Pitching Food Bloggers: My Point of View
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.
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!
- 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.
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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
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.Tags: addie broyles, food blogger, public relations, twitter