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You’ve done it; you’ve built your food truck, perfected your menu, gained all of the required licenses and permitting and now it’s time to hit the streets…RIGHT? Wrong! There is one more step you need to take before your truck hits the street.

What is this mystery ingredient? It’s the ingredient we’ve seen numerous food truck operators miss that leaves their grand opening turn out less than expected.

You must build buzz around your food truck by contacting the media, posting press releases, using social media, and taking part in events, awards and other activities to get the word out about your new, mobile food business.

But before you move forward, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Here are 10 things to avoid when starting your food truck PR efforts:

  1. Distribute a press release to hundreds of media members via e-mail. It will go in the trash, and your system will probably crash. Find out who your local newspaper and television food editors and reporters are. These are the people you want to build lasting relationships with.
  2. Send out press releases without adding SEO friendly keywords relating to your food truck business and the community you plan to operate in. You are missing out on a great opportunity to snag more online attention.
  3. Pitch a reporter during a deadline. This is the quickest way for your story to be missed or even ignored.
  4. Say “No comment” to the press. There are better ways to respond to questions. If you aren’t comfortable giving the media an answer immediately, let them know that you get back to them with an answer…and then follow up as soon as you’ve gathered yourself.
  5. Hire a publicist who guarantees placement in all of your local media outlets. Due to the nature of PR, this is a promise that is impossible to keep.
  6. Create your own Website without getting outside feedback. You are too close to the information and risk missing some grammatical errors.
  7. Provide content that is boring and old. Instead, offer valuable information for your local market at all times, and you’ll build long-lasting, customer relationships.
  8. Forget to update your Website on a regular basis. How old is the news and information on your site? If it’s not current, you’ll look outdated and lose business to the competition.
  9. Stop communicating with customers. Outside of face to face conversations at your service window, there are numerous processes to create newsletters, blogs, e-mails, social media, and more, there is no reason you should not talk to customers and get their feedback on a daily basis.
  10. Avoid any public relations or search engine optimization activities because you lack the funds. There are free and inexpensive ways to build buzz around your new mobile food business.

For PR and SEO copyrighting success, take the time to provide value to all of your prospective customers and the media, so your food truck builds positive buzz fast. If you aren’t sure if your work is up to par, have a professional copywriter review it or even write it.

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Most food truck’s across the country lack the cash to invest in an internal press staff, so as usual, this task is just one more job an already busy mobile food vendor needs to take care of themselves. So what is it that journalists want when you send them information about your food truck or an event you are going to be part of?

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Check out our list of 10 Do’s and Don’ts for pitching a story to the press about your food truck.

  1. DO some research and figure out the right reporter before you pitch a story. All reporters have beats and Associated Press also has national writers who specialize in certain areas, including business, entertainment, medicine, health, sports and lifestyles.
  2. DO make sure your story pitch is national in interest and sharply focused. AP is for national and international news. Stories about local food truck events and a new menu items developed by a local food truck aren’t AP stories — but they might be a better fit at a local publication.
  3. DO write succinct press releases, preferably with bullet points noting the time, place and date of the event and a FEW sentences explaining the “what” and “why” of the story. Every newsroom in America receives hundreds of press releases each day by fax and email. Long winded pitches fall through the cracks.
  4. DON’T shop your story around to multiple reporters at once. If one reporter turns down your pitch, it’s likely all reporters will turn it down. If a reporter can’t handle your pitch or it isn’t in their beat area but he or she thinks it has interest, the reporter will pass it along to the appropriate person. Please keep in mind, they talk to each other and pass along pitches all the time.
  5. DO tell reporters that if (despite no. 4) you’re sending a pitch to multiple people within the same newsroom. If a reporter begins a story based on a pitch, only to find out one or two other reporters in other departments or beats have done the same thing, this will make reporters more cautious the next time you pitch something.
  6. DON’T call to follow up on a pitch. If they are interested, they will call or email to let you know.
  7. DO take no for an answer. Nothing drives a reporter crazier than getting multiple pitches for the same story from the same person after they’ve said no once, twice or even three times or having a spokesperson argue on the phone over a “no” response. If you accept a no this time, maybe the next time they will work with you. If you drive them nuts when they are on deadline, that won’t happen.
  8. If you really have a great story, DON’T wait until the day before, or even two days before, to pitch it. The best stories may require a week or more of planning and reporting. Too often, pitches that could have been a good story, but we are first notified of them the day of the event or the day before. That’s just not enough time to turn around a story, alert all the editors, coordinate any video or photo coverage and edit the piece.
  9. DON’T assume you know everything about pitching the media. Media is ever changing and fast moving. With the proliferation of news sites on the Internet popping up daily, news comes in many forms and we can all learn a thing or two!
  10. DO be consistent and send news out regularly. One day your food truck story may be the one that gets chosen to follow.

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One of the consistent topics we cover for food truck owners is how to properly handle the good and bad of social media. There is a good reason why, and it primarily centers around not damaging your food truck’s brand and not to alienate any future or existing customers.

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This week we found a proof positive example as to what not to do when you receive negative press which then carries into the world of social media.

In the latest episode of Kitchen Nightmares, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay got so fed up he refused to help a pair of restaurant owners, Amy and Samy Bouzaglo, of Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona, to salvage their floundering business.

In spite of the episode’s predictable outcome, the couple proudly promoted it on their company’s Facebook page in April before it was shown on television. When the episode aired last Friday, a storm of social media criticism ensued and the feisty Bouzaglos fought back.

The couple jumped on Facebook to defend themselves.

“We do not feel the need to make any excuses for our behavior on tonight’s show,” they said in a statement on Friday. “We do not, nor have we ever stolen or taken any of our servers, waitresses, or waiters tips at Amy’s Baking Company.” They added that they pay their staff “anywhere between $8.00 to $14.00 per hour” and challenged any of the more than 100 people who have worked for them in the past year to prove the allegations uncovered by “Kitchen Nightmares.” They ended the statement with: “So please enjoy the show! Amy & Samy”

By Sunday, after the local paper details from the first day of filming, they went into PR mode:

“Samy and I would just like to thank all of our loyal friends, family and customers who have supported us,” Amy posted on the company’s public Facebook page on Sunday.

But by Monday afternoon, after Reddit, Yelp, and Facebook users criticized them and accused them of reselling other company’s baked goods—some posted links proving that almost all of the pictures of Amy’s “homemade” items had been lifted from other people’s blogs. Things got ugly.

It’s probably best to just let some of the Bouzaglos’ actual Facebook and Twitter posts speak for themselves:

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Then Samy Bouzaglo started threatening anyone from Yelp or Reddit.

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And then they went and brought God into it:

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But the internet can be relentless and, by dinnertime, Amy Bouzaglo was lashing out even at her supporters, and started posting things like this:

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And, for good measure, they posted one last defiant statement on Twitter before locking down their account:

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Even after “Kitchen Nightmares” and all of the Bouzaglos’ confessions, the company’s website still states: “All of our Pastries are baked fresh daily by me.” It also still features a page devoted to Amy’s baking, with photos—like the gorgeous Henna Mehndi Cake— that critics have shown were taken from other sites.

As of this morning the nasty posts have disappeared from Amy’s Baking Company’s Facebook page and the couple now claims the page has been hacked:

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We hope this example of how not to handle yourself on social media shines a light on why we stress that keeping yourself in check when responding to negative press and reviews.

Articles on this topic:

Responding To Online Customer Feedback

Social Media No No’s For Food Truck Owners

4 Tips To Deal With Negative Twitter Comments

 

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tip of the day

We have finally made it to Spring. Even though it wasn’t a harsh winter, it’s now that time of year to look forward to the weather warming up, and packing away the heavy jackets until next winter. For all you mobile food business vendors planning PR campaigns, writing press releases and pitching stories to the media.

Your PR to-do list is filled with Spring in the air, right?

Wrong.

For the majority of food truck owners out there, if you focused your PR campaign on only springtime angles you would be missing out on a huge PR opportunity. Right now, thousands of reporters at major consumer and business magazines are writing about Summer, not Spring.

Case in point, if you starting to sell a branded food line and wish to get a review in Cuisine or Bon Appetite magazine, you better be pitching a summertime angle right now. Perhaps their website editorial teams are still focusing on Spring because they do not have as long a lead time. But if your goal is to make it into the print edition, those section editors are focused on finishing up June and getting ready for July angles.

Most print magazines that have three or four-month lead times are in the consumer segment. Walk into any Barnes & Noble and browse the magazine section (remember, physical bookstores still exist). Most of the major titles you see (Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes And Gardens, Parenting, etc.) are published with this long-lead approach. Regional lifestyle magazines (Ocean Drive, Naples Illustrated, Denver 5280) are also published with a long lead cycle.

This is not isolated to just consumer magazines, by the way. There are many business print magazines that are published with a long lead time. Florida Trend, Forbes, Money, are all business magazines that have a long lead cycle. As with all PR campaigns, it is important to know whether your story is better suited for a consumer or business audience. Once you have that figured out, do your research to see if your list of targeted magazines has a long lead cycle.

Here are some tips for pitching a long-lead print magazine:

When crafting your story pitch think three to six months ahead. What season are we in at that time? What are the major holidays? What are the annual occurrences taking place? Shape your story around all of these to get the editors attention.

Apply the same rules as every day pitching for a reporter. Send a well written email with a compelling subject line. Offer links to your website where the editor can find additional information and resources. Also offer contact information where editors can get back in touch with you.

Read the magazines first and get to know its style, tone, format and editors/contributors. Create a pitch that matches all these and target the appropriate editor or contributor. Most magazines will include contact information for many of the editors and writers. Google their contributors to find their contact information.

If you are pitching a product you sell from your website it is okay to send a press kit with your product for a review. The press materials that accompany the product should focus on the mobile food trend and explanation of why yours is a compelling product, in addition to the focus on the features and benefits. If you call the editor be sure to get to the point and make your phone pitch impactful.

Every PR campaign should include long lead print magazines because achieving a story in one of these magazines can change your mobile business overnight. Depending on the publication, a feature spotlight of your business in a magazine read by millions, and passed on to thousands more, is just as good as appearing on daytime television.

 

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