Tips for restaurant owners dealing with the press

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December 22, 2013- the news of a PR agent tweeting an insensitive comment about getting AIDS on her travel to South Africa relates to my comments about PR people, below.

December 18, 2013- By Steven E. Greer

In my day job, so to speak, I deal with national media and various counterparts in the process of producing stories about national topics. I also run BatteryPark.TV, which gives me insight into the local press and small businesses. I have spotted some common mistakes made by restaurant and retail shop owners when they deal with requests for interviews. In a genuine attempt to be helpful, I have some suggestions.

First, when any “new media” or traditional news outlet is gracious enough to offer to make a genuine story about your company (i.e. not a thinly veiled commercial), realize that it is a rare offer. The credibility of true stories based on merit is incomparable to the typical local advertising flier infomercial. When such an offer falls into your lap, do not succumb to a common psychological phenomenon and dismiss the offer as suspicious, or too good to be true. Act promptly, give the reporter your business card, and follow up the next day, at the latest.

My biggest piece of advice for small business owners is to never delegate to a PR firm your decision making. Their staffs are far too often lazy and will not properly vet new media or websites. Also, restaurant owners do not seem more professional by deferring these matters to a PR firm. It actually makes you seem ungrateful.

The best owners and managers “get it” and understand how to handle interview requests. When I requested an interview with world famous Danny Meyer in 2012, I full expected the request to be lost in the layers of internal and external PR of Union Square Hospitality Group. Instead, North End Grill’s manager, Kevin Richer, made sure to handle it personally, and Danny Meyer showed up to give us a tour of all three of his new Battery Park City restaurants.

Another successful experience was with the Italian restaurant Terra. The owner handled our tour personally, and made sure that we saw the kitchen and many of the entrees. As a result, we snapped some great photos. Other similar successful productions were made possible with Brookfield Place, ManuelRacim shirts, and Marc Forgione’s new American Cut restaurant.

In contrast to those good experiences that led to good article with tens of thousands views, I recently offered to give free publicity to the second incarnation of Dylan Prime steakhouse, which just reopened after closing down for about a year. I spoke with Dana the manager at their first soft-opening night, explained my offer, and she promptly walked away, forgetting about me. On my way out, I ran into an owner, who was much nicer and very interested in my offer to report on the opening. However, he made the mistake of outsourcing the process to a PR firm. I did not feel like dealing with the hassle and retracted the offer. Maybe I will get around to covering them, maybe I won’t.

I also recently stopped into Tablao, a new Spanish restaurant on Greenwich Street. The manager took my information and I emailed them. I never got a reply. Meanwhile, the place is virtually empty, with the exception of holiday corporate drinking parties.

So, in summary, to all of the restaurant and retail shop owners out there, please realize that genuine offers to give you free press are rare. Pay attention to how the best restaurateurs handle such offers. You are doing your company a disservice by hiring expensive PR firms to handle matters that you should prioritize and handle yourself. Don’t be lazy or pretentious. Promptly handle a offer for an interview yourself, and give the reporter a decision by the next business day. Lastly, make sure the kitchen is available for the tour, for the love of god.

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