Belinda Lawson writes:
The first thing to think about is why should the media give you coverage? Think about it in two ways. Firstly, what have you got to say that would excite and interest the audience? Become a devoted paper reader for a week or two and you’ll begin to see what it covers and how. At the same time think about why they should give you space when there is probably another good restaurant that is buying advertising? Of course I know the two are separate but in the real world one may influence the other. Can you answer these two satisfactorily? Then you can move on to planning.
You have decided which publication/s you want to talk to about your restaurant. Prioritise your selection because it’s unlikely that more than one of your local media will cover your ‘story’ unless it’s sensational or real news (eg you burn down).
One of the most obvious tactics is to invite the journalist in for a meal in the hope that he/she will review it. That is quite simply done by calling the person that does the reviews. I have a preference for calling because it’s more personal, but emails can work too. Plan what you want to say – are you going to invite him/her on a particular day. Don’t think this can be done on a low cover day – they must be treated like royalty because they can do so much for your business if they think it appropriate and right to do so. Be generous and allow them to invite a partner or colleague. Let them chose whatever they want and do not expect them to pay. Do remember you have NO control over what they subsequently say. Reading AA Gill in The Sunday Times Style magazine will make you aware of the risks!
If you’re the kind of restaurant that would do pancakes for Shrove Tuesday and you’re a family, fun sort of place you might want to think of things like running a pancake tossing competition for charity and asking the local media along (don’t forget the radio station). Ask them a couple of weeks in advance and think of all the potential reasons that the media might be interested in advance or on the day. It might be your restaurant’s perfect pancake recipe for tossing and the edible alternative – make sure the latter sounds fabulous and is on the menu on the night.
But be wary of gimmicks. Be very aware of how you want people to think about your restaurant – is it premium or happy go lucky? Then work on what you could do that would make the paper and show you in the light you want to be seen in. How about inviting school kids in for a cooking lesson?
Above all don’t kid yourself it’s easy! It might take months but real effort has its rewards.
Belinda Lawson is the founder of Lawson Dodd
Got a question for one of our experts to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org