« June 2007 Table of Contents
Trend Watch: Leave it to PR
Seafood companies turn to public relations for marketing strategies
By Lauren Kramer
June 01, 2007
Public relations produces marketing results that are
difficult to quantify. How do you measure buzz, and the power
of consumer awareness? And what if it doesn't immediately
translate into more diners in your restaurant, or more sales of
your seafood products? These are questions many companies have
struggled with as they attempt to justify PR within marketing
The results of PR campaigns can be subtle, while some are
not so subtle. For example, Aaron Allen, CEO of the Quantified
Marketing Group in Orlando, Fla., recently launched a media
campaign to announce that Señor Frog's, Mexico's largest
restaurant chain, was entering the U.S. market. The PR company
received a number of press
hits as a result, and ultimately
achieved national coverage for the restaurant in a two-page
Forbes magazine feature.
"An investor saw the article, called the company and
invested $13 million in it, within a very short time," says
Allen. "Yet it would have been impossible to quantify the
actual value of that feature in Forbes .
"Through advertising alone, we could never have generated
such broad and favorable exposure for Señor Frog's," he
continues. "With just one unit in the [United States], the
restaurant is a well-recognized brand nationally."
Overall, PR has been an underused marketing strategy for
restaurants, according to Allen, who estimates that less than 5
percent of a company's marketing budget goes toward PR. "We
recommend that 15 to 20 percent of their total marketing budget
be allocated toward PR, because this vehicle has much more
credibility than advertising does," he says.
The Council of Public Relations Firms estimates the industry
grew 13 percent in 2006, while a September 2006 report by
Veronis Shuler Stevenson, a media industry-focused private
equity firm, estimates the annual North American PR business to
be about $4 billion.
"Public relations is on the increase, and the reason is that
there's so much fragmented media right now, so many different
vehicles to convey your message," says Allen.
Slade Gorton & Co. of Boston invests up to 30 percent of
its annual marketing budget in PR, an amount that will increase
over time, says company President Kim Gorton. "We've found PR
to be one of the better vehicles for marketing our company,"
"I think it lends itself to greater objectivity, or the
perception thereof. Positive articles about us in the media
have been a tremendous vehicle to help open the door to
discussions, because when you see a great story about a
company, you think, 'There's someone we should be doing
business with.' If a prospective trading partner has read about
you in an article relating to other trading partners, it
eliminates a lot of concerns they might have right away."
Last year Slade Gorton hired the PR representation of Wanger
Associates to help the previously low-profile company achieve
visibility in the media.
"We've been developing story ideas for journalists covering
the seafood industry, including writers at BusinessWeek and The
Wall Street Journal, as well as the important industry trades,"
says Barry Wanger, president of the Boston PR agency.
"An important aspect of media relations is to develop and
cultivate relationships with reporters and editors at different
trade publications so that when journalists need an industry
expert, they'll know they can rely on us to provide the
individual they need."
Wanger also launched a PR campaign to promote Slade Gorton's
partnership with a Venezuelan company that produces
farm-raised, head-on shrimp.
"This was a major new initiative for the company so, as part
of our campaign, we prepared stories announcing the partnership
and the significance of the venture," he says.
The story was designed to position Slade Gorton as a leading
distributor of head-on shrimp in the U.S. market, increase the
company's visibility in the growing ethnic market and emphasize
its commitment to product quality, year-round availability and
economic integrity, Wanger says.
Quantifying those results is difficult, says Wanger. "In
some cases, you can trace a sale, for example a story on
head-on shrimp in a trade magazine that generated a new
customer. But what media relations does is give you credibility
by way of a third-party endorsement. People start seeing your
name more often, and for Slade Gorton, as experts in the field
developing major initiatives, it has a very positive impact on
the company image."
John Sawyer, senior VP of sales and marketing for Chicken of
the Sea International, has employed the PR services of Nuffer
Smith Tucker in San Diego since 2000, though the company has
used PR activities since it began in 1914. "Through public
relations activities, we are able to communicate directly with
our target audiences - mainly women who are household decision
makers - in a cost-efficient way," he says.
One example of how this is achieved is Chicken of the Sea's
Mermaid Club, an online affinity club of about 104,000
"The club was created in conjunction with our PR agency and
has an increasing membership largely supported by PR efforts,"
Sawyer says. "It allows us to build relationships by
communicating with our members through our monthly Mermaid Memo
and our quarterly recipe blasts. But we also rely on our
members for input on everything from new products to our
"At its core, public relations is about building long-term
relationships, and the Mermaid Club is a perfect example of how
we are doing this," he continues. "Our public relations
strategies tie in both on-line and off-line tactics that work
together to support our brand. And we've been able to correlate
PR efforts with an increase in sales."
Don't underestimate the credibility in your business
stimulated through media interest, he cautions. And when you're
ready to choose a PR firm to gain that credibility, be sure you
find someone that has knowledge about your industry, rather
than a generalist PR firm.
"Public relations can be a great tool to support any
company," concurs Sawyer. "When selecting an agency, it's
important to find one that understands your business,
vision and your organizational culture."
Contributing Editor Lauren Kra m er lives in British