thank-you-card

Artist: Pablo León-Asuero Moreno

  • Send your invitation as early as possible or at least a “save the date” email. This past weekend, I received an invitation an hour before a media event was set to start. I was out of town but would be surprised if many bloggers were able or inclined to attend.
  • When sending an invitation to a large group of people, put your own address in the TO: line and the recipients in the BCC: line.
  • Give the complete address, directions, start time AND end time, details about what will take place at the event and the type and amount of food and drink served.
  • Be clear if the invitation is just for the blogger or if they can invite a +1. Please note that it is rarely ok to invite a food blogger to an event without a guest. This is something we do in our free time — generally after a long day away from our loved ones at work.
  • As the host of the event, take care of service gratuity and make note of that on the invitation, if appropriate.
  • Print out name tags in advance that include names and media outlets. It will help you identify us and also help us recognize each other!
susan nametag

Photo by Summer Huggins

  • I tend to stay at work until at least 6 p.m. so a personal pet peeve for me is events that start and end super early. I’ve been invited to events that were from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. on a weekday. If you must have the event during traditional work hours, maybe offer on the invite to set up a separate time for those who need to work to stop by.
  • Don’t book another event right after a food blogger event. There was a recent dinner that was planned from 5-7 p.m. and we were told at the end that we had to clear out immediately  as another party was scheduled to be in our location at 7.

Food and Drink:

  • I’d recommend providing bloggers with the same or a very similar experience to what they would find if they were a customer of your restaurant. This might mean inviting a smaller number to a seated meal.
  • However, if a cocktail party with samples of menu items is more your style, feel free to do so but be prepared to provide information about how the food compares to the version on your menu. Please also know that the likelihood of coverage goes down when the event does not compare with what you normally serve and when there is a large number of bloggers in attendance.
  • Also, for gosh sake think about how the food can be eaten while carrying a glass of wine and talking…is it doable? If not, plan on providing seating, and utensils.
tenderloin george

Photo by Jack of Eating in a Box

  • Be sure that everyone, from the busboy on up to the head chef, understands the purpose of the event, introduces themselves and provides information and great customer service. The owner and chef should be available and greeting guests throughout the event.
  • While dim lighting is great to provide atmosphere, it leads to grainy and unfocused photos or overly bright photos caused by the flash. If the room is darker, provide a well lit area where bloggers can stage photos of food where needed, a table that is near a window is ideal. Be sure the staff knows about this so they can let food blogging photographers know.
  • If I decide to write about your event, I’ll likely do so from Twitter AT the event or on the blog the minute I get home. To facilitate this and provide me with the information I’ll need, hand out detailed menus listing what we ate and drank as well as all of the ingredients and the price. Any background information about the business or the personalities that drive it is helpful also.
  • Before I even get home, e-mail me every bit of information I’ll need including web links, photos, visuals, menus, etc. Provide your twitter handle, Facebook fan page, and offer to answer additional questions if needed. If appropriate, offer to set up a meal for the food blogger and a guest or provide them with a coupon to come back.
Photo by Logan Cooper, Boots in the Oven

Photo by Logan Cooper, Boots in the Oven

Finally, be aware that if you do decide to do a food blogger event, it will likely lead to more awareness, some will probably tweet or Facebook about it, and only a small handful might write about the event specifically. However, this is a great way to build word of mouth, start a relationship, and hopefully create a customer for life.

Food bloggers, PR people, business owners: feel free to comment with suggestions, ideas, and feedback.

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  • cpkerri

    Great advice, thanks for compiling all of this. Also, thanks for including @FSAustin on your Twitter follow list!

  • cakeaustin

    I concur. Love,
    Giant-photo-of-me-drinking-red-wine-in-the-middle-of-this-post.

  • kristiwillis

    Great post Jodi. Thanks for putting together such a thoughtful list. And, as always, I learned something from you – there were several people I wasn't following who I should have been. Thanks!

  • kristiwillis

    Great post Jodi. Thanks for putting together such a thoughtful list. And, as always, I learned something from you – there were several people I wasn't following who I should have been. Thanks!

  • addiebroyles

    Awesome post, Jodi! So many thoughtful insights that PR people should most definitely note. And bloggers!

  • pbiehlerandcat

    Nice to hear the perspective of both a food blogger and a PR professional!

  • http://twitter.com/natanyap Natanya Anderson

    While this advice is focused on food bloggers, I think it has wide applicability to just about any type of blogger/PR relationship. In the brave new world of bloggers as key influencers, PR agencies, brands, and companies of all sizes are trying to figure out how to change the ways they work. This is an invaluable guide for them. As a food blogger and a content creator on behalf of those brands, I sit on both sides of the fence, so this has been very educational for me personally. Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/McKinzeyC McKinzey Crossland

    Jodi this is fantastic advice as a fellow PR gal and someone who tries to play nice with food bloggers. Keep up the great work!

  • jordanbucher

    Great stuff as usual, Ms. B. You're an inspiration.

  • http://twitter.com/dlford Debra Ford

    Good advice. Even seasoned (no pun intended) professionals need reminders. Thanks, Jodi for a thoughtful post.

  • http://RepublicofAustin.com/ Chris Lynn

    Jodi:

    As a former PR person who now edits a local lifestyle blog, I can say this is great advice that can be applied across the board to most blogs.

    Particular <3 goes to this quote: “Understand that this is first and foremost a labor of love. If I covered everything I was pitched, it would no longer reflect who I am and no one would read it.”

    Hopefully PR people take note!

    Best,
    Chris

  • http://twitter.com/ATXfoodnews Kay Marley-Dilworth

    Excellent post!

  • pattilondre

    Nice job, so well presented. An industry truly in its infancy, food blogging is a great journey for a lot of passionate people. Learning best practices, skills and etiquette usually happens in one of two ways – the school of hard knocks (ouch, painful), AND/OR presented by people who know a thing or two, like you. As a food blogger (Worth The Whisk), a longtime food PR executive (Londre Co. PR) and owner of Camp Blogaway Bootcamp for Food Bloggers, I applaud you and say “keep up the good work!” Hope to read more in future posts. @WorthTheWhisk @CampBlogaway

  • http://www.bootsintheoven.com Rachel @ boots in the oven

    Very well done! What great information. It's really interesting to hear these insights from someone with a foot in both worlds. (And thanks for including Logan's pic – that Trio event was a great one!)

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  • http://twitter.com/sandarita sandarita

    Great post! It's a good reminder for us practicing PR to mind our manners with bloggers! Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://twitter.com/eatthislens marshall wright

    Gosh, Jodi. What a useful post that I hope everyone involved will pay attention to. Thank you ( and the author of the post you referenced) for culling together some of the thoughts that we've all had after attending these events. I'm excited to see the evolution of the medium, especially pertaining to food, and I know that when I'm wearing my food blogger hat I take it as seriously as I do my day job or the other endeavors that I'm involved in. It's nice to also be taken seriously by those that I'm focusing my energy on, and well-planned, thoughtful events make it much easier to achieve so that everyone involved feels satisfied.

  • http://twitter.com/ATXglutenfree Jessica Meyer

    Fantastic advice. Enjoyed reading your article… Jessica Meyer

  • FoodieIsTheNewForty

    This is GREAT, Jodi! I am right there with you, particularly with regard to the events that start and end early. Thanks so much for this wonderful summary.

  • linda

    this is a great & informative post Jodi…this post should go global…your content, insight & etiquette provide wonderful guidelines …

  • jodibart

    I hope you don't mind me including it. You look beautiful, as always!

  • jodibart

    You too, McKinzey!

  • jodibart

    Wish I had your comic timing, though Mrs. B.

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much, Chris!

  • jodibart

    Thank you very much, Patti. Unfortunately, I'm still learning from the school of hard knocks but that is often the best way!

  • jodibart

    Logan's pics are awesome. I <3 Boots in the Oven. L'Shana Tova :-)

  • jodibart

    Right! Us workaholics need to eat too, right?!

  • jodibart

    Aw — you are the sweetest Linda. I'd believe you if you hadn't been a close friend of my mom's for over 30 years!

  • Denise

    Good post. I wish I had your energy and focus to write a blog. I tried but it was so hard to keep it up…it's a lot of work! Kudos to you and thanks for the tips. It's really fun to work with folks like you and others on your Twitter list who have so much passion about food and wine. Cheers!

  • thenomnom

    You hit it right on the spot. I feel like as a relatively new food blogger, this provides insight into things I can improve on as well! I definitely agree with a lot of the tips for restaurants you pointed out too. We're all about multi-tasking, us bloggers! Making life easier but still keeping it interesting and vivid is the ideal. :) Love!

  • http://pennydelossantos.wordpress.com/ Penny De Los Santos

    based on all these comments I'd say you struck a cord. Important topic for sure. I think there is so much around this to be discussed like personal and professional ethics or the difference between professional journalist,writers,photographers and bloggers. Thanks for your thoughts. I hope this dialogue continues.

  • AlexandraB

    Really interesting post! I like your open, honest and professional approach to food blogging. I always read your posts – so thanks for keeping me in the foodie loop!

  • aprilriggs

    I LOVE this post Jodi! Like many others have said, I think it's good info regardless of the types of blogging you do-I'll be sharing this with folks that I work with.

    Thanks for the props (listing) as a food twerson.(made my own twitter-word.) I am honored to represent for Sweet Leaf Tea as a foodie-type person (ok, LOVER of all things tasty).

    Keep up the GREAT work my friend!

  • jodibart

    Thanks, Denise. Not that YOU need any tips! BTW – we teased the GO Texan Restaurant Round-up segment this morning on KGSR. It will be next Wednesday, Sept. 30.

  • jodibart

    Yes! It is always the job of PR to make media's lives easier and helps especially with bloggers who have no staff :-)

  • jodibart

    Thanks, Penny. BTW — my new food blogger friend crush is on Matt from Matt Bites. Maybe you'll introduce me one day!

  • jodibart

    Thank you so much! BTW – I saw your cookies at the new Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf on S. Lamar. Congrats!

  • jodibart

    That means so much to me, April. I look forward to meeting you in person one day SOON! I never can decide which word I prefer — Tweeps or Tweople..and now you invented Twerson and I'm totally confused!

  • whocares

    Instead of bothering with your self aggrandizing list of demands, I usually just suggest a restaurant focus on making good food. Blogging about it is your hobby and shouldn't be their problem.

    you shouldn't be treated like you are the press. you aren't. just because you are part of a kgrs's last ditch effort to remain a “local” radio station doesn't make you important.

    nothing personal. i'm sure you are a great person and all and one day you will get hired by somebody so you don't have to just be another pr chick. good luck.

  • jodibart

    Funny that I just had to look up the word “self-aggrandizing.” I always forget what it means. My favorite definition: “cock-a-hoop.”

  • whocares

    I thought your comment pretty much said it all, until i started thinking about it.

    “You may also be able to get an idea for the audience by reading their comments. However, according to one article I read, only 1/4 of 1 percent of online readers actually leave a comment!”

    according to one article you read???

    I assume you provide better service to your paid clients. or maybe that is what your firm tells them after you get them to pay you to start an astroturf blog to pump their stuff and nobody seems to pay any attention to it?

  • aprilriggs

    Oh, we'll meet and it will ROCK both of our faces off! We crack each other UP! Give yourself a hug from me. : )

  • http://twitter.com/adamholz adamholz

    Hello whocares -

    It's nice to have you join the conversation on this blog post. Welcome. It's obvious that you do care and I'm curious why that is so please feel free to fill us all in.

    It seems to me that your displeasure with this post and with food bloggers in general is somewhat misplaced. The bloggers are not generally out there clamoring for restaurants to invite them to these events, or even hold the events in the first place. Restaurants and professional food PR firms take it upon themselves to approach food bloggers for their own benefit. They make the calculation that a restaurant can throw another few hundred bucks at a print ad or some other traditional marketing effort, or spend the same amount of money inviting food bloggers to come check them out who will hopefully write on their blogs, twitter, facebook, talk to their friends, etc. To me, and obviously to the many restaurants who host these events, the second option is at least as good as the first. Believe it or not, the food bloggers have an audience in town who likes to hear what they have to say… and even if they didn't it still helps the restaurant when someone searches Google which is how a huge percentage of restaurant trips begin these days. Good buzz and word of mouth is the backbone of any restaurant marketing effort. Few, if any, food bloggers I have encountered think of themselves as press. They don't expect or ask to be treated like press and they certainly don't act like it is the restaurant's problem. Again, the restaurant selects and invites the bloggers to these events, making the bloggers enjoyment their problem. This is (or should be) no different than any other customer that walks in the door – A good restaurant wants to give everyone an enjoyable experience and considers it a problem if they don't get it. In my experience, any quality restaurant also wants to hear constructive criticism so they can identify issues with service or food and correct it which is another benefit that can be derived from inviting bloggers to an establishment.

    In that light, to address this post as a list of demands is just not consistent with either the bloggers or the restaurant's perspective on food PR events. If the restaurant paid good money to invite people over and hopefully spread the word about them, they surely want to maximize that potential benefit. The post outlines some ways that the restaurant can ensure that their investment and marketing dollars are well spent. That's it. If a restaurant wants to hire a Pr firm, invite bloggers, promote an event, give away a bunch of free food and wine, and not take the extra steps to make sure everyone is happy, then I don't think that's a restaurant that is going to be in business very long, regardless of bloggers or anyone else.

  • linda

    dear whocares:
    check out the link below & see who cares! food blogging is part of the american culture & judging by all the conferences that occur each year bloggers take this seriously & want to enrich our lives (the people who read these blogs & LOVE reading them…including me) & work very hard @ maintaining certain ethics & standards. i applaud jodi on her post, i think this topic is timely & needs this dialogue for the future of food bloggers.

    http://www.blogher.com/blogher_conference/conf/

  • whocares

    no doubt you do.

  • linda

    me & all the others…check out the comments & reactions to this post.

  • jodibart

    Just found a funny and related post on how to pitch bloggers, in general from B.L. Ochman's What's Next Blog: How to Pitch Me

  • jodibart

    FTC: Bloggers must disclose payments for reviews

    Oct. 5, 2009 — PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Federal Trade Commission will require bloggers to clearly disclose any freebies or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products.

    The FTC said its commissioners voted 4-0 to approve the final guidelines, which had been expected. Penalties include up to $11,000 in fines per violation. The rules take effect Dec. 1.

  • marlafamilyfreshcooking

    Excellent post! I am gonna link to this on my blog….I just posted my take on the food blog biz. I am relatively new to it and I want to see myself and everyone prosper. Your post is fabulous….very detailed and informative!
    “Bloggers Unite: Braving the New Frontier”
    http://www.familyfreshcooking.com/blog/2010/03/

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  • http://coffeeofthemonthclub.net/ Coffee of the Month Club

    I agree on Alexandra. The author is transparent on this blog.

  • http://coffeeofthemonthclub.net/ Coffee of the Month Club

    I agree on Alexandra. The author is transparent on this blog.

  • http://coffeeofthemonthclub.net/ Coffee of the Month Club

    I agree on Alexandra. The author is transparent on this blog.

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