So you want to host a media tasting? Great idea! Your restaurant can benefit from journalists, bloggers, and social media power users writing about it. It's word of mouth on steroids. However, in order to have a successful outcome, you must plan the tasting event very carefully.
First, you need a strategy! You can't just randomly invite people and give them food. It doesn't quite work that way and you're possibly setting yourself up for a chaotic event. Here are some important things to consider when thinking about or planning a media tasting at your Philadelphia restaurant.
Research your attendees. It's important to get a mix of people at your tasting event - traditional media, food bloggers, and Instagrammers. Before you invite anybody, though, do your research. Take a look at the quality of their work, not just the numbers. Do they really get or understand food and the restaurant business? Are they discerning in their output? In other words, are they showcasing the food and the restaurants they go in an authentic way or are they copy-cats of other influencer profiles? Don't just get "warm bodies" in your establishment; make sure they are authoritative and can say more than "yum" or "delicious." You're not looking for Yelp reviewers after all, you're looking for positive press!
Use Event Registration Tools. Don't rely on email only to invite attendees or manage your RSVPs. Event registration and management tools can help keep you organized and track attendance. It's also a resource that attendees can reference for more information about the tasting and allow them to put the event on their calendars. There are many free tools out there, but my favorite is Eventbrite simply because it offers so many amazing features including the ability to email attendees through the platform, download a list of attendees, and even being able to print name tags. It really is one of the best event management platforms out there. Keep in mind, it is not free if you're going to sell tickets. They take a cut of each ticket sold. But you shouldn't be charging for a media tasting anyway, so use Eventbrite for this purpose!
Develop agenda/flow of event. It's imperative that you create an agenda for the media tasting. This will keep you organized and ensure a timely execution of the event. Make sure you account for everything from beginning to end including any "ground rules." This will cause less stress and chaos and ensure a positive outcome for you and the attendees. If possible, send the agenda to your attendees ahead of the event. They'll love knowing what to expect at the event and be able to plan accordingly.
Create Event Materials. You don't need to go to great expense to create the materials for the tasting event. A simple one-page “Welcome” sheet with the agenda, information about your restaurant, the food they'll be tasting, and any other talking points will be very helpful for the attendees. This helps keep everybody focused and on task! Include links to your website, social media profiles, and any hashtags you'd like them to use while at the tasting as well. Don't expect your attendees will just know everything about you the moment they walk through the doors of your restaurant. Help make their job easier and chances are they'll turn out a great feature on you!
Host/run the event. Don't just "be there" - take charge of your event! You're the host. You need to introduce yourself to the attendees and make them feel welcome. You need to guide the event along every step of the way as well as be available should anybody have any questions. While you may want a casual tasting, don't let it become too casual or it may become chaotic really quick! This is also a great way to create and develop lasting relationships with these folks. Make sure that you talk to everyone who attends. These people took time out of their busy schedules to be there, so make sure they felt that the event was worth their time. You're in the hospitality business. Be hospitable!
Monitor social media during and immediately after the event. Social savvy attendees will likely be posting to social media right away. It is important that you respond to these posts in a timely manner. Be sure to like, comment, and re-share outstanding posts. Engaging with attendees on social media is a great way to continue to build the relationship with them as well as their audience. Being active with them on social media shows good manners and demonstrates you value them as professionals. Don't have social media profiles? Make sure you set them up before you host a media tasting. In fact, make social media a priority if you haven't already.
Communicate after the event. Continue the relationship after the event via email. This is key! You want to be sure that you follow-up with attendees to make sure they have all of the information they need and be available for additional questions. While not everybody may cover the tasting right away or at all, it's important that they know how to find you and that you make yourself available to them anytime. Do not, however, pressure or badger the attendees for coverage. It doesn't pay to be pushy. Simply thank them for their time and be friendly. Hospitality goes a long way.
These media tasting tips are just the tip of the iceberg, though. There's so many other things you can do to ensure the media comes to your restaurant and you get coverage. Need help? Let me know how I can be of service. Contact me.