Two minutes, that’s the length of the legendary horse race in our home city of Louisville, Ky. Prepping for Kentucky Derby coverage starts 20 weeks earlier.
Estes Public Relations has 10 Louisville food and beverage clients on the roster for 2016. Our first Derby meeting is often in early January for the annual event held the first Saturday in May. After taking stock of new clients, old friends and emerging trends, we make our plans for pitches and get to work. This year is the 142nd running of the Kentucky Derby, so being topical and bringing fresh ideas each year is key to great PR.
And we’re off…
By February, we were setting up interviews and tastings with a freelance writer working on a Louisville travel story for a major newspaper; had secured a multi-page recipe feature for a Southern lifestyle magazine; and were in talks with several freelancers looking for new ideas for everything from cocktail roundups to local culture pieces and new restaurant features.
Because we have been Louisville’s leading food and beverage PR firm for more than a decade, many journalists come straight to us, rather than us pitching. We also continue to work hand-in-hand with our local convention and tourism bureau to accommodate media requests. We’ll field these inquiries for much of March and April.
The first turn…
The increasing prevalence of social media in journalism fuels our team to be more creative, brainstorming new and click-worthy content to promote our clients. Whether it’s an outrageous cocktail, celebrity tie-in or over-the-top entrée, we look at what the media wants and find new opportunities each year to inject our client stories into the bigger Derby picture.
Estes PR specializes in earned media, pitching relevant and noteworthy articles instead of paying for sponsored content. The Kentucky Derby is filled with big-name advertisers, so our local restaurants, chefs and food and beverage brands benefit from having us as their jockey to compete in a crowded field (much like the 20-horse race itself). Longshots (like non-bourbon spirits), pedigrees (like historic hotels and staple eateries), and upstarts (like brand new restaurants) work with Estes PR each year.
Into the home stretch…
While long-lead publications look for Kentucky Derby recipes and Louisville travel content early in the year, online outlets and regional newsrooms do much of their work in April and early May. The most exciting 2-hours in PR happens at the Churchill Downs race track’s backside where every local and many national and regional television and radio outlets broadcast live each morning of the week leading up to the race. Estes Public Relations books live television segments with chefs and bartenders, picks up radio interviews on the fly, and mingles with media influencers during whirl-wind sessions.
Our eclectic client line-up helps us match journalists with the best interview subject or expert for whatever they need. Want a perfectly mixed (and picture-perfect) mint julep? Got it. Need a chef to give tips on Kentucky Derby entertaining? Done. Have an outside-the-box idea for a shoot? We’ll make it happen!
The Derby finish line…
Because our stable is more than just Louisville, we also work diligently to manage our time to keep our non-Kentucky clients just as top of mind. Time management, strategic planning and Southern charm help us ensure everyone is happy and can relax on Derby Day.
Every good PR account executive should have a firm grasp of AP style. Each team member at Estes Public Relations has a stylebook on his or her desk. But sometimes things slip through the cracks. Our in-house editor Rachel Goldenberg explains the mistakes she finds most.
Look for these errors:
1. Don’t capitalize titles. Unless they’re the President or Mayor, its lowercase. And while we’re at it – don’t capitalize seasons (spring, summer, fall, winter) either.
2. Numbers are tricky. Remember to write out one through nine and list 10 or more. Watch out, if its a percentage is always a numeral.
3. Pay attention to abbreviations. Months with five letters or few are written out (and all in a row – March, April, May, June, July) while longer ones are abbreviated like Jan., Feb., Aug., Sept., Oct., Nov., and Dec. Each state in the United States has a set abbreviation too – look it up!
4. Get off the word ‘on.’ You don’t need it when you’re listing a date or day of the week.
5. Watch your times. If an event takes place on the hour, there is no need for a colon followed by zeroes. Always include periods in a.m. and p.m.
And one more… When it comes to more than vs. over, AP changed their ruling recently but we stick to our guns. It’s always “more than” here!
If you’re not sure, you can always check the AP Stylebook online. We watch it closely for changes – and they happen. New words and rules are added regularly. The Associated Press even added a whole section about food and editing recipes not that long ago! It’s like they knew we were here in food and beverage PR world looking for a standardized answer. We work hard to go along with AP’s style rules to make it easiest for journalists to do their job and talk about our clients.
What is public relations? How is it different from marketing? Many of our clients come to us because they need help navigating options to get the word out about their brand, restaurant, chef or business. But why PR?
Think of it this way…
PR is earned media. Marketing is paid media.
A public relations firm will work with you to tell your story. We secure articles without payment to the publication. We seek out the outlets that will best help your business, work with you to structure your message, contact the writer most suited to write the story and coordinate anything needed until your name is in print. Nothing is guaranteed or paid for, but the end result is much more valuable.
An ad is a ad – that’s marketing. You paid money for your assets to be published somewhere. Think about when you flip through a magazine. You’ll see hundreds of ads and sponsored content, but do you read it? You read a magazine for the articles because you trust the writers and editors to write things that appeal to you and your passions. At Estes Public Relations, we talk directly to those journalists to convince them that your spirits brand, new restaurant, luxury hotel or anything else is worth covering. Because we’ve worked with them many times before, they listen. All of our clients have interesting stories worth telling. It may take more time than buying an ad, but we make sure those stories are told.
We take this same approach when it comes to other types of media. Targeted pitching, media savvy and follow-through are what makes for good public relations. Mass press releases, blanket pitches and poorly-conceived press conferences will get you nowhere in this over-saturated market. We help you get where you need to go.
Here at Estes Public Relations, we hire interns on a quarterly basis to work in our Louisville office. Our internship program gives communications, PR and journalism students the opportunity to see the inner workings of a boutique PR firm. You’ll write press releases, manage media lists, attend photo/video shoots and more as our intern. But how do you get one of the coveted spots?
5 tips to land a public relations internship
1. Apply early. Reach out to us with plenty of time before the internship would start to be at the top of our list.
2. Do your homework. Tell us what interests you about our PR agency in particular. Share which clients excite you. Taking a little extra initiative will stand out.
3. Be flexible. We want you to get the most out of your internship, which means spending a lot of time in the office with us. If your schedule is too full with activities and classwork, it may not be the right time to apply.
4. Put your best foot forward. Show up on time, dress appropriately for the office and bring copies of your resume and a portfolio.
5. Follow up. For a PR internship or any job interview, always send a thank you note either by mail or email. Tell us why you want to work with us and what about the internship you’d look forward to.
Inviting the media to your business for a major announcement is a big step. Television stations and newspapers get invited to many press conference and media roundups each day – so why should they go to yours?
How to get noticed:
1. Pick the right time. Most media outlets have a morning and afternoon meeting. Don’t schedule during one of those times. Try somewhere in between.
2. Watch the news. Make sure nothing big is happening that day. If the mayor is launching a new initiative or a large event is going on, they’ll go there first. Weather and sporting event conflicts often take away the media who may attend.
3. Do something fun! No one wants to see you stand in front of a podium and talk. You’ll get more air time and turn my attention your way if you incorporate something interesting. Launching a spirits brand? Have the mayor sign a barrelhead and have a toast. Opening a new restaurant? Offer samples or a chef demo. The more engaging visuals, the better.
4. Don’t forget to follow up. Don’t just send a media alert and hope they show up. Call an hour before and ask, nicely, if they have it on their plan for the day. A friendly push can make the difference.
5. Do the work for them. So they didn’t show up or you didn’t get as much air time as you’d hoped. Take photos during the event and send them out to anyone who couldn’t attend. Invite them back the next day for a one-on-one interview. Add some value and try to build on the press you did get!