If you’ve been sitting around waiting for Dave Portnoy to show up at your pizzeria and give you a glowing One Bite Review, dream on. There are tens of thousands of operators like you out there, and Portnoy is just one man. Maybe he’ll get to you one day, but, then again, maybe not.
Meanwhile, there’s another influencer you might have overlooked: the local news media. A feature article in your hometown newspaper or news website will give you that coveted opportunity to tell your story to the entire community. A visit from a local or regional TV reporter will put your pizzeria in front of tens of thousands of potential customers. Best of all, a live-on-the-air cooking demo for your city’s local morning news show is virtually priceless publicity that won’t actually cost you anything but a little time.
But unless you’re already well-established in your market, the media probably won’t come to you. You will have to reach out to them, and you will have to keep on reaching out until you get somewhere. Here are some tips for new pizzeria operators trying to attract local media attention and build a strong community presence.
1. Know your story and be ready to tell it.
Every pizzeria has a story. What’s yours? It can’t just be the standard “we use only the freshest ingredients and make our dough by hand every day” or “we treat our customers like family.” Most independent pizzeria operators can say the same thing. But reporters are looking, first and foremost, for a news angle. So what can you offer them? What makes your pizzeria different and more interesting? You need to craft a compelling narrative that sets your pizzeria apart from the rest. Whether it’s a unique pizza recipe, a pizza style that no one else offers, an engaging family history or personal backstory, you need to help the local media find that news angle they’re looking for. Take some time to think about your own backstory, write it down, place it in the About Us section of your website, and learn to tell that story by heart. Media coverage is always going to be about good storytelling. Know your story and be ready to share it.
2. Establish relationships with local journalists.
If you don’t know who they are, you’re already running behind. Do your research. Read past articles on your community’s food, beverage and entertainment scene. Watch the hometown TV news. Who’s reporting those fun, lighter stories? What draws them to a story? Once you’ve nailed down a list of contacts, start emailing and calling them—reporters, entertainment editors, food writers, TV news producers and anchors, radio personalities, and bloggers who cover food and events in your area. Introduce yourself and share your story. Invite them to your pizzeria for a free meal and give them the royal treatment. Show them around, teach them how to toss dough or make their own pie from scratch. Building relationships with media professionals can open doors to coverage opportunities and could even lead to recurring appearances on local morning shows!
3. Offer to go live.
Your local TV and radio morning shows are always looking for lighter news with broad appeal. And what’s more appealing to more people than pizza? Contact the local TV news station and offer to teach program hosts how to make one of your most popular menu items on the air. Maybe it’s your vodka pizza or a gluten-free pie. Know what you’re going to make before you even approach the media outlet. But if they’ve got other ideas, listen to them and follow their lead. They know what makes for good TV better than you!
4. Leverage social media to attract the news media.
Use social media platforms to your advantage. Share engaging content, such as behind-the-scenes glimpses, pizza-making tutorials and customer testimonials. Don’t just post about your daily specials. Followers want to see beautiful pizzas and other menu items. They want to feel like they know your servers and your pizza-makers. And so do local journalists, anchors, influencers and media outlets. Tag them in your best posts to grab their attention (but do not tag them in every post or you’ll just get on their nerves). You can even shoot a TikTok video or Instagram Reel with a personal invitation to your favorite reporter. Make it fun and, preferably, funny, something memorable that will be liked, commented on and shared by your followers. Encourage your followers to tag those same personalities that you want to reach in their replies to your posts. Start a social media campaign to get featured in the news, and your loyal customers will help you push it further. (Note: Never use these posts to complain that you haven’t been featured in the news. Keep the tone light and positive.)
5. Create Pizza-Making Contests for Civic Leaders.
If you want to make the news, go after the news makers. In Denton County, Texas, Motor City Pizza hosts the annual Mayoral Pizza Cook-Off, in which the mayors of towns and cities across the county vie for top honors to benefit their favorite charities. It’s a terrific promotion that virtually guarantees media coverage. You can do the same thing, whether it’s a county-wide event or one that brings together city officials—the mayor, aldermen and alderwomen, supervisors, police chiefs and sheriffs, school superintendents, you name it. Or sponsor a contest featuring local schoolteachers or coaches, with the proceeds going to a school project. Make sure to invite the local news outlets to cover the event, and tag them in social posts advertising the contest.
6. What About a Contest for Local News Personalities?
Finally, here’s one more possibility: Host a pizza-making contest or recipe contest featuring news anchors, reporters, editors, radio hosts and other hometown personalities in the public eye. They love pizza, too, and many of them like to cook. With the proliferation of portable pizza ovens, some of them might already be making pizzas at home and would love to show off their skills. Featuring them in a contest that benefits their favorite charities is a guaranteed PR score.
Attracting local media coverage for your pizzeria involves a combination of good storytelling, relationship-building, and strategic marketing. Follow these tips, and you will increase your chances of getting noticed by local journalists and creating top-of-mind awareness in your community.