Unexpected PR Lessons from a Cooking Substack

We love work / life balance here at Hodges, but sometimes in our daily lives, we can’t stop to think about the connections to PR as we’re reading content, listening to something or otherwise experiencing the world. Often, it’s something unexpected that inspires us. In this case, it was reading a cooking Substack that led to a podcast listen that had a Hodger thinking about PR and the way we approach things.

Are you familiar with Substack? It’s an online platform— a subscription network —that allows writers to send digital newsletters directly to subscribers. According to the Substack website, the network is comprised of 35 million active subscriptions, including 2 million paid subscriptions.

At a time where traditional media is shifting significantly, I love that Substack allows writers to create a more personal relationship with readers. You can browse for newsletters that might interest you by category – culture, politics or cooking. My personal favorite Substack is “What To Cook When You Don’t Feel Like Cooking” by Caroline Chambers – and I’m not alone; Chambers is the number one food and drink writer on Substack. As a mom with two young kids, I need these kinds of recipes in my life right now. This Substack is paid, and for me, the $5 per month fee is well worth the cooking inspiration the newsletter delivers. (One of Caroline’s recipes that was a recent hit in our household was sheet pan gnocchi with pancetta, asparagus and shallots.)

Chambers recently started a podcast covering a wide variety of topics. One of the recent episodes was with Gaby Dalkin of “What’s Gaby Cooking,” another popular food writer and cookbook author. One of the topics in this episode revolved around how brands work with influencers and creators. I really enjoyed listening to their conversation, and it left me with a few takeaways that I thought communications professionals could benefit from.

The difference between a creator and an influencer

In this field, we often refer to someone with a platform and audience as an influencer. Caroline often refers to herself as a creator, which has made me more conscious of the difference between the two, especially as we’re seeing more creators and influencers emerge. Creators are creating content for the purpose of engaging an audience – whereas influencers are trying to influence an audience to do something – often making a purchase.

How to do a brand partnership right

In the podcast episode, Dalkin talked about one of her favorite brand partnerships – one that might totally surprise you for a cookbook author with an audience mostly focused on cooking. The brand? Formula 1. Dalkin has often professed her interest in the sport, and the brand took notice. They invited her on a trip to Lake Como, and Dalkin talked about how great it was to have no extensive guidelines for the content she was posting. Sometimes when we’re working with creators and influencers on a client’s behalf, we want to control everything, but the best content happens when we let the creator take the reins. They know their audience best, after all.

Think outside the box

Do you think Dalkin, very much in the food space, would be on the target list for Formula 1? Probably not. If Formula 1 wants to reach new audiences, they have to get in front of new people. One great way to do that is by connecting with fans of the brand who can get them in front of those different audiences and who can speak about their passion for it authentically, which Dalkin does!

Address your email to a person

Okay, this might be PR 101, but it’s good to remember. Don’t start off an email with “Good Afternoon” or “Hi there.” For folks that are getting many, many emails each days, at first glance, these emails look like blasts. Personalize with every opportunity to do so to increase your chances of that email getting read.

While I enjoyed reading Carolne’s content for where I am in this season of my life, I also was happy for the unexpected PR lessons I never would have heard without my favorite cooking Substack. Here’s hoping these tips will help you think about brand partnerships, and how you’re working with influencers and creators a little differently!

Megan Irvin

Megan spends her days doing media relations, community relations, content creation and events for clients like Kroger Mid-Atlantic, Federal Realty and Mercy Chefs. Her favorite part of her job is working with clients and providing strategic counsel — and garnering media attention for clients in outlets like TODAY, Esquire, USA Today and Bon Appetit.

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