Through recent conversations with many of you about your marketing efforts, goals, struggles and successes, we have picked up on a pattern: marketers in the fresh produce industry are grappling with how to effectively utilize public relations to reach the growing number of audiences that we need to reach on a regular basis.
This dilemma makes perfect sense to us. We’ve spent a lot of time studying the role of public relations in fresh produce and it’s a gray area, to say the least. We heard from many of you that PR is often called upon in times of crisis, but you struggle with how to use PR proactively to share your company story with the media and consumers.
Recently we took advantage of the face to face opportunity at United Fresh in Chicago to understand the role of PR at different types of companies and get a better idea of how fresh produce companies are making PR work for their brands. Here’s a few highlights from what we heard:
There’s a great opportunity for produce brands to shape our messages before someone else does it for us because WE have the answer. Don’t wait for people to ask or assume and offer up the solution before the problem is even discussed. As an industry, we aren’t doing that.
-Jerry Butt, Mixtec
As an industry, I think we forget that PR’s role is much larger than responding to issues. PR is creating stories that we as brands want to tell, instead of letting the media tell their version of our story. I think if we understood PR as an industry, we’d be seeing much more activity supporting it.
-John Cameron, Nature Sweet
PR is a struggle for us because we have little control over whether a product of ours will be on the shelf at any given time, so we don’t want to push people to a store where it may be there one week and not the next. There needs to be a significant training program for Produce Managers in the stores. They need to be able to tell our story and understand our products since they are in the stores communicating directly with consumers. That being said, Green Giant puts a lot of effort into building relationships with influencers like bloggers and RDs, because we’ve seen that this is a great way to engage and share our message with consumers.
-Jennifer Fancher, Green Giant Fresh
We realized, through social media, how important our packaging design was to consumers. This speaks to the power of public relations and social media as a tool to engage and alter our innovation and business practices in order to stay relevant to our consumers. We recognized a consumer need and created a packaging design that is similar to a cup, which fits well in a cup holder, and is re-sealable. We may never have recognized this need without our social media efforts, and we saw an increase of sales by 50% as a direct result of this.
-David Anthony, Ruby Fresh
Consumer PR is critical because it’s the best way to tell OUR story. People think that PR is archaic, but we are in a digital world where PR can be used in a variety of unique and ever-changing ways. Consumers want to feel like they know the brands they love on a deeper level, so PR and social media are integral to a successful marketing campaign, especially in the fresh produce industry. Consumers don’t want to just listen – they want to talk and engage with you.
-Cindy Jewell, California Giant Berry Farms
At Love Beets, we put a lot of time and effort into finding out what our fans are saying about all things beets, wellness, exercise, meditation, produce, vegetarianism, juicing - you name it. From there, we design our content to reflect and encourage those dialogues that are already happening. I think the most important thing a fresh brand can do is to appear relatable and aspirational at the same time. We should be encouraging consumers to embrace a healthy lifestyle, not because they have to do it, but because it's amazing for them and they want to. Don’t bombard people with medical jargon or scare tactics because those cannot be translated into everyday lifestyle choices. We find it's better to make everything easy to understand and fun to contribute to.
-Emily Spring, Love Beets
Based on what we’ve heard from you, there’s no doubt that public relations is desirable for each of our individual brand goals. It’s also very clear that in order for the “fresh produce story” to be told by the industry that actually grows it, we must work to better understand and value the role of public relations as a continuous part of our own marketing. Thanks to all of those that shared your thoughts with us on the subject, and we always invite and encourage each of you to weigh in as well.