Telling Your Story: How to Stand Out

James Cooley is an account manager at PR agency, Stellar Concepts

I’ve been lucky enough to see my fair share of great venues, whether it be handling the PR for a restaurant, bar or nightclub, or attending an event. It’s a tough gig but someone has to do it.

The question remains the same for proprietors of these venues — how can I cut through the clutter when there are just so many options? Did you know Australia has one of the highest number of bars and restaurants per capita of anywhere in the world?

However, I’ve seen some venues shine when it comes to creating notoriety. The ones that do it right are those that maintain a consistent clear message such as Neil Perry at Rockpool and Matt Moran with Aria and Chiswick. Once captured, they nurture relationships using a variety of methods to maintain the great conversation they started.

When it comes to promoting a venue, assume nothing and start from the beginning. Although you have agonised over every aspect — from the menu and wine list, to design, lighting and staffing — the media and potential customer will probably have no clue. So tell them.


Here are a few tips I’ve picked up from publicising some of Sydney’s most reputable venues:

• Know what is unique about your offering: an amazing wine list, unparalleled views, or the best music in town? Shout it from the rooftops and make sure that what makes you special is clear at every interaction with the customer.

• Next step is great photography: a picture tells a thousand words and with the rise and rise of new media, great photography is imperative to drive conversation online. Great photography underpins any marketing campaign. One restaurant who uses excellent photography across many mediums from advertising, editorial to social media is our client Cafe Sydney.

• Have a good spokesperson: whether that’s the designer, owner, chef or mixologist — someone who will represent the venue positively and position the venue as a thought leader and innovator. While we have worked with high profile spokespeople such as Justin Hemmes, Merivale and head chefs such as Elton Inglis at The Tilbury, there are still many opportunities for anyone from cocktail makers to marketing and sales personnel to have a voice.

• Get the opening right to solidify your offering and your target market. Should it be a glamorous event or a local’s-only ‘soft launch’? Whose attention do you want to grab from day one? Remember you have one shot at opening, so get it right. Stellar helped Old Joe’s in Cronulla through a solid media relations program — no big launch — but achieved some fantastic results.

• Social media is one of the most important marketing tools — be a part of the conversation — as long as you have someone willing to take the criticism (and tackle the trolls). Have a social media presence by being active and engaging with people in your industry — your competitors, media, suppliers, staff, friends and of course customer. So get talking! Dan Hong of Sydney hot spot, Mr Wong, is a great example with a captive Twitter following engaging media and diners alike.

• Consider involvement with a larger event or festival to tap into new databases and large numbers of potential customers. There a slew of opportunities to engage with foodies, drinks connoisseurs and clubbers alike. These could include food events such as Taste Festivals, a craft beer festival, local initiatives such as the Surry Hills Festival; and industry-specific thought leader events such as the Electronic Music Conference. Critical to that decision, of course, is ensuring you have the resources — if you’re going to do it, make sure you do it well.

• Invite people to trial what you’re offering. It’s the best way to drive word of mouth; through experience. Media, reviewers and bloggers are great to engage with but make sure you’ve nailed your product first.

The golden rule is that consistent conversation is king. Keep engaging your audience and tell them what you’re up to — if they never know, they’ll never go.


James Cooley is an account manager at Sydney based public relations agency, Stellar Concepts, one of Australia’s most successful and respected lifestyle public relations agencies with a specialist interest in food, beverage, hospitality and events.

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