My Serious Eats colleague Maggie Hoffman wrote a great piece last month detailing 3 Ways to Publicize Your Restaurant Without a Publicist. Her last bullet point touched briefly on keeping things fresh and interesting for the press and public. But how do your reach out to the press in the first place? As food bloggers ourselves, we've seen some effective and not-so-effective approaches. Here are our tips for pitching food bloggers.
How to Find Food Bloggers
The blogosphere is like big-fish-eat-little-fish. The larger, professional group blogs in any given city are often good at aggregating content but might not have boots on the ground in every corner of your market. In New York City for instance, where Serious Eats is based, we don't have bloggers in every neighborhood. We try to cover our blind spots by carefully monitoring the various hyper-local blogs that specialize on food and restaurants on a neighborhood level.
As a restaurant owner, you should be reading the larger food blogs in your city or region if you're not already. Visit them daily for a few weeks and you'll start to get a feel for which blogs actually ferret out the original information and which blogs simply link back to the primary sources. You'll often have a better chance pitching your story to the smaller, more local blogs. With luck, your news will filter on up the chain.
Read the Blogs You Want to Pitch
Think you've found a blog that seems like it would be interested in your restaurant or event? Are you sure? Have you actually read the blog?
At Serious Eats, we operate a couple niche blogs -- one that covers burgers and one that covers pizza. Pretty easy to write pitches for those, right? Nope. A good 75 percent of the pitches we receive at those sites involve something other than hamburgers or pizza. Simply reading A Hamburger Today or Slice for a couple weeks would tell you that they don't cover anything else. It's a waste of your time and ours to tell us about your new sushi roll or the vegan cupcakes your bakery has just started selling.
The short of it: Make sure the publication you're pitching is the appropriate venue for your story.
Make it Personal
Once you've ID'd an appropriate outlet, read the last week of posts and comments. (If you're already a regular reader of the blog, all the more easy for you.) Find something in there that you connect with and mention it in your email. It shows that you follow the blog or that you at least took the time to check out what it's about.
"But that means I can't send out a mass email to hundreds of BCC'd recipients," you say. Exactly. It's like getting a hand-written envelope via snail-mail; the recipient is much more likely to act on it if it's personal and relevant to her blog.
"I'd also suggest that, when it comes to the press, building long-term relationships is worth the effort. Meet them in person, offer story tips (not related to your own interests), and generally be a good person to know. It helps ensure that the members of the press you need to know will always answer your calls."
I couldn't have said it better myself. At Serious Eats, the help and knowledge that chefs and restaurateurs have shared with us over the years -- and not just when they wanted something -- has been invaluable.
Bonus: On Running a Successful Food Event
Oftentimes restaurateurs are pitching bloggers some sort of meet-and-greet-and-eat event. While we at Serious Eats generally avoid these, we've been to enough of them to know that the following two blog posts are dead on in their advice for pulling off a successful one. Rather than reinvent the wheel, we're just going to refer you to these two excellent resources:
Thoughts on Public Relations Events in Food (Food Mayhem, 8/12/2009)