Food For Thought - RMD Blog

How Public Relations Must Change for Food in 2019

How Public Relations Must Change for Food in 2019

Undoubtedly, the way consumers interact with the food industry has changed. However, one constant remains a steadfast pillar: Public and media relations as strategically consistent, credible influences.

Especially where challenger food brands are concerned, the art of communication and building brand relationships between brand and consumer (as well as brand and media) still promotes both authenticity and authority. A one-two punch that, in turn, encourages increased thought leadership. However, while the core purpose of PR remains sound, the strategies many brands rely on continue to evolve. Between new technologies and tools to more efficient avenues of communication, it’s no surprise that this would be the case.  

At the heart of each challenger food brand’s PR engagement is the desire to blow through obscurity, and building credibility is step one. In fact, the key strategies designed to do just that can no longer be siloed, but rather, must be dynamically played off of one another. Full integration is mandatory in 2019, and now is the time to employ a fuller view of Paid Media, Earned Media, Shared Media and Owned Media.

At the risk of being trampled by competition, challenger food brands can stick to the status quo. But, in the face of industry change and consumers making demands for transparency across all fronts, the New Year must bring PR and media relations that influence both customers and consumers.

Here’s your ticket to making moves that impact your challenger food brand beyond media impressions. Let’s make moves that drives tangible sales:

Paid Media can effectively help to expand your reach and awareness in an ever-crowded space. Paid social, for instance, can necessarily cut through the clutter of a platform that continues to grow competitive. In what Hootsuite has called the “pay-to-play era” on social media, “marketers have increased their social ad budgets (up 32 percent in 2018 alone).”

However, to truly bring paid media opportunities to life, countering them with a strong Earned Media strategy is also key. Where paid media can amplify your message, earned media can bring even greater credibility to it. By partnering with an agency partner that can capture the brand’s voice effectively, there is much greater potential to build consumers trust and ultimately, consumer loyalty.

Meanwhile, Shared Media, encouraging brands to partner with like-minded organizations, is an awareness tactic that we know promotes the growth of all communities involved. Whether through a well-strategized cause campaign or through co-marketing across the social space, shared media presents the unique opportunity to capture a new audience at the start of the sales funnel and quickly carry them through to acquisition.

In providing valuable and relevant content to help fuel strong shared media opportunities, Owned Media is unmatched. Whether a blog post from the brand’s internal team, video, webinars or user-generated content, this is an opportunity for you to drive profound credibility. Working your curated content into a well-rounded strategy that makes the most of each piece will further help to fuel the brand’s success with unprecedented awareness. This is where obscurity can be busted through.

In a fully integrated strategy that relies on each avenue of PR, a brand can strike gold and gain coveted credibility, as well as thought leadership. And, thought leadership, in turn, continues to promote credibility. Using the power behind paid media, earned media, shared media and owned media means making the most of each strategy.

Next Steps

While change can be difficult (and daunting), relying on an agency that loves the challenger food categoryas much as your brand does means it doesn’t need to be. For an exceptional agency partner, changing the way we look at PR shouldn’t take a second thought. It’s all for the sake of the brand. And, just as it always has been, brand is still king.

A Little Bit of Culture in a Big Way

A Little Bit of Culture in a Big Way

This past March we celebrated our 26th anniversary by continuing to be the strongest and smartest agency in the Challenger Food category. Any RMDer will tell you: RMD is all about the culture. So, what makes this place one we all love coming to every day?RMD Teambuilding

RMD’s culture is like no other. While the formula for a perfect workplace may not exist, we think that by understanding that it is a collaborative effort and that it is something we consciously work to maintain every day, we’ve come pretty damn close.

Here’s a taste of what we think makes our agency great!

 1. Mojo Lunch. Hey, a team’s gotta eat, right? Mojo Lunch on Friday is a perk this hungry team never takes for granted!

2. Quarterly Outings. Team building makes the world or RMD go round! Two for family and friends and two for team only makes for happy people all around.

3. Plank Like You Need It. It might seem unnecessary, but the RMDers who plank every day know that all it takes to manage your state is a couple of abdominal building minutes!

4. #ThankfulThursday. Teambuilding makes RMD go round, but gratitude is at the heart of all we do, and Thankful Thursday reminds us of that.

5. Summer Fridays. It’s summer, it’s warm, it’s sunny and it’s time to enjoy a half day off to do whatever you want to do – except work.

6. Bang a Gong. A gong helps us to celebrate the big and small victories audibly throughout the day!

7. #AttitudeOfGratitude. An RMD-inspired way of celebrating the gifts (big and small) we each give to one another every day. #AOG to you for giving our blog post a read!

8. Soul Train. When we’re saying goodbye to a team member, our version of Soul Train sends ‘em out in a classic RMD manner.

9. Furry friends. They’re our official Directors of Stress Management, and they do a damn good job!

Dogs of RMD10. ProBest. Held every Friday, ProBest is our time to come together and become the high-quality professionals that help to make RMD special.

11. Mojo. It’s our time to reconnect and reflect on yet another outstanding week Think of it as a little teambuilding every Friday morning.

12. Virtual Showers. RMD throws one heck of a shower. Wedding and baby showers are our specialties!

13. Community Work. Because we’re all like-minded individuals, work like that we do with Wagons Ho Ho Ho is something we have a great deal of pride.

14. Food Holidays. National Ice Cream Day isn’t just a fun food holiday to share across social media; it’s also an excuse to indulge in our favorite ice cream brand: Graeter’s Ice CreamSurprise and delight at RMD

15. Sprints. Revolutionizing the way we hold meetings, you have to experience a sprint to see how much more productive they make us!

16. Book Club. In our commitment to excellence, we love meeting every Wednesday morning to share our thoughts on that month’s industry-related book. Check out a few books worth reading.

17. HipChatting. We just use this internal communication tool as our agency-wide message board to celebrate victories, share ideas and feel connected. Sound off!

6 Ways to Improve Your Sense of a Sensible Team

6 Ways to Improve Your Sense of a Sensible Team

Teamwork and relationships within a team can be very elusive. Well done, a strong sense of team seems effortless, but rest assured, it never is. At RMD, we constantly work to balance the need for conflict to bust through complacency in a hurry … with the need to build bridges within our teams that forge strong relationships. We have found these six tips to help along the way:

1. Take the initiative. Go to the other person first.

2. Sympathize with their feelings. Listen before talking. Focus on their feelings.

3. Confess your part of the conflict.

4. Attack the problem, not the person.

5. Cooperate as much as possible.

6. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution.

Do Certifications Matter in the Restaurant/Food Service Category?

Do Certifications Matter in the Restaurant/Food Service Category?

Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine authored article by Sue Reninger

By Sue Reninger, Managing Partner and Client Brand Strategist

The food industry is independently unique, and today, consumers are more educated and thinking more critically than ever. In fact, many have begun asking whether the industry and the restaurants it encapsulates are doing their part to maintain the integrity guests so desperately desire.

Are we doing our part to lead guests to better, more healthful and more sustainable choices? Are we offering guests the food from our menus because we truly believe in its inherent good?

To best serve restaurant guests, today’s chefs and their menus need to reflect the restaurant as a brand, but also its mission and values, overall. For many, that means turning to the power of third-party certifications. Top certifications in the food world include, but are not limited to, a handful of the select elite:

USDA Organic: This relevant certification regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced.

Why this certification is important: A 2016 poll from the Pew Research Center found that 55 percent of Americans believe that organic food is healthier than conventional. This is particularly true of organically grown fruits and vegetables. The market reached $43 billion in 2016, and a 2017 survey found that 82 percent of American homes stock organic food.

In considering certified organic ingredients versus foods simply labeled as ‘organic’, consider the fact that a certification requires that farmers and handlers document their processes and get inspected every year. This ultimately allows you to make an educated and informed choice for your restaurant.

Non-GMO Project Verified: The Non-GMO Project is an independent verifier of products made according to best practices for avoiding genetically modified organisms in the U.S. and Canada.

Why this certification is important: A non-GMO market insight report released by Mintel in February 2017 states 34 percent of Baby Boomers and 29 percent of Millennials surveyed avoid genetically modified foods in their diet, which supports the fact that this mindset spans generations. Research demonstrates today’s restaurant guests are actively seeking out non-GMO foods, and the ingredients on your menu can mirror their concern.

 Certified Gluten-Free: The Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO)is dedicated to providing certification services to producers of gluten-free products using quality assessment and control measures throughout production, in order to provide consumer assurance of the safety of their foods.

Why this certification is important: With rigorous standards ensuring no cross contamination, a Gluten-Free Certification oftentimes means you can cater to a still growing community of foodies. For guests not participating in an exclusively gluten-free diet, your commitment will help them perceive your restaurant as one that is both tolerant of these special dietary needs and inclusive of their friends and family who rely on a gluten-free diet.

 Certified Humane: Administered by independent nonprofit Humane Farm Animal Care, this program ensures that animals raised for dairy, lamb, poultry or beef products are treated humanely and with their welfare in mind.

Why this certification is important: Packaged Facts survey data from February through March 2017 show that 58 percent of U.S. consumers are more concerned about animal welfare than they were just a few years ago. This certification shows them you are listening, and even more, doing your part to support a sustainable food system.

Certified Vegan: Products Certified Vegan speak most prominently to a population of food lovers interested in vegan products. The certification ultimately aims to help vegans shop and eat with confidence. It also helps companies and restaurants recognize a growing vegan market and brings the word Vegan—and the lifestyle it represents—into the mainstream.

Why this certification is important: While your restaurant does not need a certification to wear a vegan label, ensuring the ingredients you use on your menu have integrity behind them is important to restaurant-goers. Show them you align with their values and respect their need for complete transparency.

Above all, the certifications and conversations surrounding food should demonstrate to restaurant leaders the way guests view nutritional information is vastly different from what it once was, and what it will be in the years to come.

In reflecting upon whether your menu should showcase the trends and certifications that have frequently spotted the food industry, consider the restaurant’s authenticity through the guest’s eyes. If your menu no longer speaks to your core guest or aligns with their values, it won’t be long before your brand lags behind your competitive counterparts.

Today, third-party certifications can help affirm your restaurant’s commitment to transparency and authenticity. Furthermore, third-party certifiers can act as strong partners in bringing a menu and dining experience that match what you envision for your brand to reality. For brands especially focused on the up and coming generations of restaurant goers, certifications can help shape your image, convey the values your company stands for and, as a result, build loyalty.

This outward reflection of your restaurant’s internally stated morals is one avenue by which you can show shoppers you are committed to their wellbeing, while still boasting an impressive menu.

 

Natural Products Expo West … Fits Us Naturally.

Natural Products Expo West … Fits Us Naturally.

RMD attends Expo WestNatural Products Expo West is arguably the biggest, the most interesting and the most exhausting food trade show of the year. Food brands of all types come from across the country and the globe to introduce their foods and new product development, share their ideals and gain new distribution and fans. In short, everyone is after the almighty and powerful retailer relationships … and consumer dollar.

So, what were the trends that Team RMD spotted at Expo West last week? Here’s a summation, along with some of our favorite finds:

Bars and Balls: From protein-enriched to caffeine-enhanced, meat and grain bars and nutrition balls are making their way into all meal categories — and aren’t just for snacking anymore. Our favorite: The Better Than Coffee bar at 100 calories and just 3g of sugar, it truly tastes like a caffeine kick (and agency people are known for their love of coffee). We also love the relaunched MetaBall, which has introduced a whole new array of flavors (and new packaging!), including our favorite – Berry Cobbler Crunch.

Pork Rinds: Grandpa’s snack has made its way to mainstream America with reinventions of this old favorite. Our favorite, of course, is Southern Recipe Small Batch’s rinds. Newly introduced at the show? The oven baked rinds, touting less fat and a powerful bacon flavor. The traditional line of Southern Recipe Small Batch rinds is equally delicious. We suggest the Spicy Dill. This flavor combination insists that your taste buds take notice.

Grab ‘N Go Everything! There’s protein-enhanced, grab ‘n go foods in nearly EVERY category. Clearly, we’ve gotten the message that protein = good and we’re all on the run. For a flavor sensation that’ll make you turn that car around and want more, give Lilly’s Hummus a taste. It’s hummus made with clean, simple ingredients… and obviously, lots of heart.

Grain Free/Alternative Grains/Gluten Free: The Gluten Free community is in for a TREAT if Expo West is any indication of what’s going to be found in grocery aisles and on Amazon in the coming months. Outrageously delicious, this category has come a long, long, long way. Our must-try favorites: Soozy’s Muffins, Brekki Overnight Oats, The Toasted Oat and Oggi Pizza. OMG, delicious!

Convenience: Everything that’s entering the market is in some way trying to solve our biggest challenges … we’re time-starved and still, want delicious food when we sit down at the table. Food brands have gotten this message. For the best products in this category (that we LOVE), try Saffron Road entrees (like, wow!) and Medlee Food’s new line of flavor-infused butters.

Cut Through The Clutter And Attract Your Tribe

Cut Through The Clutter And Attract Your Tribe

RMD_Social_Strategy  The food industry is a competitive one, with restaurants dawning trendy personas, while food brands are introducing new must-have products that entice consumers to buy as soon as they hit the selves.

For marketers, this means battling a crowded field where the average restaurant guest or food consumer no longer respond to overt messages to “buy now!”   Read the rest of this compelling Entrepreneurial Chef magazine article written by our very own Managing Partner of Strategy, Sue Reninger.

5 Key Food Crisis Tactics to Gain the Upper Hand

5 Key Food Crisis Tactics to Gain the Upper Hand

Food DiveAt a time when consumer awareness has peaked and transparency remains critical, the food industry has worked to reestablish the role and definition of food safety. Included in the cost of doing business today is a food safety communications plan that ultimately rises above industry standards. Companies must not only employ a strategically sound plan for crisis management but also whip-smart crisis communication and protocol.

Read more about Sue Reninger’s article as it was published in FoodDive

How To Stop Thinking Just Anyone Can Represent Your Business in Social Media

How To Stop Thinking Just Anyone Can Represent Your Business in Social Media

SEO OptimizationThe food industry is crowded with brand after brand just trying to make it to the shopping cart of the consumer. What makes a food brand special? What makes you indispensable in the consumer’s mind and heart? An agency that specializes in the food industry has access to knowledge that can propel you forward, putting you in the hands of the perfect consumer for strength and sustainability.

For each brand, their purpose is different. It’s time for you to evaluate (or re-evaluate) yours … and identify the most strategic avenue by which to share it.

The list of impactful social media platforms goes on and on. While a good product is a key to success if consumers don’t know about it, how well can it perform? In the meanwhile, the world is seemingly in tune with the latest social trends. In order to maximize your momentum in this space, there’s something deeper brands should responsibly consider.

The question is, why should you employ the services of an agency to manage your social media instead of that eager new intern or a family member who can’t wait to get their hands on your social accounts?

Instead, consider these four big reasons to rely on an agency to help share your brand’s story and, just as importantly, your purpose:

1. Talking to the consumer and managing crisis.

A series of high-profile food crisis has caused a growing awareness of particularly stubborn pathogens amongst all consumer groups. Both food manufacturing teams and their marketing counterparts have been charged with the daunting task of exemplifying excellence in food safety by incorporating industry best practices, particularly by bolstering their crisis management plans … this is especially necessary in a space as transparent as the social space.

 By fine-tuning a food crisis strategy, your brand can ensure it continues to serve the organization well and protects its public profile while helping to instill trust between the brand and its consumers. Partnering with an agency with a deep knowledge of the industry and a solid track record in times of crisis is an exemplary way to prepare your brand for the unforeseen. In a volatile industry, such as the food industry, your agency partner should realize that food can either nourish us or serve as a toxin. Their work should prepare your brand and protect it accordingly.

2. Strong SEO means big power for your brand.

 Powerful SEO is a must-have today and it can be integrated into your marketing mix seamlessly with the help of an agency. For maximum effectiveness and brand power, your agency partner should be able to incorporate a smart SEO strategy into your day-to-day efforts across social media. One brand, one topic, one voice every day. This is the fastest way to become (and stay) a Love Brand.

3. Posting in your voice, as a friend to the consumer.

As consumers peruse the social space, they’re actively reading messages and posts from their friends. It’s critical that your agency brings them friendly messaging that’s in line with what they’re already expecting to see on that platform, while broadening the conversation to accommodate a variety of subjects that relate to your brand.

Recent research demonstrates that 79 percent of Millennials and 84 percent of other generations prefer brands to let their personalities shine on Facebook, while 51 percent of Millennials and 35 percent of other generations like it on Twitter. Your fans want your brand to tell stories they can relate to, share recipes they can identify with or post articles that highlight how you can add value to their lives. It’s simple, it’s subtle and it’s friendly.

4. Posting on a regular schedule, without being predictable.

Strategically diverse – conversational yet intentional. There’s strategic thought that goes into each post, and the content calendar your agency creates for you is a tool not likely to be found in the hands of a social media team that’s not simultaneously armed with a marketing mindset.

Simple but effective tools built monthly for your company’s unique needs. Important holidays, food celebrations, retailer awareness and more are crafted to be talked about in each month, using a pattern that keeps the message fresh and the user engaged.

It’s easy to have that son or daughter, that cousin, that guy in billings who has an Instagram account, take care of your social media needs. It seems smart and affordable. But when you consider that social media is an advantage medium and your direct connection from your brand to your consumer, you realize your product may be the most important key to your business.

The advantage of daily communication with your consumer is a very close second … and that shouldn’t be in the hands of a single person who has an idea of what they’re doing, or just having fun learning. That should be entrusted to a team of individuals that want the same thing you do: success.

See how we can help you and your brand find just that right here.

Why I LOVE Negative News

Why I LOVE Negative News

Don’t get me wrong, I love the client love too — learning that something transformed a brand’s business, that product is selling off the shelves or that the efforts of the agency earned a brand’s way into an account.  RMD's Positive SuccessBut I’ve learned to really embrace negative news, too.

But why do we appreciate hearing that product isn’t selling in a certain area, that messaging is falling on deaf ears within a certain market — or that the competition is “eating our lunch” within a specific retail geography (yes, pun intended)?  Because this news fuels the right agency’s performance.  And yes, RMD IS the right agency.  Here are three ways this news can be useful to a super-charged team:

It turns on the firepower.

When you’ve teamed with an agency that cares more about serving your brand and your consumers, than they do about managing agency hours, negative news can turn on the firepower.  It’s akin to having a best friend who rises up to defend you when you need it most.

We work hard to INTEGRATE and pump up the power when we hear that sales are down, or not what they can be.  Social media takes on a hyper-focus with carefully crafted posts and smart, smart, smart geotargeting. Simultaneously, Public Relations truly IS the silent partner in every success story, mobilized to turn on the energy in a specific market. Meanwhile, Advertising should cut through the noise and first grab awareness, then educate.

It solidifies a client/agency team.

Nothing builds bonds faster and stronger than a brand in need, and an agency that rises up to meet that need — quickly.  There’s a gift in speed and being nimble enough to adapt and improvise or mobilize resources for immediate results.  The food business requires this and teaming with an agency that cares enough to be effective when it’s needed most builds lasting relationships.

It allows the agency to actually DO something.

Sometimes, brands become protective.  And, in the interest of safeguarding the company, we actually hold on to our brands too tightly. Being in dire need forces us to let go … just enough to allow success to happen.  To be clear, I love a calculated move — and more importantly, a calculated brand.  But that’s not always how the world operates.  Brands that are built with transparency and honesty are more effective today than those that mark every move.  As consumers, we buy brands from people, not from corporations.  Freeing your agency from the ties that often bind us has led to some astounding success throughout the two and a half decades of food brand experience at RMD.  Sometimes, we need to let go … and let good happen.

Is your brand ready to turn to a strategic partner that digs in? Let us show you what we could do for your brand.

Sue Reninger, Managing Partner
Client Brand Strategy

 

Grassroots Marketing Efforts Mean Expansion for Ohio-Based Nonprofit

Grassroots Marketing Efforts Mean Expansion for Ohio-Based Nonprofit

Ten years ago, RMD Advertising dreamed big. The agency’s team members took the first step in what would become the company’s largest charitable initiative. It all stemmed from a simple desire: to give their clients a holiday gift that would stand out from the typical corporate gift.   

So, the agency took the money earmarked for client gifts and bought 25 red wagons, filled each with food and distributed them throughout the community to local Columbus families in dire need during the holidays.

Wagons Ho Ho Ho began with that simple mission in mind. We’ve grown since that first year. Last year, our Wagoneers donated more than 8,000 pounds of food and built a total of 1,000 wagons. This year, we’ll call on the Central Ohio community to help us build and distribute 1,250 sturdy wagons – our largest initiative to date. But we’ll also fill each one with enough food to feed a family of four Christmas dinner. 1,250 wagons and enough food to feed 5,000 people … all assembled in one day. More than 600 volunteers make this possible.

How does one 501(c)3 organization mobilize a group of over 600 volunteers and inspire the Columbus community to donate enough nonperishable food to feed so many Ohioans in need? Powerful marketing, lean, targeted messaging, smart event marketing and word of mouth certainly play a critical role.

Marketing to the head and the heart

 Wagons Ho Ho Ho is an enormous responsibility, and without the support of our volunteers and the city of Columbus, it wouldn’t be possible. With strategic and targeted marketing efforts, our grassroots initiatives have fostered a giving and selfless community that has made Wagons Ho Ho Ho’s annual Build Day more than simply eight hours during which we assemble wagons.

Build Day is now an event that epitomizes the spirit of the holidays. It reminds volunteers that what they contribute is unique. On that day, the city’s local recreational center turns into Santa’s workshop and strangers work side-by-side, working towards one goal and becoming friends in the process.   

We’re proud of this accomplishment. We realize that providing a gift and a meal on Christmas is important, but what is really important to us is what each wagon represents to its recipients … hope. It’s our way of showing these children that there is a community of people who care about them during the biggest holiday of the year.

Each local radio interview, television segment, printed story and event Wagons Ho Ho Ho participates in is an opportunity to make an emotional connection with the next potential Wagoneer. While we share the harrowing facts of Ohio’s food insecurity and the daunting need of families in the area, we are also keenly aware of our story.

Marketing Wagons Ho Ho Ho as a brand has required us to approach each piece of content created as a vehicle for communicating our story, celebrating the people behind our strong but mighty nonprofit and our hopes for the future. By concentrating our media opportunities to the months leading up to the annual Build Day, we have been able to saturate the local airwaves with our story … and in return, have continued to inspire volunteers to proudly step forward and call themselves Wagoneers.

Our story:

Can a wagon really change a child’s life? We think so. And it takes just one voice to help a family know they have a supportive community of caring neighbors behind them.

Today, the face of the hunger has changed. 1 in 6 in Ohio experience food insecurity, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. These are your neighbors and your co-workers. Sometimes, it is a matter of having to sacrifice dinner one day a week. It may even mean having to choose between buying food or medicine for a sick child. If they are struggling to buy food, how can they buy Christmas gifts for their children?

On Build Day this Saturday, December 2nd, we’ll once again open the doors of a local recreation center and invite over 600 hard working Wagoneers to bag food, build wagons and send each delivery off with our dedicated distribution charity partners. With music, plenty of food and laughter filling each corner of the room, it’s plain to see – this is a special event not only for the recipients of the wagons but also for the builders themselves.

 Every volunteer who touches Wagons Ho Ho Ho, whether by donating food, funds or their time, is an important part of the Wagons team. Visit WagonsHoHoHo.org to learn more, and help to give a child HOPE for today and the future.

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