Ask the Experts

Getting noticed: Five tips for working with influencers on a restaurant launch

By Kevin Gessay

- Last updated on GMT

Working with restaurant influencers
Social media influencers are increasingly part of a restaurant’s launch strategy, but how can operators maximise exposure and ensure their new venue gets noticed? Kevin Gessay, managing director, UK, of marketing agency PMK-BNC, shares his tips on how to establish a presence in a competitive market.

1. Authenticity is key
Selecting the right influencer to help launch your business can be a daunting task. When selected strategically, true influencers are effective because they are real, honest and passionate - ultimately, a great relationship will boil down to brand affinity. Start with those already within your network, who you know reflect your values. Always ask yourself, is this someone you could see in your establishment of their own accord? This is not just about creating content, but also is he or she a person that your customers would actually like to be seated across from in the room. The right influencers should be aspirational, but achievable, and most importantly have a genuine interest in the success of your business, not just in their pay check. Also, don’t limit yourself to online influencers and bloggers; if the launch and budget stretch to it, the right celebrity can add rocket fuel to your awareness efforts - and including them can create a very holistic campaign.

2. Work with a squad
Influencers vary from those who can command fees that are almost on a par with A-listers, to micro-influencers with smaller follower numbers (between 1k and 10k) but very engaged communities. Budget permitting, it is often useful to work with a range of talent - bigger influencers will provide reach and awareness, smaller ones can drive passion. And don’t just look for foodies as your potential influencers. Think of your target audience - it could be that you want to appeal to parents, fitness fanatics or fashionistas. As long as there’s an opportunity to create relevant content, and they have a cultural fit with your business, they can be considered.

3. Think long-term
When building up to a launch event you will need a three-pronged approach to your influencer content strategy: building buzz, event execution and sustained conversation. It is the latter that is most often neglected - launch strategies tend to take a short-term approach, but the most effective programming will run for weeks or months down the line. This can be advantageous for a number of reasons, not least the opportunity to keep conversation going and driving business. From an influencer’s point of view, long-term partnerships are perceived as more credible and authentic for their personal brand and they will often offer partners more competitive pricing. Remember to always approach this from a position of strength. Depending on the level of influencer, it should not always be a pay-to-play scenario. You are as important for their brand as they are for yours.

4. Know what to control
While it is important to have a contract in place with influencers so you are always on the same page when it comes to event attendance, the frequency they will post and all other related obligations, it’s also vital to remember that they are experts when it comes to their audience. Don’t try and stifle your influencer partners creatively, let content flow as organically as possible. If it’s heavily edited by someone other than the influencer it will stand out, in the wrong way. You are working with an influencer because they know how to reach their audience, trust them to do it in the way they know best.

5. Be true to your brand
Businesses fail when they try to be everything to everyone. Have the confidence to know who you are and stand behind it, with a clear voice and distinct personality across all your marketing and communications. This applies to your influencer partners too - if you feel someone isn’t right for your brand but you’re tempted by a large follower base, trust your instincts. Sacrificing short term exposure for long-term credibility isn’t a trade-off worth making.

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