7 tips on how to engage food bloggersOctober 14, 2014
1. Don't just send a media FYI in hopes that we'll be writing about it. It will often just be an FYI. If it's big enough, it should warrant an invite. That being said, sometimes these PR emails can look and read horribly. Nothing's better than a simple 3 paragraph email with what's important, the date/time, and deadline to respond to. No need for clipart photos. Or horrible grammar and spellingz.
2. Be clear whether its a group, individual or hosted event. Because it depends on what sort of arrangements we'll need to make.
3. Host appropriately. Don't sit and stare while two people are eating, but also don't just invite a blogger and leave him/her to figure out what is what, and even the staff/manager is clueless. Worst still if it is a group of food bloggers left to sit together without someone leading the conversation. Hosting a dinner well is really quite a skill, which not everyone has. This is where this particular type of PR is different from other PR due to the dinner host skills.
4. Show food in the best light possible. Think ahead to what the blogger will need for a good blog post, other than good food of course. Information, and photos. Be sure to provide adequate lighting for the dishes and make sure the kitchen knows that they will be photographed. Also try to keep the area conducive for talking - nothing beats shouting across the table on what the dish is all about. It also helps if you know what the dish is about instead of say, this is roast chicken and I'm not sure who made it, and why it is made this way.
5. Portioning. Most restaurants would want to serve full portions and there is nothing wrong with sharing if its easy to portion, otherwise make sure tasting portions are provided with another one for photographing. Also, make sure dishes are kept to a manageable amount (unless it is a buffet of course), because I find that when its more than 5 courses it's hard to focus (plus the blog post gets really really long). The temptation to let all the dishes be reviewed will definitely be there, but you've got to pick your battles and send your best soldiers in.
6. Promotions should be available for at least a month, unless specified in advance that it is a 3 day guest feature, or 1 week promo. Otherwise there's no point for a blogger to review the promo deal or special dish if it will be gone soon - here is when bloggers are similar to traditional media in that you've got to give some lead time for their editorial schedule. It is very rare to get bloggers who can do a 1 week turn around (back to Alvin's point on us having day jobs).
7. Offer a promo for the blogger's readers just in a form of a quote to the cashier like "I read this from Alexischeong". Not only does it give the blogger incentive to share with his/her readers in a timely fashion and the readers an incentive to remember the post, it also gives your PR efforts a direct line to the return on investment. Unless you are a big food chain, most restaurants should be able to manage to give a discount, and recognize/track them.
That's it! I hope this is useful. Let me know which tip you'd agree with, and if there's anymore to add!