Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Promotion

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 Public relations | Advertising | Sales promotion

In order to sell your product, you need to promote it to wholesale buyers and to consumers through a combination of efforts including public relations, advertising and sales promotions. There are two target groups to reach; those who buy the product for resale and consumers who buy for their own use. Each target group should have a specific type of promotion.

Public Relations

Public relations is the activities an organization undertakes to create and keep a favorable public image of itself. One part of this can be promoting your company through media. If you are successful, the media generates positive stories about you and your product that provide you with publicity you can not buy. It is a third party endorsement that adds to your product’s credibility.

After you have done the work of building the profile of your customer (if you also want to reach buyers and distributors you will need to build the same type of profile), you can create materials to sell your story to the media.

You can act as your own public relations firm or turn to a professional. Getting media attention takes concerted effort and a working knowledge of what media yields results. Public relations firms deal with the media every day. They know the writers, editors and broadcast producers. They can reach them and speak their language. They know the mechanics of sending out media releases, follow-up letters and faxes. They also know whom to contact and when to get the information out. They know how to pitch your product and how to send out samples. But there is no reason you can not learn all of this, over time, and handle your own public relations. After all, you should be the ideal spokesperson for your company.

If you decide to use an agency, pick one that has a good track record working with other clients who are also selling specialty foods. A firm that has successfully represented specialty food producers understands your market and has contacts with food editors and writers. It is money well spent. An agency usually gets a 15 per cent discount on the advertising space they place, so they should not charge you for placing ads, just for creating them. It is important to find an agency that is willing to work within a limited budget and is clear about costs and fees. Do not always pick the largest agency. Small agencies may enjoy the opportunity to grow with you. You might also receive more attention.

Public relations is the least expensive way to reach the widest potential audience, but there is a catch. It takes time to make inroads. You have to allow time to produce results. It often takes several efforts and repeated contacts before many editors and writers acknowledge your efforts. You need a good media release that features an interesting angle to make your story a compelling read. And remember, you can not buy editorial coverage. You can package information in a compelling way and you can direct information to the proper people, but you can not guarantee that you will get press coverage.

The goals of a public relations campaign are to gain credibility through media coverage, to build brand and name recognition, to reinforce your efforts to reach retailers and consumers, and to create a public image for your company. Be sure to get exposure in trade publications as well as consumer publications. Your media list should also include radio and television.

The media release is a vehicle that gets news about your company and your products to the media. It can announce a new product, a milestone in your company’s history, new people in top management roles, an award you have won or a special event. A media release should be concise (it is best to keep them to one page), clear, factual and well written. Lead with a catchy headline or subhead, include the basics (who, what, when, where, why), use active words and short sentences, avoid overstatement and jargon, and include background information about your products/services.

Another tool is the pitch letter. This is used to suggest a story idea to an editor or writer. A pitch letter is similar to a media release in that it describes your product or service and tells why it is newsworthy. You might include samples or photos and some recent media releases.

Media representatives usually attend trade shows. Find out from the promoter what television or radio stations, newspapers and magazines are attending. Send them information about your product in advance of the show and invite them to stop by your booth. Be sure to have media information available at the show.

It is important to follow up with the media. This reinforces your message and begins the process of developing relationships with media people.


When determining if and where you are going to advertise, you need to know both geographic and demographic information about your markets. With this knowledge, you can determine where you want to advertise: newspapers, magazines, radio or television.

Advertising is expensive. To be effective, your ad should run more than once in the same place. Repeat advertising works better than a one-time shot. Think about how you as a reader recognize ads that you see over and over. The message seeps through a little more each time you see the ad. Repeated exposure lends familiarity and credibility. It also helps prompt someone to reach for or ask for your product. Seeing your ad also makes your retailers and distributors happy. As is the case with public relations, if retailers and distributors see your product in the media, or if they see your ads, they feel better about representing you. It validates their belief in your product and supports their efforts to sell the product.

You can choose to handle advertising yourself or you can hire an advertising agency. An agency can help you with logo and advertising design. It will also make advertising recommendations and work out a budget for you.

Before you start your advertising campaign, you need to know about your competition, where you plan to sell your product and your goals. You also need to have an advertising budget. If you hire an agency, make sure they have all this information, and sample your product. They can not represent you properly if they do not know what your product looks or tastes like. Study samples of competitor ads and products, focusing on why your product is different. Remember, you are looking for fresh, creative approaches.

Local TV stations, radio stations and newspapers usually have in-house advertising people who can help you develop and produce your ads. It is possible to create simple black and white print ads on a desktop computer. There are many affordable computer programs that can lead you through the design steps and allow you to create attractive and effective ads for newspapers and newsletters.

When you are ready to place ads, contact the publication and ask an advertising salesperson to send you a rate card. Rate cards outline the costs and explain the circulation breakdown. In many cases, the publication can work with you to design an ad if you do not have one prepared.

Advertising agencies will write, design and arrange for placement of your ads in various media. Make sure that you negotiate the rights to any design. Use phone books, newsstands, bookstores and libraries to develop your list of media outlets.

Sales Promotion

Sales promotion is the umbrella phrase for anything that helps sell your product to the consumer, distributor or retail buyer. It can also help promote your product to the press.

Sales promotional material is rather straightforward. A good sales piece, sometimes referred to as a slick, is usually 8 1/2” x 11” and printed in four colors. It includes color pictures of and information about your products. You may include order information, but you should always include your company name, logo, address, phone and fax. Including prices restricts the life of the piece. A better idea is to insert a photocopied price sheet.

You can work with your ad agency or a local graphic designer to create and produce a sales slick. Printers often offer full service design and printing. As with other creative work you commission, negotiate the rights to all the creative material that is being produced. Do not let the studio or the printer maintain the rights or you will be locked into using that vendor for future printings.

To find printers or a graphic designer capable of producing slicks, check with your local trade association or talk to other processors to get their recommendations. Get samples from any firms you are thinking about hiring. Make sure to proof everything before it gets printed.

Shelf talkers are another popular sales promotion tool. These are small printed pieces that are positioned in front of your product on the grocery shelf. A shelf talker is a way to catch consumers attention as they make their way down the aisle. You can include information about product use, a recipe, nutritional value or other information that may compel a consumer to buy your product. You will want to talk to your distributor or retailer before creating your shelf talker. Make sure your retail outlet permits the use of these devices and find out what their specifications are before you begin to produce the piece.

You will also need to have color photographs of your product. These are used to create the images for your sales slick and other public relations opportunities. Sending professional photographs with media releases increases the chance of having your product pictured. Professional photographers know how to light and compose photographs so they present your product in the best possible way. Always insist on retaining the rights to all photographs and slides for any future use. You should spell out the rights in your agreement with the photographer. They should include the right to use the photograph for advertising, promotion, publicity and publication.

There is no end to the ways you can promote your product. Think creatively. Where dollars are scarce, imagination is important. Keep copies of all of the press coverage you receive so that you can use them when you are trying to sell your product to a retailer or distributor. Send out samples of your product to the media. Talk to stores about product sampling. Donate product to be used for local benefits. For further information see the resources section.


Other Documents in the Series

  Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Preface
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Introduction
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Starting Out
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Business Planning
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Business Considerations
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Food Processing Regulations
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Facilities
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Product Development
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Processing and Packaging Equipment
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Packaging and Labeling
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Distribution and Sales
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Promotion - Current Document
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Financing
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Sources of Assistance
Business Basics for Alberta Food Processors - Additional Resources
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For more information about the content of this document, contact Kathy Bosse.
This document is maintained by Jennifer Rutter.
This information published to the web on June 1, 2005.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 19, 2018.