What really happens when a professional reviewer comes to your pub, and how do you get them through the door in the first place? This is your ultimate step-by-step guide.
We’ve spoken to editors, bloggers and licensees who get reviewed beyond their own Trip Advisor page, for tips to help you get your menu in front of the right pens, paper and noses.
Right, where do I start?
Don’t blag press coverage in any old rag. Decide what you’re promoting and find media outlets that appeal to target customers.
So, if you’ve just opened in the town centre then get to know your local paper sharpish. Or if you’re a country pub next to a huge tourist attraction, track down those travel magazines.
Online coverage is also worth pursuing. Local and lifestyle bloggers can be highly influential, plus coverage can be shared on social media.
Okay, so how do I approach them?
Some employ a PR company to help with this, but if that’s not in your budget it’s time to sit down and do some savvy emailing.
“Find out who edits the food & drink section and email them directly,” explains Nicky Findley, senior feature writer at the Bournemouth Echo and Taste magazine.
“It’s important to build up a relationship with a particular reporter, as the news desk inbox gets flooded with emails.”
There is a knack to getting their attention too, says Zoe Perrett, editor of luxury food and travel magazine Good Things.
She explains: “Journalists like to feel as if they’re taking the lead, you’ve just got to steer their thinking.
“If you’re looking for a top-whack writer with an inflated sense of importance then just assuming they’ll visit won’t go down well. Take a personal approach, research and send an email with a good subject line — we get hundreds of invites a day, so why come to your pub?
“You could also throw a press party. Get lots through the door for fewer overheads by supplying drinks and canapés, then a percentage of those will return for a formal review.”
Do they expect everything to be free?
With budgets being squeezed all over the industry, most will assume that food at least will be complimentary, especially if they’re a blogger — this is likely a secondary job.
Sometimes they will expect to bring a guest, and sometimes they’ll expect for all travel, food and accommodation (if needed) to be paid for.
Zoe suggests teaming up with a local B&B and putting on a press tour for the area. The most important thing is you are clear about what is free from the offset to avoid awkwardness.
Eek, they’re booked in, time to panic?
Breathe. If they’re visiting then you’ve done the hard work. It’s time to show off everything you promised.
Becca Thompson owns the Star & Garter in Falmouth. Since opening in August 2015, the pub has hosted a number of journalists, so she knows how to plan ahead. “They’re interested in the front and back of house, so it’s best if you can go along to speak them,” she says.
“Don’t be nervous about it. They’re here to get the story about who you are; the people and the food. Just make sure you’re relaxed and ready to answer questions.”
I’ll be there in my Sunday best! Should I decide what they eat?
Most journalists are happy for recommendations unless they really don’t like something. Point them in the direction of your star dishes.
However, top tip, you should probably avoid breathing down their neck while they eat unless they invite you to join. Nicky explains: “It’s good to get to know business owners, but sometimes people pull up a chair and talk at you while you’re trying to eat. It can be awkward, it’s better to be left to it.”
Service is also important. Zoe adds: “I like a story. Good service is a must but there is nothing wrong with quirky service.
“That cookie-cutter character is boring — it’s nice to have personality.”
What if they write something bad about us?
Believe it or not, journalists aren’t all bad people, we promise. They don’t want to ruin you and will, generally, want to focus on the positives. Zoe says: “We don’t go out to shame businesses. If we’ve had a bad experience I’ve gone back and explained that we could offer a feedback report instead.”
And Becca finds it has always paid off: “We’ve generally had really nice experiences with both bloggers and press. Their opinions are respected and they are often able to communicate messages about our business better than we can; they’re writers and we don’t have that training”.
- For more guides, try this advice about appealing to Millennials or this about how to offer bottomless brunch.