April was quite the month in Boston and EatingPlaces has been quiet for the last few weeks. I’ve tried to write about various food-related topics, but I kept ending up at the same feeling: do I ignore what’s going on around me or address it? People experience fear, loss, anxiety, and hope in such varying ways. So I took a break from blogging and welcomed spring by being outside and spending time with friends and loved ones. I’m feeling rejuvenated and ready to talk food.
Last month I was invited to a marketing forum where I listened to a panel of fantastic Boston-area food and social media marketing professionals. Undergraduate students from St. John Fisher College in Rochester, NY put together the Fisher Media Management Forum, which was a two-day, two-city event. The student-led forum began in New York City on Thursday, April 11 and then continued in Boston on Friday, April 12.
Throughout the two days, panels featured professionals from the broad fields of marketing and public relations. Communications and business students, many who will be graduating next month, connected with panelists and bridged classroom knowledge with in-the-field scenarios. I was most interested in the ‘PR in the Food Industry’ panel. Making my way up to the BC Club at 100 Federal Street, I looked forward to great views of Boston and having an engaging conversation about food in social media.
Participating in the food industry panel were Renee Hirschberg, founder of the Boston Bunchers and blogger at Eat.Live.Blog; Jacki Morisi, PR and Marketing Manager at Rialto and blogger at Just Add Cheese; Marissa Sweazy, Digital Director at Weber Shandwick; and David Remillard, Marketing and Community Relations at Whole Foods.
(From left to right: Marissa Sweazy, Renee Hirschberg, Jacki Morisi, David Remillard)
Themes of the discussion included outreach and knowing your audience, how restaurants connect with bloggers, the college student perspective on new media, promotions, engaging employees to participate in social media, and the future of the food and digital industries.
The forum was a great opportunity to consider the food industry social media landscape from multiple points of view. It was refreshing to hear Marissa and David discuss the process of reaching out to bloggers, agreeing that quality is more important than quantity and connecting with bloggers is all about forming relationships. Renee began a great conversation about the value of PR firms knowing their writers and being strategic about who they reach out to.
Fisher student Alison Taylor introduced the concept of speed and ease-of-use to the conversation when she explained how Pinterest is too time-consuming to use on a mobile device. It’s true, the future of social is mobile and our forum panel confirmed that.
On the topics of ROI and promotions, David explained how different companies deal with promotions in their own way. Some company cultures and expectations are more short-sighted, while others (such as Whole Foods) are in it for the long-term and will focus on the relationship building process with customers.
During the forum there were a few moments when I thought ‘okay, I’ve had this conversation a million times’, but then when a few different perspectives entered the arena, I realized how beneficial it can be to keep talking about these big issues and social media techniques. The landscape is always changing and the Fisher Media Management Forum did a great job of bringing local, on-the-ground perspectives together for an afternoon.
(St. John Fisher College students with panelists)
Thank you to Samantha Looker who led the Boston forum and St. John Fisher College for making this panel possible.