Stop and think

People think I’m utterly mad when start-up food producers come to join The Smoothie Bar and I turn them away.

Why? The simple truth is that I only do responsive PR rather than traditional, and this isn’t the right fit for every stage of your business. Here you’ll find out if it’s the best PR strategy for you right now…

Being a small business is flipping hard.

Cash flow is a constant struggle for all of us and many people scoff at the idea of working with start-ups, simply because they’re more interested in making cash than working with the clients themselves.

My business ethos is based on doing things that are in the best interest for my Smoothies, so I’m carrying that on by sharing instances when The Smoothie Bar isn’t the best option for your business, but will also tell you when it is!

Here’s a quick reminder about the differences between traditional and responsive PR:

What is responsive PR?

Traditional PR is an endless cycle of writing constant (boring) press releases, reaching out to journalists and begging them to be interested in what you have to say. They get hundreds every day and most of the time, couldn’t care less. (Harsh but true I’m afraid.)

Responsive PR is different. Local and national journalists have already been commissioned to write articles about specific topics and they’re actively looking for people, products and small businesses like yours. Imagine how much easier it is for YOU and YOUR BRAND to be featured as a quote or case study when you already fit into exactly what they’re looking for? You’ll be surprised at how many of these requests you fit into every week.

You don’t need to sweat over writing any press releases in The Smoothie Bar – if you can send a tweet and write an email then you can do your own PR!

Who is The Smoothie Bar for?

It’s easy to see that start-up food and drink producers are my personal passion, however, most of the daily requests that come in will suit any small business, as the food and drink ones are a small part of a bigger pile.

Now that you understand the differences in PR and who can get value from The Smoothie Bar, here are some common situations you’ll face where responsive PR isn’t the right fit.

1. You need more sales NOW!

This is a biggie, so I’m putting it up there first. PR is NOT an instant sales channel, no matter what any other agency tells you.

PR is brilliant for creating brand awareness in front of lots of different audiences, whether it’s online or in magazines. Everyone eats and drinks and despite the many allergies and intolerances you need to navigate these days, if the reader can’t have it, it’s a pretty sure bet that their friends and family can. Therefore, the brand awareness that PR brings will end up leading to future sales, but it’s not going to top up your bank account by the end of this month!

Creating a sales plan, marketing plan and PR plan that work in conjunction with each other is key, but they are all separate plans because they deliver different things:

  • A sales plan should focus on money-making activities in the short, medium and long-term. Your business will not survive if you don’t have regular cash flow coming in, especially when payment terms can be anywhere from 30-120 days.
  • A marketing plan should give you a structure to target your ideal customers in various ways including your website, social media, running promotions, attending food shows etc.
  • A PR plan should tie in and support all of these activities, while also raising constant awareness of the brand across various media channels and outlets.

When should you join The Smoothie Bar?

Once you’ve got a fairly stable income from your current sales and can afford to commit £49pm and 10 mins a day to do your own PR. Come and try out my 10-day free trial if you’re at that stage right now.

I know that your cash flow comes and goes in fits and starts as a small business, so there is no minimum sign up period as a member – you can cancel your rolling monthly membership at any time.

2. You’re launching a new product

You’ve put in hundreds of hours of time, expertise, sweat and more money than you ever knew you would spend at this early stage, to produce the next fabulous food or drink product to the public. You know that if people try it they will love it, so you just need lots of them to know you’ve arrived and how to get their hands on it.

I call product launching ‘big splash’ PR – you want a lot of media noise targeted at your ideal customers in a short space of time.

New products are literally launched every single day so no matter how good yours are, you need to get in front of the potential customers who will buy them.

The responsive nature of The Smoothie Bar isn’t the right PR strategy for you at the moment. It’s brilliant for giving you ongoing PR opportunities in lots of different media formats – newspapers, magazines, bits of TV and radio, websites and blogs – but because it’s based on responsive PR (requests coming in from journalists themselves), we never know from one day to the next what they’re looking for, and there won’t be enough product only requests to make that big splash.

The traditional style of outreach PR works much better at this stage, as a good agency will have contacts at the right publications that target your ideal customer. During a launch, you want the immediate buzz and focus to be on your product, and then you as the producer if you have an amazing story to go with it.

When should you join The Smoothie Bar or sign up for my 1-1 PR service?

If you want to soft launch your products over six months without picking and choosing the specific publications you want to appear in, then my Full Berry Blast 1-1 service could be the affordable option you’re looking for. You won’t get a lot of noise in a short amount of time like with traditional PR, instead, I’d be looking to get you ongoing coverage from the daily requests available plus the extra opportunities from the paid media service I’m part of, which isn’t shared within The Smoothie Bar.

If you go down the traditional PR route then once the launch period is over, try out the 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar as it’s a great option when you’re looking for ongoing PR at an affordable price. (I can guarantee that your launch agency will charge you waaaaay more than £59pm for continuing traditional PR!)

It’s a much more effective long-term PR strategy to have regular bits of PR popping up on an ongoing basis, rather than having to gather a large budget together every time you want to get coverage.

3. You want to target or get stocked in a particular sector or niche

If your product is an ideal fit for both trade and consumer channels, but you want to establish an initial presence in places like hotels, restaurants, wholesalers or farm shops, then responsive PR isn’t right for you. Getting stocked in various outlets is always your number one priority, and you can’t rely on being seen by these kinds of buyers via consumer press, which 95% of the journo requests are based around.

You’ll get much more value from any budget you have by hiring a food industry consultant like Claire Brumby, who’s got loads of great tips for growing your small food and drink business.

When should you join The Smoothie Bar?

Once you’ve made enough headway into your niche and want to start broadening your audience to consumer buyers, joining my 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar is a great way to help you do this.

Journo requests come from lots of different sources and span a lot of different media such as papers, magazines, radio and websites, which means you’ll reach a much wider range of people outside of your niche sector who may also be interested in your products.

4. You want to get into trade media titles

Some things stay old school longer than others and trade media titles tend to fall into this category. They are often run by small teams who are juggling multiple stories and features for both the website and paper versions of their outlet, and welcome anything that makes it easier for them to add regular content.

They don’t tend to send out their own requests as much as consumer journos and when they do, it’s often through a paid media enquiry service such as Food4Media or Journolink.

This is where traditional outreach PR wins as you can target them with a well-written press release and images that let them lift the story straight off the page. If you need any help with this, here’s my beginner’s guide to writing your first press release.

Just don’t fall into the sales trap if you’ve sent a press release hoping to get coverage and then get a phone call offering you coverage “for a small cost.” This is just the sales team getting their hands on your details and trying to meet their sales target for the month! If the editorial team is genuinely interested in your news or story, it won’t cost you a penny to be included.

When should you join The Smoothie Bar?

Once you’ve got the coverage you’re looking for within the trade sector and are ready to start building on your consumer awareness, my 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar is the perfect place to find a constant stream of journo requests looking to write about you and your business.

5. You want to share news about the exciting things your business is doing 

Ok, it’s time for some tough talk, (grab a smoothie and a comfy chair). In theory, this sounds like it would be easy to do. In reality, what’s exciting to you isn’t always very exciting to others outside of your business. You need to think about why anyone apart from you would be interested in hearing about it.

I totally understand that printing your new labels, changing your packaging or holding a snowman making competition for charity is exciting news for you. But the harsh truth is, why would anyone else care if they don’t work in your business? You can often get some leeway with small-scale industry titles and local papers that are always on the lookout for new content, but keep your expectations realistic when it comes to the nationals unless it’s something truly mind-blowing.

Traditional PR is always the better option if you want to do outreach, as it’s unlikely that a responsive request will come in that is looking for exactly the story you have to share. Ultimately, you need a ‘hook’ and great timing – it needs to be something that’s immediately interesting to the journalist. It could be that it’s a brand new ‘thing’, something that could affect a huge amount of people or a topic that people are constantly talking about. That could include things like:

* New law coming into force that affects food and drink businesses
* A sudden crisis or hot topic – think vegetable shortage, the war on sugar, food wastage
* Latest report – health of the nation, changing consumer tastes, new benefits of a particular food
* Something that will instantly divide opinion: “I coat my energy balls in cricket powder.”
* An unusual or unexpected ingredient you’ve discovered that makes your product taste amazing.

Journalists are always looking for things that are new, on-trend and they want to be the first to write about it.

When should you join The Smoothie Bar?

Once you’ve got the coverage you’re looking for using a particular story angle, my 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar is the perfect place to find a constant stream of general journo requests looking to write about you and your business.

6. You’re running a crowdfunding campaign 

Crowdfunding is all the rage these days and on the surface, this can make it look like an easy win. Ask for money in exchange for either products or shares, get funded, grow your business. However, a quick Google of ‘How many crowdfunding campaigns fail’ throws up answers around the two-thirds mark, depending on which platforms you’re looking at.

There are many reasons for failure and not getting your PR and marketing strategy right is a huge part of this.

* Don’t suddenly decide you need to run a campaign a couple of weeks before you go live – if you want to be successful, it takes a huge amount of planning, prepping and execution to keep your followers constantly engaged

* Look at other successful crowdfunding case studies to see how they did it – one in particular I remember was Nanabar because the build up marketing campaign was executed really well and it felt like everyone involved was part of an exciting new food movement

* Start planting the seeds with your tribe at least 3-6 months before the launch – you need to get people really excited and emotionally invested in your brand being successful and the earlier a campaign can build momentum, the more likely it is to reach its goal

* You need to get investors onboard who are willing to commit a large chunk of cash that takes you at least 30% towards your target from the word go – most successful campaigns already have a few big investors lined up to put in large sums which encourages the smaller, organic donations

* If you’re crowdfunding on an all or nothing site then set your goal as low as possible – it’s much better to get a cash injection that meets your basic needs than to try and over raise and totally miss out

* I’ve seen many foodies use PrimeStox and everyone seems to reach their target – I’ve even tried to invest in a few Smoothies doing this but have missed out because they met their target so quickly!

Traditional PR agencies that have a working knowledge of producing successful crowdfunding campaigns should be on your list to speak to. Alongside this, many crowdfunding platforms also have their own experts or PR team that can guide you through the process or work with you on the campaign, and this may prove an even better than a traditional agency, as they will have been through the process many times before. If you’re not sure where to start, I’d take a look at The Food Hub.

When should you join The Smoothie Bar?

Once you’ve finished your crowdfunding and have decided you don’t want to spend a big chunk of that money on an expensive traditional PR agency, my 10-day free trial in The Smoothie Bar is the perfect place to find a constant stream of general journo requests looking to write about you and your business.

7. You have time to jump on and off Twitter all day

There’s no great secret to finding responsive PR requests – everything you need is free and waiting for you on Twitter.

Journalists use #journorequest on their tweets as a signal that they want people to find and contact them about a particular story or article that they’ve already been commissioned to write.

This is what makes responsive PR so brilliant – you don’t have to beg them to be interested in what you have to say in a long, boring press release. Instead, fitting your experience or story to what they need right now makes it more likely that you’ll be featured as a quote or case study.

So if it’s this easy, why does The Smoothie Bar exist?

Like everything that sounds great, there’s a big catch.

  • Firstly, journos from lots of different industries send out requests every day, so there are lots of them to sort through to find out which ones could be a good fit for you
  • Secondly, bloggers love to use the hashtag when they’re looking for freebies, and there are hundreds of them out there doing that every day

Add those two elements together and that’s an awful lot to sort through every day when you’re short on time.

If you have time to jump on and off Twitter all day every day, then you have fewer requests to sort through each time, but every small biz foodie I’ve met so far doesn’t have that luxury. Luckily, I do!

When should you join The Smoothie Bar?

If you can find 10 minutes a day, then you have time to do your own PR. Monday-Friday, I sort through the huge pile of requests that have come in each day and pick out all of the ones looking for products, business owners and human interest stories. I post them daily in The Smoothie Bar between 3-4pm, so you can pop in when you have 10 minutes free and look through the list.

I post a live link to each one so that you can click straight through to the tweet, respond to the journo directly and start building your own relationship with them. They vary in number so we get anything from 10-25 requests each day, but if there aren’t any that are a good fit on one particular day, just use your 10 minutes to update your own media database of contacts that you’re building. This means that you have the journos details at your fingertips if you want to do any outreach in the future.

Final food for thought…

PR is yet another thing to add to the list when it comes to investing your precious time and money into your fabulous food business, so It’s really important to me that you come and join us in The Smoothie Bar at the time that’s right for you. If you have any more thoughts about being a Smoothie, try out my 10-day free trial or drop me a line.

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