I remember our first big PR push. We had already been on HGTV and had some Jonathan Gold love, but this was different. It was unexpected, unplanned, and unbelievable. Operating in farmers markets around L.A. was hard work but we loved it and it was our thing.
We still didn’t know much about branding or marketing but we knew how to show up, show out, and show off. Bigmista and Mrs. Mista would show up to work the crowd. We showed out by serving some of the best damn barbecue at any farmers market. We showed off by making sure we knew everybody. What we didn’t know was that one of our customers was the food editor of the L.A. Times.
Short sited folx would call it luck. That’s the mindset of someone who is of the hustle and grind persuasion. Don’t get me wrong, being featured in the food section of the L.A. Times was a big ass deal, but it wasn’t luck. Unbeknownst to us at the time, we were building a brand and we got the attention of some influential folx. Don’t confuse that with hiring influencers.
I know how it is. You pour your heart and soul into your restaurant. You craft what you consider the perfect menu. Maybe you design a warm and inviting atmosphere and hired a kick ass crew. What you’re not getting is the visibility. You know you need to get your name out there, but you're stuck. You nag’n and tag’n your network to like and share your social media posts, but the crickets are chirping to damn loud.
Here's the brutal truth: Producers and writers aren't looking for restaurants. They're looking for stories. And guess what? You got ‘em but you’re not tell em. If you think I’m wrong, test me. Ask any friend or family member what’s the story behind your business. Ask any staff member the same question. If those closest to you can’t tell the story then you best believe your audience can't either.
It's time to stop chasing PR and start building a billboard they can't miss. We didn't ask to be on The Great Food Truck Race, Man Fire Food, or BBQ Crawl. They came to us. We even shot a pilot for our own show.
Step 1: Give Your Personal Brand a Name, Not Just a Label
Back in the day we were known as Bigmista and Mrs. Mista, not Neil and Phyllis. As a founder who works in the business, your name don’t mean shit unless it's memorable. It's a bad sign when folx can describe you easier than they can remember your name. And if they can’t remember YOUR name, they can’t connect you to the brand.
Here's the challenge: Come up with a name that's:
Memorable: It should stick in people's minds long after they see you.
Evocative: It should hint at something without giving everything away.
Unique: It should stand out from the alternative.
Aligned: It should be in alignment with the name of the business for a deeper connection
Once you have a name you love, use it all the damn time. From your monogramed merch to your website to your social media profiles, make it front and center.
Step 2: Find Your Core Message
What makes your restaurant special? What's the story you want to tell? Your core message is the heart of your brand, and it's weaved into every story you tell. You can have a plethora of stories, but if they don’t tie back to the core message, you’re gonna leave gaps in the brand architecture.
Here are some questions to help you find your core message:
What do you want for and from the brand?
What are your personal objectives for your business goals?
What does dedication look like for the brand?
What is the ethical part of the brand that’s extends outward?
Answering these questions develop the DNA C.O.D.E. of the personal brand. Fully flushing it out creates a core message. That message of the personal brand reveals the promise and value of your business brand. Once you understand it, you can weave it into everything.
Step 3: Stop Asking Permission, Start Attracting Attention
You've built your billboard, and you're shouting your message from the rooftops. But producers and writers still aren't paying attention. Why? Because you're still asking for permission to be on their show or in their article. You're also begging for likes, shares, and pitches.
Here's the shift you need to make: Focus on attracting attention, not chasing it. Create content that's so good, so interesting, so unique that producers, writers and their network, can’t help but notice you. They want the story.
Here are some ideas:
Host live cooking demonstrations: Show people how to make their favorite dishes at home, and let your personal brand shine through.
Recipe remix challenge: Invite customers to recreate your signature dishes with their own twist, and share the results on social media with a specific hashtag. You can judge the entries and offer prizes to generate buzz.
Challenge food influencers to a showdown: Food influencers should know how to cook as well as they eat. Call them out and see who wins.
Repurpose leftovers: Demonstrate how customers can turn leftovers from your spot into a new meal. They essentially turn your food into an ingredient.
The more valuable and engaging your content is, the more likely it is to be picked up by producers and writers. They are NOT looking for restaurants that beg for attention. They're looking for stories that captivate viewers.
Know why being on a TV show so important?
It's not about the fleeting fame or the instant boost in sales. It's about credibility and trust. When people see your restaurant on TV, they perceive you as a legitimate, successful business. It's a powerful form of social proof that can take your spot to the next level. All levels after that rely on the brand and how it markets.
But remember, it's not about the destination, it's about the journey. By building a strong personal brand and creating valuable content, you're not just attracting producers and writers, you're building a loyal following of customers who will love your brand years after the PR is gone.
Knowing what I know now, I look back and see the millions I left on the table by not capitalizing on the PR of my personal brand. So name your personal brand, capitalize on your core message, and stop asking for permission. Download the 2-word brand kit to get started.