When the opportunity to spend a morning discussing food and marketing arose, I was quick to sign up. Not only do I enjoy consuming food, communicating about food is one of my passions. (A statement shared by more than a few Bellmont Partners team members!)
Last week, Breanna Welke, Erin Lilliencrantz and I attended Minnesota PRSA’s event The Food Revolution: Transparency and its Effects on Marketing & Communication, and we gained some valuable insights from a panel of experts, including:
- Kieran Folliard, Founder of 2 Gingers Whiskey and Food Building
- Pete Stoddart, Media Director, Corporate Affairs, Cargill
- Lauren Pradhan, Director and General Manager of Grow North
- Bertrand Weber, Director for Minneapolis Public School Culinary and Wellness Services
While these four panelists have diverse backgrounds and experiences in the food industry – three common points rose to the top of the conversation, and can be translated across a wide variety of fields.
1. Be transparent (an obvious one: see title of event)
This is more important than ever, since the public has access to a bevy of information, and if you’re hiding something, it will come out. As communicators in general, if you’re having trouble explaining why you are doing something, or why an ingredient is in your food, that begs a bigger question you should get the answer to before speaking out. Same holds true for a product or service. Think like a reporter (and a consumer): ask yourself the “why,” and prepare your authentic answer.
2. The storyteller is important
As communicators, we constantly talk about finding an authentic and meaningful way to tell your story –that’s what we do as our daily job. But at times, it isn’t the story that’s missing; it’s finding the right person to deliver it. So often, the job of communicating a brand’s message automatically gets delegated to a designated company spokesperson, a CEO or other executive, but are they always the best person to tell the story you want to tell? Will they inspire and educate in the way that you hope? Panelist Lauren Pradhan put it best saying, “You can’t replicate passion – but sometimes those most passionate about your product aren’t the best communicator or the right person for delivering that message in a truly authentic way to the public. Think outside your usual spokespeople and find someone who is passionate but can explain a food, product or service in laymen’s terms and ignite excitement and behavior in a way that you had intended.”
3. Keep it simple, especially when consumers make assumptions
Many times consumers will jump to conclusions before learning the facts – which is particularly true when it comes to understanding ingredients in food. Our jobs as communicators are to help explain things in simple and easy-to-digest ways so that misunderstandings don’t become a crisis.
Bertrand Weber added – despite conventional thinking – just because you can’t pronounce an ingredient in a food, doesn’t make it bad. Some of these ingredients are needed for specific purposes, like maintaining and enhancing nutritional value or preserving freshness to reduce waste. In a world where everyone is clamoring to be the first to report something, don’t assume. Take a step back and get the facts first – and as communicators, we are in a great position to provide those facts quickly and in an easy-to-understand manner.
Then, reward yourself with a 2 Gingers Whiskey on the rocks, and thank Kieran Folliard.