Herman Cain, Pizza and PR: Lessons from Planning a Presidential Candidate Meet and Greet
By Jayne Minigell, Director of Marketing, Lupoli Companies
As you have no doubt seen, GOP frontrunner Herman Cain is all over the news this week, and the coverage goes well beyond Monday’s media buzz surrounding sexual harassment allegations). The bottom line is that the candidate is gaining ground in the GOP race.
When we invited Cain to do a meet & greet at Sal’s Pizza a few months ago, he wasn’t yet at the top of the pack. But since we weren’t known in the political arena, our strategy was to attract him based on his corporate credentials as the former President & CEO of Godfather’s Pizza. It worked. After his visit, our popular chain of 37 family pizza restaurants in New England is now considered to be a viable and valuable meet & greet location for Presidential candidates on the campaign trail.
Below are five tips to optimize the PR for your location if you attract a candidate running for election:
1. Spread the news. Your first goal is to pack the place so start spreading the news! Don’t be shy! Make sure your entire workforce across all locations is aware of the day and time so they can tell their friends, relatives, and customers and so on. Don’t just use your company accounts for Twitter and Facebook—make sure your employees use their personal accounts too. Pull out your customer, supplier, and merchant biz directory and make sure they get emails, faxes, phone calls, and even flyers on their cars if you share the same parking lot! This is history in the making so spread the word! If your restaurants have marquis street signs—make sure you change the message to read the candidates name and day & time of arrival as soon as it is confirmed so every motorist will see when they drive by.
2. Create a special menu item and price. Restaurants should create an item based on the candidate’s likes & dislikes or based on his initials, tax plans, etc. Make sure it is published and posted and the item and price are clear and the purpose is clear. No guesswork for an event like this. If you have created a special pizza with green peppers, onions, and pepperoni—say it is the GOP pizza. If you are making every item in the store that day for $9.99 or less—say it is your version of the 9/9/9 plan or $5.99 for the 59-point plan, etc. Have fun but communicate so everyone can enjoy it!
3. Decorate with fanfare. Stopping by your location is for a happy meet and greet. The candidate wants to share his vision and your customers want to hear it. Make sure the place looks patriotic and very festive but not cluttered or distracting. Red, white and blue balloon bouquets placed throughout with ribbons and bows. And don’t forget the flags! Have plenty of small flags on hand to give out as well as one or two banner-size flags to adorn doors and windows. Even plantings and shrubbery can be part of the festive spirit. Show lots of enthusiasm, but again, be careful not to overdo it!
4. Plan ahead. The candidate arrives. Now what? Make sure you have your CEO or other designated executive/manager there to greet him/her properly and introduce other top staff members. Then announce their arrival to the customers and begin the applause yourself. Ask them if they would like to address the group—have a space where they can stand prepared in advance and think about having a microphone if the area is quite enough. Even if they say in advance that they won’t be doing that—they could change their minds so be prepared. Likewise, they could request it and when they walk in they want to take the meet and greet in another direction. Have your own photographers on hand to get photos with your team and with customers. And, don’t forget the favorite of autographs—and hopefully on your own pizza box or other logo item so the customer will have your name included with the souvenir. If the candidate has a book, have several on hand to be autographed and use for door prizes.
5. Call the press. Let all local and national media know about the scheduled campaign stop. Yes, their campaign may send out a press release and post on their website—but the local media know you and that may be their attraction more than the candidate. If you have media buys—then switch some out to be sure people listening hear about the event. Be loud, be bold, and be heard. They are the ones running for President, but you are the ones with the room of voters!
Jayne Minigell is Director of Marketing for Lupoli Companies which owns and operates Sal’s Pizza chain across New England (http://www.sals-pizza.com/state/locations/). She can be reached at email@example.com.