Public Relations

TrizCom Client: Soulman’s Bar-B-Que Celebrates the Commander-In-Beef


By Dana Cobb, TrizCom PR

Bar-b-que has been a longstanding tradition for holidays like the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Families and friends gather around a grill to enjoy ribs, brisket and sausage smothered in sauce. Many do not realize that, like America, bar-b-que has evolved over time as presidents pass down their traditions from one to another.

America’s love for bar-b-que began with our first president, George Washington. In a 1769 journal entry, he wrote, “Went in to Alexandria to a Barbecue and stayed all Night.” He attended and hosted several bar-b-ques from then on, passing down a tradition many of our leaders continued. The seventh president, Andrew Jackson, made bar-b-que a staple at presidential campaigns and is credited as the first to establish the Election Day bar-b-que.

Former President James K. Polk was not known as a bar-b-que supporter, but he was in power in 1845 when Texas was added to the Union. Without him, Texan bar-b-que would not be American. Former President Abraham Lincoln’s campaign rallies were usually at picnics with pit bar-b-qued turkey. Burgoo, a stew-like meal of meat and vegetables, often accompanied the turkey.

Former President Dwight Eisenhower was seen grilling at the White House on several occasions throughout his residency. He said he could eat steak every day of the week. At times, the public wrote to the White House inquiring about recipes for different sauces. He was delighted to pass on his tips and tricks.

Former President Lyndon Johnson became the most important representative for Texas bar-b-que. His caterer, Walter Jetton, fed 300 hungry mouths at the first bar-b-que state dinner. LBJ continued to host prominent leaders at the White House and his Texas ranch throughout his presidency, usually serving ribs and brisket.

Former President George H.W. Bush also preferred Texas bar-b-que. He hosted regular Sunday bar-b-ques on the White House Lawn. He passed the tradition down to his son, former President George W. Bush, when he served as president. President Bush had planned a bar-b-que on Sept. 11, 2001. The event was cancelled, and the meals were instead given to first responders at the Pentagon.

America’s newest president, Donald Trump, also enjoys some good bar-b-que. He surprised diners after a rally in Greensboro. He ordered a large chopped pork bar-b-que plate with slaw, hush puppies, French fries and sweet tea. It will be interesting to see if our current president will utilize bar-b-que at the White House during his presidency and if bar-b-que will continue to make its mark on American history in the years to come.

Do Your Research to Find the Right Reporter

One of the key, but often neglected, aspects of public relations is research. Maybe it’s because research feels like homework: bent over a computer, scanning spreadsheets and databases, or going to Google and clicking on the 12th page of results and then the 13th. But the lack of research is one of the main reasons journalists hate PR executives (aka publicists), so if you take this important step for your startup’s outreach, you’ll have put yourself strides ahead of many quote-unquote professionals.

The reason research is so important is that it will let you know that you’re contacting the right person for your story. Imagine you’re starving and in the mood for a hot, gooey slice of pizza: how do you think you’d react if you were instead served a salad? Or a tall glass of sweet tea? A hammer? Take that aggravation, multiply it by hundreds, and that’s what reporters deal with every day. City reporters get pitched stories about new restaurants. Restaurant critics are asked to write about clothing lines. And fashion editors are contacted regarding playground fundraisers. All because someone didn’t bother to find out what the reporters actually write about.

And each ignorant pitch just makes it harder for the next person to try and get that reporter’s attention, not to mention running the risk of permanently turning that writer hostile to you and your company.

So how do you do research? Most PR pros turn to a subscription database called Cision, which lists just about every traditional media outlet in the world (i.e., print, TV and radio), along with a good number of online publications and blogs. Anyone can buy a subscription, but they start in the thousands, so it doesn’t make a lot of sense unless your startup is actually a PR agency. Don’t feel dismayed because there are plenty of ways to research that will only cost you time, not money.

Nearly every traditional outlet has a Web presence these days. Scroll to the bottom of any page, and you’ll find a link to an About, Contact Us or similarly named page. That’s where you’ll find the names, job titles and (hopefully) email addresses of the staff. But don’t stop there! Try to discern which people do what jobs. If you’re not sure, use Google to find job descriptions. For instance, a managing editor rarely writes or even assigns stories and a publisher, despite being “the boss,” almost never has a say in content. Even after you’ve narrowed your choices down to just reporters, keep digging. If you’ve developed the next Yelp, you want to reach the technology or small business reporter, NOT the food editor. And, finally, take a look at what the reporter has produced. A woman who writes a weekly column about small business might turn out to only be interested in tips and advice, not new small businesses.

You’ll want to do the same thing for each and every outlet you come across, whether they be local, national or international. If the outlet is a one-person blog, look at some blog posts first. If it’s a radio show, try to find old episodes online.

And if you’re ever not sure, call or email to find out. Reporters always appreciate a short email asking if they’re the right person for such-and-such story. Often, if they aren’t, they’ll direct you to the correct person.

Becoming a Thought Leader Requires, You Guessed It, Thought

Public relations is about more than simply getting a reporter to write a story about your company (not that there’s anything simple in achieving that feat). It’s also about creating name recognition of your company in the minds of consumers and investors, and about protecting that hard-won reputation from detractors and up-and-comers. One of the best ways to achieve these ends is to position yourself (or the most media-friendly person in your startup) as an expert, or as we in the PR business like to call them, a thought leader.

Thought leaders are the people in any industry who are respected as knowledgeable and innovative. They are in-demand speakers, authors, and frequent guests on TV and radio, as well as cited experts in print. Mark Cuban is a great, local example. How did they get there? Like anything else, it wasn’t magic; it was the result of the kind of strategic approach a PR professional can create and guide you along.

The basis of any good thought leadership campaign is blogging, whether that be on your company blog or on a platform such as LinkedIn, where you can readily find groups specializing in your areas of interest. (If such a group doesn’t exist, that’s even better—you can start it yourself.) Give yourself a comfortable schedule so that you can post on a fairly regular basis, and remember to self-syndicate via your other social media channels. But, most important, take controversial positions. These should be stances you truly believe in but which go against the established flow, or strike off in different directions. You want to be interesting to potential readers, and even if they disagree with you, they’ll at least be engaged.

At the same time, keep an eye out when reading your industry’s blogs and news sites, and general business sources, for writers who are described as guest commentators, guest contributors, etc. They usually have a small bio box or tag line that describes what their “day job” is, with a company website link. Once you feel comfortable with your writing, and you believe you have a great idea for an article, those are the outlets you’ll want to contact, positioning yourself as a contributor.

Write up a few paragraphs of your article and submit it to the correct editor. You don’t want to submit the entire article in case the editor doesn’t like the idea, or likes the idea but wants a different angle. Sometimes, the editors will even want to work directly with you on the finished piece.

Be patient. Just as reporters get hundreds of pitches every day, editors get dozens of thought leadership queries and submissions they have to juggle with their daily duties. As well, they need to consult production calendars and schedules to see if your submission can be slotted in. Waiting weeks for a response is not uncommon.

In the meantime, remember, you can only submit that article to one outlet at a time. Outlets will not run the same story as a competitor, and allowing someone to publish your article generally involves giving them what are known as “first rights”. Not only is it embarrassing for the outlets if two of them run the exact same article, there could be legal repercussions that fall back on you—not to mention you’ll never get a byline with them again.

It may sound like a lot of work but that’s only because it is. But the payoff is worth it. Not only are you raising your company’s brand awareness, but you’re increasing the chances of being a speaker at conventions, and best of all, having reporters calling you for comments and interviews instead of you constantly begging them.