Developing a Roadmap For an Effective PR Campaign

{mosimage}Public relations is the art and science of establishing and promoting a favorable relationship with the marketplace. But the benefits of public relations go much deeper than creating positive impressions. An effective PR campaign can enhance your organization's credibility and brand recognition. It can increase sales and attract customers. It can establish your organization as a key player in the food industry and penetrate new markets. It can help you differentiate in a foodservice industry that is so competitive.

A public relations campaign that combines continuous research, planning, market analysis and timely execution can reach an operator, independent or chains, with structured information that is credible and accurate.

Designing the Direction of Your Program
The first step is to set publicity goals and objectives for your program and determine the areas that offer the greatest opportunities. Ask yourself some important questions before you start.

  • What are the specific trends impacting operators today in foodservice?
  • How do operators feel about your products and services?
  • Do your products meet current trends or address the needs of the operator?
  • How is your organization perceived by the food and/or beverage industry?

    Asking these questions will help you identify and develop ways in which you can address these areas. More importantly, this exercise will provide you with some insight into the strategies that can have the greatest impact on your business.

    Strategy Routes
    Strategies provide specific methods by which to build your PR program. They can include:

  • Educating the foodservice industry on a new product or service
  • Building goodwill among the industry, press and customers
  • Establishing expertise among the industry, press and customers
  • Persuading your target audience to purchase your product or service
  • Generating new customers/sales leads for DSRs, sales reps, or brokers
  • Introducing new products or services
  • Increasing awareness of existing products or services
  • Mitigating impact of negative publicity

    After determining your main strategies, take a look at how they fit into your own company's priorities. Which goals are time-sensitive? Which will have the greatest impact on the bottom line? Which are likely to change over the course of the year? Developing priorities and timetables for your activities are keys to success.

    Fuel for Thought
    You want to make sure that your PR budget is in line with your working capital. Review the skill sets and availability of your communications team. Determine if you need to incur additional costs for outside services (i.e. clipping, press release distribution, media lists). Also, decide if you will need to outsource any services or hire additional personnel. Remember too that while there may be a need to outsource and incur additional expenses, the results can have a tremendous impact on overall sales and margins.

    Tools to Drive the Media Highway
    There are several communications you can leverage to communicate your messages to the media. The following PR tools will help you develop a practical strategy that best fits your business objectives and budget. Remember that these tools will differ as to implementation due to factors including internal capabilities, customer or prospect base, and geographical territory or reach.

  • Press Releases – Good tool to attract attention to your company through new product/service rollouts, company hires, acquisitions, mergers, etc. Avoid "puffery"…it can ruin your reputation as a reliable news source.
  • Bylined Articles – Showcase industry expertise. Bylines give you control of the content and are a great communications vehicle for delivering key messages.
  • Media Alert – Effective way to spark media interest. A short synopsis of the basic facts of an event (i.e. who, what, when, where) is all you will need to garner attention.
  • Speaking Engagements – Give your spokespeople the opportunity to portray themselves as thought leaders at industry trade shows/conferences, panel discussions and "break out" sessions, and at operator food shows.
  • Awards – Enhances your visibility through industry recognition. Apply for awards early and often to increase the likelihood of becoming a finalist.
  • Trade Events – Good opportunities to attract qualified prospects and interact with influential media through scheduled, onsite appointments. Make sure to maximize your presence by taking advantage of pre-show/post-show press coverage.
  • Media Tours – Face to face relationship-building opportunities with target media contacts. Be sure to arrive at your destination with a press kit in hand.
  • Press Kits – Can be mailed or used as a "leave behind" at industry events, trade shows and media tours to provide general information about the organization or information about a current new product or service. Press kits should include 3-4 current press releases, 1-2 case studies, company backgrounder, fact sheet, executive biographies and a business card, etc. This is also information that can be used on the company's website.

    These tactics can make a strong statement whether you're a distributor, food and beverage manufacturer, a trade organization or a processor.

    (Next week we will look at developing your own PR plan).

    Tom O'Connell is president of Marketing Concepts, Inc., and a member of the ID Editorial Advisory Board. O'Connell has 30 years of experience in the foodservice and food processing channels. Prior to starting Marketing Concepts more than 13 years ago, he was vice president of marketing for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, creating innovative marketing programs for generic promotion. Prior to that, O'Connell was service as vice president of sales for a major food processor. Through years of experience and hundreds of key contacts within the industry, he has gained an expertise in the food industry that has earned the respect of distributor, operators, and manufacturers alike. As president of Marketing Concepts, he is responsible for overseeing the management and execution of a unique firm that offers strategic direction, business development, market research, and marketing direction/execution. O'Connell, who coordinated the execution of ID Update 2003, has earned several awards from the industry for his unique programs, tactics, and overall thinking, has served in an advisory capacity to numerous foodservice associations. For more information on overall communications, contact Tom at Tom@marketingcpts.com or 608-798-1444.

    Carol Jouzaitis is senior vice president, director of public relations for Slack Barshinger, a full-service marketing communications company that specializes in effective business to business client support.


    More from our partners