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It’s sometimes hard to wrap my head around the fact that Food Fête is seven years old.  Food Fête is the single longest “job” I’ve ever had, though I don’t look at it that way at all.

It’s more like a baby I’m still nurturing.

What started in 2005 as a curious idea about how to combine my PR background with a personal interest in food and the culinary arts, has grown into a mainstay event of the food PR industry. We’ve been fortunate to showcase products from many start-up brands alongside the major brands that occupy coveted supermarket shelf space. I’m also humbled by the level of national food media who continue to attend each year.

Yep, there have been some missteps. I’m still trying to forget the summer of 2007 when the venue’s air conditioning broke on a blistering July day, and all I did was apologize for two hours.  Then there’s the wannabe media “party crashers” who apparently will do almost anything to get in just for free stuff.  Ask me sometime about the guy we had to chase down the back stairs and onto the street after sneaking in and stealing a gift bag.

The good news is that lessons learned from these “incidents” have made the event better with each passing year, and I recognize there’s always more to learn.

In looking back at that first NY Food Fête event, we had 26 exhibitors. Today, that number has doubled, along with the media attendance.  My challenges continue to be how to keep things fresh, which I believe we’ve accomplished this spring with our new health-focused events and the new all-chocolate Food Fête coming up this November.

I’ve also been working on some “back burner” ideas that I’m ready to bring to the front in 2012, and hope the industry continues to respond favorably to what we do.

With our big summer media event in New York City just three weeks away, we’re on track for another record event. This is the first year we’ve not framed Food Fête around the Summer Fancy Food Show, which has moved to Washington, D.C. for the next two years.

That connection has become less and less important for Food Fête, as food brands and PR agencies continue to find value in what we do, and keep coming back, regardless of whether they are participating in that industry show.

They say a 7-year itch is when people begin re-evaluating their relationship. My 7-year relationship with Food Fête is just fine, thank you, but that’s not to say I’m not itching to keep creating something new and different.

Keep watching.

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(UPDATE 9/27/10: We’re offering a $250 “early bird” discount off the exhibitor fee at our San Francisco event. Deadline to qualify is Nov. 15)

I announced our 2011 event plans a couple of weeks ago (see press release), which involve producing a total of five media events, three which are brand new and have a specific health focus. Four of the five events next year also will be held in New York City.

The brochure with information on each event is now ready for download by clicking here. Pricing and tentative dates are also included.

We’re now accepting exhibitor applications for all of our 2011 events. A single exhibitor application can be accessed at http://bit.ly/foodfete2011.

Favorable comments and feedback from the food press and PR agencies indicate we’re headed in the right direction, so I’m personally very excited about lies ahead.

I hope you are too.

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I know I’ve been remiss in updating here, but the good news is I’ve been busy working on a new event with the wonderful women from BlogHer.

We’re co-producing a product showcase that doubles as the “Welcome Party” during the second annual BlogHer Food Conference (the conference is already sold out), taking place Oct. 8-9 in San Francisco.  Our event is from 6:30-9 pm on Friday, Oct. 8, where we will host up to 25 artisanal food and beverage companies.

Here’s a link to the release: http://pitch.pe/82721.

This event is slightly different from our “regular” Food Fete events in that it’s only open to BlogHer Food Conference attendees — about 300 food bloggers from across the U.S.  Because bloggers usually work independently and are so geographically dispersed, it’s not everyday that companies get a chance to meet this many food bloggers in one location, so we believe this is a pretty unique opportunity.

The sponsorship fee for a table to sample products is $2,000, and we’re already 50% sold out, so contact me if you’re interested in getting involved.

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It’s hard not to be just a little proud when food writer after food writer goes out of their way to tell me this was the best Food Fête yet.

Especially when I happen to agree.

Despite a little rain around the time Food Fête opened its doors Monday night, nearly 140 food journalists and food bloggers attended our sixth annual Food Fête event in New York on Monday to meet with our 55 exhibitors — record numbers on both fronts.  Particularly rewarding was when some of the most prominent names in food journalism walked through the door.

On hand were writers/producers from Food & Wine, O the Oprah Magazine, The New York Times, Food Network, CNN Eatocracy (CNN’s new food blog), Martha Stewart Living, Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, CBS Sunday Morning, Huffington Post, CoolHunting.com, Epicurious.com, AOL/Slashfood, Family Circle, Real Simple, Parade, Parents, Woman’s Day, Woman’s World, Dessert Professional and TheNibble.com, to name a few.

Metrics aside, I believe the vibe and energy of the room made this particular Food Fête memorable. Among the comments from editors were how friendly, energetic and professional the exhibitors were; how we assembled a really strong mix of companies; and how Food Fete continues to be their favorite food event of the year (okay, I never get tired of hearing that.)

Some very early coverage has started to pop up, and I will update this listing in the coming days and weeks:

You can also read what some of our media attendees and exhibitors had to say by following the #FoodFete Twitter stream.

2011 will be a year of significant expansion for Food Fête, but I can’t reveal those details just yet.

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Our sixth annual Food Fête media event in New York City is just over a week away, and it’s simply going to be our biggest and best ever. I’m so proud of how this event has become a permanent “pin drop” on the map of must-attend food events.

We have a room-busting 53 companies on hand this summer to exhibit new products they’ve been working on this year.

I’m particularly excited to say that a good number of products are making their media debut at Food Fête — always a personal goal that makes our event as meaningful as possible for the press.

Speaking of press, we currently have 180+ planning to attend — another record.  More importantly, some of the industry’s most respected food writers are on the list.

Interest among food editors and bloggers has been so strong that for the first time, we won’t be accepting on-site media registrations — a tough spot for someone in my position to find themselves.

Here’s just a sampling of what’s in store:

  • Lots of dairy and cheese
  • Chocolate and chocolate-based products
  • Sustainability-focused meats
  • Healthy snack foods
  • Gluten-free foods
  • Functional beverages
  • Regional, artisanal vodka
  • Boutique wines from Washington state
  • Inspired kitchen wares with innovative functionality
  • New twists on old classics
  • Ingredient-based products
  • Premium sauces
  • Convenience foods for the home cook
  • Non-dairy (but dairy-inspired) foods
  • Energy/nutrition bars
  • Fruit spreads
  • Soft drinks
  • Foods with eco-friendy packaging
  • Indulgence foods
  • …and more!

Though it’s only June, I’m already working hard on 2011, which I can promise will be a pivotal year for my growing company.  I’m not ready to announce anything just yet, but I can say there will be more opportunities and new services in store that I hope the food press, food PR agencies and food marketers will embrace to make their jobs easier.

I need to start packing.

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Foodsmart_LogoAfter running my own technology PR agency in San Francisco during the rise and fall of the dot-com boom in the late 90s and early 2000, I swore I’d never get back in the PR agency business.

At its peak, I grew my tech firm to eight people; reached a couple million dollars in annual revenue; and rode the wave of Internet startup PR. Then the bottom fell out.  At the end of the day, I was burned out and needed a break.

In 2004, I came up with the idea for my Food Fete media events, which fortunately have really caught on and continue to grow.  I can honestly say I’ve never had a job that’s so much fun as producing these events.  As you might guess, Food Fete has enabled me to build some solid relationships with a good number of the editors who have attended Food Fete over the past four years, plus I’ve come to know a lot of innovative food companies and good PR agencies along the way.

Reinvention: Phase II

I’ve now decided to put those relationships to work for food companies that make amazing products and who want to reach the press with their stories, but with my brand of PR. Here’s a link to the release http://pitch.pe/5073.

Today, I am launching a new food PR and communications consultancy called FoodSmart Communications.  Some might say I’m nuts for launching a new firm in this shaky economy,  but I already have a couple clients on board, with several prospects in the pipeline.

So, why start a new food consultancy, and why now?  After looking at what’s going on in the food PR industry (and being on the receiving end of a lot of PR pitches because of this blog), I identified a need for what I believe is a smarter way of serving clients.  For a couple of years, I’ve also been paying attention to all the PR and media chatter about unfocused, irrelevant PR pitches, which for some editors reached a tipping point, branding anything coming a PR firm as spam.

Permission-based PR

That’s why with FoodSmart, I decided to take risk and implement permission-based PR, meaning I will only send client information to food writers and bloggers who have opted-in to receive it.  I suspect I’m not the only one doing this (and this approach won’t be right for everyone), but I do believe (and based on early feedback from food writers), it will be well-received by the media, not to mention creating a lot of value for clients.

At this writing, more than 160 food writers and bloggers have opt-ed in, which blows me away.  Among them are nearly every major food, women’s and lifestlye magazine that covers food.  There are still a few holes in the list, but it’s a matter of time before it’s where I want it to be.

To learn more, visit my “beta” blogsite at www.foodsmartpr.com.  It’s still a work in progress, as I imagine the entire agency will be as I roll out this new way of reaching out to the media.

If you’re a food company and want to talk about how I might help you, drop me a line at 713-862-2771 or hello (at) foodsmartpr (dot) com.  If you’re food writer and want to opt-in, click here for the online form.

I invite comments, as I’m sure some will have an opinion about my approach.
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I’ve recently (or should I say finally) jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. After only a few days, I see what all the fuss is about.

If you’re on Twitter or have been thinking about participating, follow me at www.twitter.com/foodfete

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