Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Can Social Media and PR Save A Restaurant? My 4 Tips for Erin

I belong to a great Facebook group for those who specialize in PR, and everyday members share topics, projects, and concerns that pretty much mirror all the marketing challenges small and large businesses and organizations face today. It's a great space to network and test out new ideas. Often, there are similar issues being discussed. For example, how can I get more: donations, website visitors, event attendees, community, press coverage. All million dollar questions.

One recent post inspired me as a great mini case study, particularly since I'm always up for a marketing challenge. Erin owns a restaurant, but unfortunately it's not doing well. I take this to mean that no one knows about it, and therefore no one is dining there. There was no particular "launch," at its opening, which doesn't help either. Erin has a very limited marketing budget, and what sounds like only a few weeks to get business off the ground. Assuming that the food is good and the price point a good value, here are my top 4 tips and action items I would plan if Erin hired me only for 1 week.

#1. Organize a press dinner with personal invites and press release.

Put together a wish list of the best Bay Area food critics, bloggers, and reviewers, and personally invite them for a special dinner highlighting the chef's specialties. Include a well-written and colorful press release with your invitation (use this for other media blasts as well), and highlight unique aspects of the cuisine, chef, decor, etc. Include suggested talking points and who is available for interviews, such as the chef and/or owner. Take photos and video during the dinner, and post promptly on all online profiles. Assuming they have good things to say, with their permission, publish their testimonials on your website and via social media.

#2. Fast Track Website/Blog and Social Profiles.

Wordpress recently introduced some terrific template themes for restaurants. If the restaurant already has a website, for SEO purposes at the very least make use of the blog template as an add-on link...and start blogging! Publish a few quick posts that show the decor, and describe the food, atmosphere, etc. If there is no social media, set up a Twitter profile and Facebook Business Page to start, and include the links both on the website and the blog. On Twitter, use keyword research and your target customer in mind to start following folks, with the follow back strategy in full play. Tweet menu items, specialty dishes, photos of the food, coupons, etc. Then I would phase in other profiles next, particularly YouTube and Pinterest, where videos of the chef in action and photos of the dishes can be shared.

#3. Create A Quick Video Using Animoto and/or Vine.

Animoto is a great tool for creating quick videos from photos with fun special effects and royalty-free music. I explained how it works over here. Photograph everything about your restaurant you want to show off, make your free 12-second video, (or longer for the premium bersion) and post it wherever possible. Vine is also a great new tool to try out, producing 6-second videos for all kinds of promotions. While video sharing may still be a bit behind the curve compared to photo sharing, it's still hot hot hot.

#4. Crowdsource Something Fun, and Promote It.


One of my favorite writers, Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love) was in the news today for organizing a first of its kind contest where her Facebook community voted for the cover of her upcoming novel, "The Signature of All Things." She enjoyed an enthusiastic response, and was highlighted in USA Today. A similar kind of contest could be held for the name of a dish, or the restaurant's logo, or even a new menu item. Not only do people love to share their opinions, but this can be used to build great buzz.

So, these are the top 4 marketing moves I would make. What do you think? Are they enough to save Erin's restaurant? What would you add if you had more time? (Hint: enewsletter, of course!)


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