Day 14: Send a Perfect Pitch

black-badge-300pxDay 14 - Get Your Restaurant in Shape Even after a successful opening, continued press coverage is the key to keeping up momentum around your restaurant. If anyone knows how to send a great media pitch, it’s Andrew Freeman. As President of Andrew Freeman & Co., a San Francisco-based restaurant and hospitality consulting firm, he’s represented clients such as Hopscotch, Gitane, Perbacco, La Urbana, and the Golden Gate Restaurant Association. Here, he shares an insider’s tricks of the trade.

If the past 25+ years have taught me anything, it is that everyone and every situation has something to teach us. I’ve been lucky to embark on a career and journey that has led to the opening of my own firm, Andrew Freeman & Co., which focuses on hospitality, public relations, marketing, branding, and concepts — and we have an amazing, passionate team.

As a public relations and marketing veteran who also loves to get up on stage (yes I’ve been on a fashion runway!) you can say that I’ve definitely learned a thing or two about working with the media. We have an amazing group of talented journalists here in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the hospitality industry as a whole, and I’m so thankful to have worked with all of the best. When it comes to pitching the media, here are a few tips that my team and I have found to be really helpful for not only garnering coverage, but more importantly for building relationships.

Read, read, read! I can’t stress this enough! All too often we get caught up in the day-to-day deadlines and tasks, which are important. However, it’s important to remember to carve out some of your day to stay on top of relevant news as it relates to your industry. If you come across an article that interests you and that’s also relevant to a client of yours, send the reporter a note letting them know you enjoyed their article and use that as an opportunity to let them know about your client and why you think it’s of interest to them based on that recent story you read.

Be relevant. In many industries, but I think especially in hospitality, you need to be relevant and in front of key trends. Whether it’s related to food, hotels, restaurants, specific ingredients, etc., it’s important that your pitches are relevant and that you find some way to leverage current trends. We do an annual trends report that shares our predictions on what’s to come in the new year as it relates to the hospitality industry, which is driven by our own research and our clients. The report is used in a lot of our pitching and timely outreach! Check out our website for this year’s edition.

Tailor your outreach.This is probably the most talked-about tip in the PR industry, and probably the most important. It’s so important to take a targeted approach in your outreach. All of the other tips come full circle back to this: read the reporter’s stories, show that you are a resource and know their audience, etc. Each story and press release should have its own, tailored media list. A lot of times I recommend reaching out to 10 reporters that would most likely cover your news instead of sending it to hundreds of media in a master list that, in the end, won’t help your PR reputation.

Don’t always pitch. Building relationships with the media is key, and because they get hundreds of pitches every day, it’s a nice gesture to once in a while send an email that’s not a pitch. Keep it short and simple, read and react. Mention an article you read of theirs that you found interesting, set up a time to get coffee or lunch, etc., or just send an email to introduce yourself and let them know what you are working on. Don’t always ask and request things – show interest in their work and get to know them.

Use social media. Social media is a great tool to use to build relationships with the media, especially Twitter. Show an interest in reporters’ work and retweet/favorite their stories that are of interest to you. There are many reporters that also now post on social media about what stories they are working on, which is a great way to stay on top of timely things you can pitch. When your story and client does get covered, post the article on social channels and tag the journalist and publication. They will appreciate you sharing the article from your company’s (or your personal) social network.

Just say no to fluffRemember, you are not writing a novel and it should not take hours to write a pitch. Keep it simple. Hook them in the first few sentences of your pitch, or your chance to reel them in at all quickly decreases. The media are bombarded with thousands of emails a day and simply do not have time (or interest) to read lengthy pitches. If they want to read for pleasure, they will pick up a best-seller. So get to the point, and give them the facts in an easy-to-read format. Bullet points are your friend and make for a great way to organize the points you want to get across. Include hyperlinks that provide access to more information on the subject matter. Trust me, when the media want more details they will ask you.

Subject lines can make or break you. Absolutely none of these “rules” matter if your email doesn’t even get opened. This is why taking the time to craft an effective subject line is crucial to your pitch’s success. A subject line should give the reader an idea of what they will find inside. I have found that staying away from ALL CAPS, too much punctuation, and common spam-filter words are the first step. Also, depending on your audience, sometimes having a little fun with the subject line sets you apart from the crowd – just be careful, as this won’t work for all media.

Respect boundaries.They say a watched pot never boils – and excessively following up with a journalist that is not interested won’t get your story covered. You want to make a strong case for your story, but at the end of the day, the journalist has the right to say yes or no.

Double-check everythingThis one seems so simple, but you would be surprised how many times I see misspellings, using multiple fonts, and other signs of quick cut-and-paste jobs. These are quick ways to not only get your email deleted, but to put you on the dreaded blacklist. Take the five extra minutes and check your work.

Make it timelyMake sure to give reasons why it is important for the journalist to write about the subject matter NOW! Provide specific story ideas, give reasons why it is perfect for one of the writer’s columns, offer an exclusive, tie it to something happening in the world right now – if you don’t give them a reason to care about it at that exact moment, why would they?

BONUS: If you don’t believe in it – don’t pitch it! In our jobs, we must build trusting relationships with our clients and feel solid enough to tell them when you don’t agree with them or when something in the restaurant is not where it should be. Just say “not yet.” Tell them what it’s going to take the give the story real value. Your reputation is on the line with theirs, and sometimes waiting is the best method to secure great results down the road.

Now that 2015 is here, resolve to make this the best year yet for your restaurant business. Every day this month we’ll be featuring a new tip from restaurateurs, chefs, and other industry leaders to shape up your marketing, operations, hospitality, and more. Check back daily for expert advice and successful strategies to start your year off right, and see them all here.

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