Monday, August 5, 2019

:: bartender media relations 101 ::

Originally published on the USBG National site in October 2016 and in Boston Cocktails: Drunk & Told in April 2017; slightly adapted version here.

Becoming more famous in your trade can come from word of mouth around town or winning big competitions, but there are some easier ways -- namely, getting the press involved. Sometimes, the press will find you on their own but more likely the first contacts will be aided by your bar or restaurant’s PR firm; however, getting contacted is not enough especially if you hesitate. Here are some pointers on how to improve your chances.

First, have a bio and photo prepared. Find a friend or co-worker with photography skills or hire a photographer to take a good headshot of you as well as a photo of you making a drink behind the bar. Low resolution will work well for web publicity but it will not do so well in magazines, so the more pixels the better! Whether it is an article, a bartender site like ShakeStir, or a competition, most want a photo to go along with the name, so have one or a few on hand. The bio can be simple with what your job position is, what sort of establishment you work at, and what sort of drinks you focus on, but some history of how you got there and your other accomplishments might help as well.

Second, utilize social media to establish a brand, and people including the press will be able to find you and follow you. Moreover, in a way, you are creating your own press. Instagram is rather popular for drink photos, recipes, and bartending action shots, but do not neglect the old standbys of Facebook and Twitter. Video and podcasts are another way to get your voice out there, and the written word through blogging and article writing has been the pathway for several now famous bartenders out there. Get the message out there of what recipes you are creating, what your bar program is building, and what special events or theme nights you are scheming. If you have something to teach, consider starting an educational Youtube series (or see if there is an adult education class series that needs an instructor). Writers like to latch on to trends and promote events that happen. Consider tagging websites, magazines, and writers on social media to get their attention, or to start dialogues by assisting them in their searches (many writers will ask for help on stories on

There are also writers who ask their followers directly for content. I have had recipes and responses published by Gary Regan (newsletter and books), Tales of the Cocktail, Eater, and other outlets by just answering their calls for answers to their questions. So take some time to add key social media accounts and blogs to your feeds, and make sure you keep an eye out for the requests.

If your bar or restaurant has an HR firm, get to know them so that they feel comfortable contacting you about stories that come their way. Utilize them to for assistance in writing your bio if possible, and make sure that they have both your bio and photo(s) on hand so that they can easily disseminate these essentials without waiting for you to get back to them or their contacts. Often HR firms only deal with the bar manager or lead bartender, but getting to know them might sway them to include you if this is not the case.

When media does contact you, it is essential for you to be prompt -- meaning a couple of hours if possible. I remember one writer who contacted me about a recipe and I said that I could create something. When they replied that they needed a yes or no that night, instead of writing back immediately (I was out and away from my home bar), I got home, created the drink with a photo attached, and wrote back a little before 11:30pm. To me that was “that night” but to that writer, they wrote someone else and went to bed, and I missed that opportunity. Writers do not have the same sleep schedules as bartenders, so keep that in mind. Deadlines are often short, and waiting 24 hours or so can miss getting your quote or recipe included in an article. Sometimes, the contact happens during your shift, and depending on your work place’s policy, it might not be possible to write back (or even receive the message), but do try to write at the end of the shift even if it is to say that you will write them back the next day.
When dealing with the media, the more professional you are and the easier you are to work with, the more likely you are to be contacted again. Writers have a job to do, and if you are dependable and difficulty-free, they will remember that and utilize you more often. In addition, be as thorough as possible in your communications. Do not assume that the writers and editors have any bartending expertise, so make things obvious especially in recipe directions.

Competitions are indeed a great way to get press, although it can take a lot of both stage presence and recipe development to start to win these events. Some competitions do a good job of promoting all of the contestants whether with photos or recipe lists, while many only do the winner or the top two or three. There are also other ways besides competitions to get brands and their PR firms to work with you especially if you can team up with them to develop their marketing whether for print or offsite events.

Finally, remember to be patient. Getting good at your craft takes years as can getting notice from the media. There are definitely ways to speed up both processes through educating yourself and creating your own press without the traditional media. Getting your voice out there through social media will help as will trying to meet and interact with writers at events, on Twitter, and through other sites. Getting press and fame is not the be-all and end-all; try to find satisfaction and inner peace with the job you have chosen. Find the joy that will allow you to be in it for the long haul for it can be a while before the press catches on. Or if at all, for some of my favorite bartenders never get mentioned in articles at all. Their path to success was in making a warm, welcoming bar that guests return over and over to. There is no reason not to try to have both, but do not forget that our first obligation is to the guests and our establishments.

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