SXSW Wrap Up: TECHmunch Conference Serves Up Tips for Working with Food Bloggers

Photo by Jonathan VandiveerBy Erik Deutsch, Principal, ExcelPR Group

Beyond all the official South by Southwest Interactive events spread across downtown Austin, the five-day festival has spawned a vast ecosystem of companion events — many that target marketing communications professionals.

One such event is TECHmunch Austin — the annual conference connecting food bloggers and culinary brand marketers. While TECHmunch is held in major cities across North America, the annual Austin conference is unique in that it draws communications pros from around the world already in town for SXSW.

Held at Whole Foods Market Headquarters in downtown Austin, this year’s SXSW edition of TECHmunch included an all-star “Working with Brands” panel that served up tips for helping marketers and food bloggers collaborate more effectively.

Here are their five key ingredients for building successful relationships:

1) Do Your Homework

Panelist Rachel Barbarotta, social media manager at Digitas, stressed that bloggers and brand marketers alike need to understand their potential partner’s audience, products and business priorities before reaching out with a pitch. “Come equipped with specific examples of how working together can be mutually beneficial, and be prepared to explain the potential for an authentic, long-term partnership.”

2) Think Big

Clint Schaff, VP at Edelman Digital and faculty member at the USC Annenberg Program on Online Communities, encouraged the audience to pitch ideas beyond routine product reviews, giveaways and press releases. “Whether you’re a blogger or brand, propose big, integrated ideas that align with your partner’s goals.” He stressed that thinking big is especially important for bloggers, who tend to underestimate their ability to propose and carry out memorable concepts. “Consider video, fan-created content, influencer involvement — the sky’s the limit.”

3) Be Flexible and Prepared to Improvise

Just as great chefs learn to work with whatever ingredients they have on hand, brands and bloggers must learn to be flexible when it comes to creating campaigns, asserted Lindsay Robison, global public relations specialist at Whole Foods Market. “Brands want and appreciate new ideas from bloggers, but sometimes already have a campaign in the works or simply don’t have the budget. By being flexible and willing to start small, brands and bloggers can build relationships that lead to bigger opportunities in the future.”

4) Be Honest and Transparent

Technology forces transparency, and honesty is key to building relationships, explained Jessica Randazza, VP of Interference, Inc. “More and more brands are using listening tools to research the online conversation and keep track of who says what.” She stressed that brands need to know if a potential blog partner has been critical in the past or ‘dated’ one of the brand’s competitors. “You want the blogger to disclose this information upfront and on their own, otherwise it will be hard to build trust.”

 5) Think Beyond the Blog

TECHmunch Producer Babette Pepaj, who is also founder of and the CookbookCafe publishing platform, added that there are now all sorts of technologies for brands to repurpose content and tap into discussions. “Marketers can now work with bloggers on native advertising campaigns that make their brands a trusted part of the conversation. The key is thinking beyond the blog and finding the right technology platform.” Pepaj went on describe several such platforms, ranging from Google+ Hangouts and Twitter chats to app-based cookbooks.


About the Author:  Erik Deutsch is principal of ExcelPR Group – a Los Angeles-based public relations and media strategy firm. He also teaches social media best practices at UCLA Extension. Connect with Erik at @ErikDeutsch.