First of all, I’d like to start by saying that I’m not trying to demean anyone who has e-mailed me and received less than stellar response. Read with an open mind and take everything as a feedback to become even better in the future. With that being said, before getting into the nitty gritty of how to invite food bloggers, let’s take a trip down memory lane and see how much food blogging has transformed.
Since I started blogging in 2009, a lot of things have changed. Back then, everyone was doing food blogging for fun. It was simply a hobby and not a profession. There were around 30 people in a close-knit community who actively blogged, became friends because of food, and helped one another. Over the years, more people saw F&B as a lucrative business and everything boomed. New restaurants, cafés, and coffee shops bred like rabbits. The need for promotion increased, and just in time with the rise of internet and social media, blogs managed to become an alternative platform—some might even say the preferred way—to conventional media for this purpose.
So has the increasing need for food blogging translated to a better quality of invitations? One might think so, but the answer is quite the contrary. After receiving so many invitations over the course of eight years, I believe restaurants have to step up their approach. Consider it as a way to differentiate yourself from the others. A better invitation delivered in good manners could be the deciding factor between picking one event over the other.
1. Know your food blogger
This is a how to invite food bloggers 101. When you want to invite someone, at the very least make sure you know what’s his or her social media handle and the name of the blog. Familiarize yourself with the blogger’s work as much as you can. Don’t send e-mails just for the sake of it. If possible, take the extra step in introducing yourself long before your restaurant opens. As a wise man once said, nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care. Marketing is a long term investment, never a one time event deal. You most probably are gonna need the bloggers again. So, begin with a relationship—a good one.
2. Personalized e-mail is preferred
Feel free to write a template for your e-mail, but please take the extra care to write the correct names and give everything a once-over before hitting the send button. Having said that, I understand that sending e-mails can be tedious and honest mistakes happen. A cup of coffee or a short break beforehand always help, trust me.
3. Be flexible with timing
Please remember that every blogger is different. Yes, there are some who blog full-time and making a living out of it. On the other hand, there are a lot who are still doing this as a side job. They have regular jobs with demanding hours, other things to do, and other places to visit. Try inviting food bloggers on weekday nights when they are done with work, or weekends. Worst case scenario: I once got an invitation for 3 PM on a Thursday. When I asked whether another time slot was available, they casually said, “We’re saving tables during lunch time for our customers.” I realize every restaurant has a target and requires a certain number to profit, but the way the information is given blatantly shows that they don’t value me more than they value the customers. This brings me to point number 4.
4. Food bloggers can pay for their own food
For real. Food bloggers are not free food hunters. It’s much more than that. We would appreciate it and are more inclined to come when a restaurant makes the effort to make an event or let the chef talk to us. Make it fun. Give us stories to tell.
5. Take the time to sit with us
It would be great if the restaurant could take the time to get to know us a bit and answer some questions that we might have. This doesn’t mean you have to accompany us throughout the whole meal. We know you have other jobs to do as well.
6. Understand why some bloggers require monetary return
While we personally don’t ask for monetary return, we fully realize the understanding behind it. Imagine a person has to come at a certain time, brave through the traffic to reach your place, sit and eat for two hours, take good photos, drive home, edit photos, and write a 400-word article. This process could take the whole day, and sometimes longer. It comes to a point where something regarded as a hobby becomes a professional work. A monetary return is a very reasonable request, particularly for bloggers with good reach and engagement. To reciprocate and fully understand the impact of your campaign, you as the restaurant can then ask for traffic report. This is a win-win situation.
7. Consider making an open invitation
As for us, we would be very happy when we receive an open invitation, which means the restaurant gives us options on when to come, or even better, let us pick the most convenient time. This way, we can come whenever we’re available, and visiting your place won’t feel like a chore. And maybe, some would even dismiss the budget thing on point six.
8. Send the invitation at least one week before the event
Send the invitation as soon as you can. Sending it one day or three days before the event means either one of this three: I’m not your priority; you’re just trying to fill in last minute cancellation; or your preparation is not good enough.
I hope you learn a thing (and seven more) about how to invite food bloggers.Share this with your boss, your marketing manager (if you have one), or whoever intern you let in charge with this. Good manner and common sense might seem simple, but they go a long way. Put yourself in the shoes of food bloggers and try to see it from our point of view. The next time you don’t get a reply from a food blogger, think hard, contemplate, and re-read this article. Did you miss anything?
If you still have 3 more minutes to learn, I’ve touched this subject to two years ago, and yet still relevant today. This is the kind of restaurants that I’m happy to review.
Thank me later,
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