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8 Reasons Why Restaurants Should Ramp Up Their Visibility Strategy

By Vanessa Horwell

Let's take a look at eight reasons why you cannot afford to be quiet and why you should be ramping up your PR and visibility strategy right now:

8. When you duck and cover, customers can't see you. Hello?

The classic kneejerk response to a recession is to reduce expenses any way possible. But taking yourself off your customers' radar by reducing or eliminating PR efforts puts you out of sight and the subsequent drop in revenues will put you out of your mind.

Cutting your visibility during a recession or anytime for that matter stops the conversation with influential media and your customers. It tells people that you are no longer in play and you are putting your business and brand at risk.

This is time when you need to create meaningful stories that change the way people feel about your company. You cannot do that if you are in hiding.

7. The agency effect is a multiplier

A good PR agency, though focused primarily on visibility, can also deliver much more hard-hitting copy aimed both internally and externally, business development strategies, a fresh perspective on your restaurant and audiences.

Likewise, a solid PR strategy goes deeper than just getting the word out. It can help define and develop and, in tough times, protect your brand, articulate those values and practices central to your operating strategy and most important to your customers, and position you properly for future success.

Traditionalists, scarred or scared by grandma's press-release-driven PR, will not see the hidden value of a PR partnership, and will pass on this tremendous growth opportunity in favor of trimming a budget line item. Now that is old-school.

6. PR helps you hit the bull's-eye

You will not catch me saying this often, but sometimes stories get out there without the help of a concerted PR effort you know when this happens, and it is not usually the story you want The Wall Street Journal to pick up.

But these stories are uncontrolled and can take on a life of their own. PR helps you ensure accuracy and make sure your message hits its intended target.

Targeted messages, as we all know, are consistently the most effective, but they must be crafted and pitched in precise ways. Good PR pros specialize in finding the right avenues, including online and mobile, which offer the best chance for establishing a dialogue with the right audience.

5. Real bang for your buck

PR, though not without expense, is one of the most cost-efficient tools available for creating brand awareness and ultimately increased sales. In the current environment, that is no small consideration.

When PR initiatives incorporate cost-effective methodologies, including new media placements and unconventional tactics, the efficiency is redoubled.

With the media hungry for every new success story that does not involve Goldman Sachs strong PR can gain an extra dimension of effectiveness.

4. Metrics that matter

Measuring the efficacy of marketing and advertising is ultimately rather simple: did we sell more due to our efforts, or not? PR success is not so easily pigeonholed, but that does not mean it has less value.

Though we recognize that everything is about the bottom line, PR has different aims, and therefore a different set of metrics. But what are they?

Is it how many times the same press release was picked up and redistributed when we Google ourselves? Is it eyeballs, is it reach? Is it more valuable when a blogger writes about your restaurant, or when you're in the Wall Street Journal or CNN? Or is it how people react and change the way they feel about your restaurant?

What counts most in terms of PR efforts are the perceptions and reputations created and built. These, though perhaps not as quantifiable as marginal cost or direct sales, are priceless and immensely powerful.

3. It is not what you know or who you know, it is how well you know who you know. Know what I mean?

The current economic environment has put a high premium on trust and reputation, which for restaurants and other businesses translates to strength of brand. This is partly what good PR is all about letting customers know you through objective sources.

In contrast to marketing or advertising, which endeavor to push a product on an intended audience, PR builds awareness and invites audiences to come to your restaurant.

While the former might seem more important during a recession push that one widget to make one more sale the latter is a foundation for future success (create awareness of the widget and the widget makers, and the scores of people who love the widget).

2. The power of position

The real counterpoint and compliment to consumer-based brand awareness and reputation is your restaurant's stature in the business community.

Not to keep trumpeting the boys over at Goldman Sachs, but they did not get to be the darlings of every business section in the nation by quietly shepherding taxpayer money more effectively than everyone else. OK, maybe they did, but not by being quiet about it. Have you ever spoken with a Goldman partner around bonus time?

In a recession, how well you stack up in relation to your competitors reaches your customers' ears and eyes at least as well as more overt marketing messages. PR helps you emphasize or spin your strengths or shortcomings, which is critical in this challenging time.

1. Carpe crisis

To paraphrase the president's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, a crisis is a terrible thing to waste. Now is the time, as your competitors are hunkered down, to seize market share and spread your good word.

And do not give up. Over the past 50 years, U.S. recessions lasted an average of 11 months, whereas economic growth endured, on average, six years.

Interrupting your visibility and PR efforts right now is not only a missed opportunity, it is counterproductive, it sends the wrong signal. And it has long-term consequences, such as a drop in income of at least 20 percent to 30 percent.

Consistent messaging and outreach in times like these will win the race. You will lose far more by dropping out while your competitors are gaining ground while you are not around.

Perhaps I am a little biased, but I see PR as having the power to make or break companies, unlike many ad campaigns vying for the same time and space.

Remember United Airlines' broken guitar debacle on YouTube a few weeks ago? Think about your reaction to that, and how many millions of others did just like you. PR can have that effect, for better or for worse if not managed well.

PR, after all, is about shaping and shifting perception. It is about educating audiences and it is about building awareness. It is about creating the right kind of meaningful visibility when and where it counts.

It takes courage and a view of the big picture to continue to spend on PR during tough times. There may be less to go around, but people are still spending.

Opportunity is knocking for those marketers and businesses willing to see these costs as an investment, not an expense, and to invest in themselves and their brand. The odds and statistics are on their side, for a change.

Vanessa HorwellVanessa Horwell is chief visibility officer of ThinkInk, a marketing communications firm in Miami, FL. Reach her at

This article originally appeared in Mobile Marketer

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