How to get the media’s attention, no matter what business you are in, has always been a challenging task. So it was an insight-filled hour when some top New York bartenders and national publicists sat down with Cheers editor Liza B. Zimmerman to have a frank discussion about how to recognize and maximize the benefits of public relations.
The panel included Belinda Chang, the former wine director at The Modern and a current New York-based consultant; Tad Carducci, co-founder of the New York-based Tippling Bros. consulting; Christine Deussen, president of New York-based Deussen Global Communications; Andrew Freeman, president of the San Francisco-based Andrew Freeman & Co.; and Jim Meehan, a New York bartender at PDT and cocktail book author.
The discussion was lively and honest. The panel was able to touch on topics that are likely to be integral to the success of many restaurants and bars. Issues such as when, and why, an operation needs a public relations presence were addressed, as well as how all parties involved should manage expectations. Another hot topic was the cost of time, materials and reasonable ROI.
The whole panel noted that some bartenders and beverage directors are well suited to participate, and even lead, their public relations campaigns. However, it is important to gauge time limitations and manage personalities and egos (which may belong to executives who think they are doing a better job of communicating the bottom line on their points of distinction and drink programs than they actually are).
The Hard Truth
One of the most compelling reasons to use a professional publicist—in or out of house—turned out to be because they have perspective on the business and extensive press contacts. They will also generally have a better idea what type of documents, research and photos writers and editors need on deadline. Carducci said he was glad to have worked with an über-corporate set of professionals as he and his partner rolled out five locations of the Mercadito bar concept.
“Public relations can help you focus on a specific issue,” noted Meehan. He often covers his bases himself with his media contacts and credibility as a cocktail book writer. But he also recognizes when a professional, with a different focus, can take it to another level.
A lot of the value that publicists and marketing professionals provide operators with is their wealth of experience. This may be because of previous work on-staff at various small- and large-scale properties, or it may be just because of the number and variety of bars and restaurants that they are able to visit. Often the hardest discussion is how to effectively convey the bottom line point of distinction of an operation. “Sometimes there’s no there, there,” noted Deussen.
Part of the process in finding the right publicist is first acknowledging that restaurants and bars can benefit from a supporter who has the media’s needs in mind. It is not always an easy jump. “If you don’t have a relationship with anyone in the media it can be hard to get their attention,” commented Freeman. The benefits of making use of public relations professionals at the right time in an operation’s growth cycle can offer a lot of benefits.