I’ve been lucky enough to see my fair share of great venues, whether it be handling the PR for a restaurant, bar or nightclub; or attending an event.
The question remains the same for proprietors of these venues – how can you cut through the clutter when there are just so many options? Australia has one of the highest number of bars and restaurants per capita of anywhere in the world. It’s a tough job.
We’ve all seen the venues that shine when it comes to creating notoriety. The ones that do it right are those that maintain a consistent clear message; such as Neil Perry at Rockpool and Matt Moran at ARIA and Chiswick. Once captured, they nurture relationships using a variety of methods to maintain the great conversation they have started.
When it comes to promoting a venue, assume nothing and start the story from the beginning. While you may have agonised over every aspect from the menu and wine list; to design, lighting and staffing, the media and potential customers will probably have no clue. So tell them.
Here are a few tips I have picked up from publicising some of Sydney’s most reputable venues:
- Firstly, know what is unique about your offering – an amazing wine list, unparalleled views or the best music in town? Shout it from the rooftops and make sure that what makes you special is clear at every interaction with the customer.
- Next step is great photography – a picture tells a thousand words and with the rise and rise of new media, this is imperative to drive conversation online. Great photography underpins any marketing campaign.
- Have a good spokesperson, whether it’s a designer, owner, chef or mixologist – someone who will represent the venue positively and position the venue as a thought leader and innovator. While Stellar has worked with high profile spokespeople, there are still many opportunities for anyone – from cocktail makers to marketing and sales personnel to have a voice.
- Get the opening right to cement your offering and target market. Should it be a glamorous event or a locals only ‘soft launch’? Whose attention do you want to grab from day one? Remember, you have one shot at opening so get it right.
- Social media is one of the most important marketing tools, so be a part of the conversation – as long as you have someone willing to take the criticism (and tackle the trolls). Have a social media presence by being active and engaging with people in your industry – competitors, media, suppliers, staff, friends and of course customers – so get talking! Dan Hong of Sydney hot spot, Mr. Wong is a great example with an impressive Twitter following, engaging media and diners alike.
- Consider involvement with a larger event or festival to tap into new databases and large numbers of potential customers. There a slew of opportunities to engage with foodies, drinks connoisseurs and clubbers alike. These could include food events, a craft beer festival, local markets; and industry-specific thought leader events. Critical to that decision of course is ensuring you have the resources – if you’re going to do it, make sure you do it well.
- Invite people to trial what you’re offering. It’s the best way to drive word of mouth – through experience. Media, reviewers and bloggers are great to engage with, but make sure you’ve nailed your product first.
The golden rule is that consistent conversation is king. Continue to engage your audience and tell them what you are up to, but listen to their feedback too – if they never know, they’ll never go.
By James Cooley
Please note: this is an abridged version of an article that James wrote for leading trade magazine, Venue.