From Behind the Line into the Spotlight: Chefs as Brand Spokespeople
From Top Chef to The Chew and from glossy magazine covers to YouTube highlights and general web content, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the influence of star chefs today. Food news and chef appearances are no longer contained to the Food Network and The New York Times Dining section. They are everywhere. They are making their mark and brands are taking notice.
For the past 8 years, I’ve worked in the Food Group at Hunter PR and during that time, I’ve watched first hand the evolution of chefs in pop culture. When I started working in food PR, we focused on targeting influential food writers and contributors at major publications and news outlets. However, with the shrinking media landscape (the recent closure of Ladies’ Home Journal is just one example) that strategy has rapidly evolved, and today we increasingly rely on chefs to be our mouthpiece.
Mainstream media is still vital to a successful PR program and a chef personality provides depth to brand messaging for media interviews. Since they are trained professionals, they provide valid talent and credibility for the media conducting the interviews and the eventual viewers and readers of that coverage. Chefs can also provide a brand with very usable content, from recipes, to cooking tips, to entertaining knowhow that can round out a fully integrated marketing communications program. Additionally, chefs often have a following and are able to speak directly to their fans through social media.
Today, we rarely implement a food-centric program without involving chef talent in some way. Here are a few tips garnered over the years to help find the right chef talent for your program.
Know the industry – Begin by researching credible sources for the latest in food industry news to build and narrow your target list. Industry awards are a great place to start.
Research your talent – Before landing on target talent, be sure he or she is right for your brand. For example, if your brand is promoting a gluten-free product, avoid a chef known for his or her bread service.
Look for the rising star – Chefs, like many other forms of celebrity, can rise to fame very quickly, however, there are often great indicators that their star is on the rise. Outlets like Food & Wine, and even Bravo’s Top Chef, spotlight those who are making a mark in their region, soon to be recognized on a national level. Strike before the iron gets too hot and embark on a relationship while the chef is accessible and open to opportunities.
Go straight to the source – If you do find the perfect rising star talent, contact him or her directly. In the early stages of fame, these chefs are open to negotiating a partnership directly, rather than through an agent or publicist, which often results in a more organic relationship.
So whether you’re searching for the face of your next major campaign, a presenter at an industry event, or simply a content creator, your perfect fit just may be living in the back of the house.