From Local Attention to National Acclaim for Smallman Galley

From Local Attention to National Acclaim for Smallman Galley

Communications Media Relations Shift News

A virtuous PR path for the country’s first restaurant incubator

Since we started working with Smallman Galley just over a year ago (has it really been an entire year?!), we’ve been on an adventure to collaborate with the owners, the chefs, and the bar-program manager to bring their passions to life: four aspiring chefs in four separate kitchens — with four completely different concepts — serving the dining public under one roof in a lovingly renovated Strip District space.

At Shift, we love risk-takers, and we equally love having the opportunity to participate in the complete marketing effort: logo, branding, design, web development, social media, collateral-creation, and PR.

For Smallman Galley, the media strategy has been particularly important: engaging local media coverage first, then leveraging those successes to secure terrific national placements (with more in the pipeline). The strategy has paid off so far for Smallman Galley and for the Pittsburgh region’s burgeoning national reputation as a hot-bed of innovation in the food and restaurant space.

First, Think Local

Engaging local media before approaching national outlets was a counter-intuitive approach according to some naysayers. After all, as the nation’s first restaurant incubator, why not a major coast-to-coast PR push from the get-go? Why not capitalize on Pittsburgh’s already being showcased in national press?

Our theory in this situation was that national media would be easier to attract once we had a slew of local posts, articles, and TV links to share, to use as an inducement to coverage: “There’s big news coming out of Pittsburgh — look at all this coverage.”

But also, on a purely practical level, given our team’s long experience with restaurant launches, we were concerned that we’d make a national push for awareness, name the opening date for the restaurant, and then have to postpone the media because the place hadn’t yet opened. Best of intentions aside, delays always occur amid the complexities of contractors, subcontractors, multiple vendors, licensing, and permitting. (And like home-improvement projects, they rarely come in under budget.)  Why set up the Smallman Galley team for failure if they couldn’t open as initially scheduled?

So we made a plan: Get open, establish success, flood the local market — and then bring the national guys in. The clients agreed, and we placed our bet.

Coverage Mapping

As we mapped out potential local coverage, we broke it down into three phases that would be ripe for media interest. Judge the results for yourself: here’s the coverage we gained.

Media Coverage Phase 1: Concept Announcement in April

There was a lot of “new” going on: a new concept helmed by new restaurateurs seeking new cooking talent, so a large part of our  messaging and media training sought to build confidence and trust that the project also possessed advisors with deep industry experience (in this case the unimpeachably pedigreed Troiani Family). This first wave of coverage wouldalso  serve as a useful recruiting tool, augment other initiatives in attracting the first class of chef-applicants.

April 1: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
New Chefs get a taste of how to run a restaurant

April 1: Next Pittsburgh
Restaurant incubator launches in the Strip District–now accepting applications for its first class

April 8: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
New galley in the Strip hopes to turn out top chefs

April 29: WPXI-TV Our Region’s Business
Smallman Galley: A Restaurant Incubator in Pittsburgh’s Strip District

May 8: WTAE-TV
Unique competition concept will bring top chefs to new Pittsburgh restaurant

May 20: WESA-FM 90.5
Restaurant Start-up (starts at 36:29)

June 12: Pittsburgh Business Times
Culinary incubators offer place to hone menus

As Mr. Burns would say: “Excellent.”

Media Coverage Phase 2: Chef Announcement in July

Wave two of our coverage centered on the announcement of the chefs who had been selected to be a part of the inaugural Smallman Galley incubation class. With so much initial coverage (rightly) focused on explaining the concept, we wanted to engineer something extra-special that would turn the spotlight on the culinary talent. We decided to give Table Magazine the exclusive. Their reputation for beautifully art-directed photography made them the ideal brand-building platform for this important phase (not to mention that the opening was just two short months away).

July 27: Table Magazine
Meet the Inaugural Class at Smallman Galley

August 16: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Smallman Galley to give chefs a boost

Table’s website crashed for several hours on the day of the announcement. Talk about popularity!

Media Coverage Phase 3: The Grand Opening in October

When communicating a radical departure from the traditional restaurant model — especially given a multi-month time lag, we knew repetition of the core elements would be key to prepare (and entice) potential patrons: Four diverse chefs dishing out deliciousness in this innovative, incubator environment.

December 14: Next Pittsburgh
Eat.Drink.Do. Smallman Galley adds four more reasons to visit the Strip

December 17: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Restaurant scene: Smallman Galley will nurture big ambition

December 18: CBS Pittsburgh
Restaurant Incubator Opens In The Strip This Weekend

December 18: Pittsburgh Business Times
Five things to know today, and a new food incubator opens in the Strip District

December 22: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Hatching new ideas: Smallman Galley food hall an incubator of 4 restaurants

December 23: Pittsburgh City Paper
The story behind Smallman Galley’s a broad and quirky beverage program

January 7: Pittsburgh Magazine
First Look: Smallman Galley

Should it have escaped your notice, dear reader, please note a certain time-lag. Did we place a two-month embargo on opening coverage in some bizarre ploy to depress attendance? No. As we anticipated, the opening had been delayed due to construction issues. While we were thrilled with the amount and quality of media attention, our initial reluctance to go big nationally was looking well-founded.

Media Coverage Phase 4: Pitch National

Armed with this slew of impressive third-party validation, and two months of capacity crowds, we turned to the national media. From the beginning we had our eye on the platinum standard of food and restaurant coverage: The New York Times. Its lively, deeply-reported Wednesday food section is must-read for foodies, industry professionals, and restaurant enthusiasts across the country; it truly sets the national food agenda.

Nearly a year to the day after the announcement of this new concept, the Times’ millions of online and print subscribers were treated to this beauty:

March 15: The New York Times
Pittsburgh’s Youth-Driven Food Boom

What we especially enjoy about this article is that it gives due attention to other restaurateurs in town, helping to further position the Pittsburgh region as a culinary leader. As one journalist who works for a prestigious national publication — and not-so- incidentally has been to Pittsburgh and loves it — told us, and this is almost a direct quote: “Every mid-sized city in the country is riding a wave of local, organic, and artisanal — what’s so different about Pittsburgh?”

She will soon be in town to see — and cover this story — for herself. We’re pleased to report that her article will join Eater (“The 13 Hottest New Restaurants in Pittsburgh Right Now”) and a host of other publications, websites, and media outlets sharing with their readers and viewers.

It will be new to them, but old news (by design) to Pittsburgh.

Artist Vanessa German Shifts Community Perceptions Through Creative Action

Artist Vanessa German Shifts Community Perceptions Through Creative Action

Community Media Relations

Vanessa German is an internationally acclaimed sculptor, poet, performer, and playwright who makes her home in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Vanessa finds objects to incorporate into her art around Pittsburgh, and is also known for her mixed-media sculptures that combine dolls, shells, tins, beads, and household objects. Even those who may not know it are familiar with her work, as she is also the creator of the “Stop Shooting—We Love You” signs that can be seen all over Pittsburgh in response to problems of gun violence, particularly in her home neighborhood. These signs aren’t the only way Vanessa gives back to Homewood, though. She is the founder of ARThouse, a community art education initiative based in the Homewood neighborhood of Pittsburgh. At the ARThouse, Vanessa welcomes neighborhood children, teaches them about art, and gives them the materials and the space for them to express themselves via art.
vanessa-german-arthouseThe ARThouse started when some kids saw Vanessa creating artwork on her front porch. Since its inception in 2012, it has outgrown Vanessa’s porch, and even had outgrown the vacant Homewood house where the program began thriving. The program is ready to move into a new, larger space, this one with an attached vacant lot. The space is in need of a lot of work to make it safe for kids, and Vanessa, whose community work is unaffiliated with any larger non-profit or funding source, decided to use Indiegogo, an online crowd-funding website, to help raise the money necessary to make the new home of ARThouse a reality. Shift agreed to help Vanessa promote her campaign so she can secure funding to purchase the house and make the necessary renovations to allow it to serve the kids of Homewood. We determined that the best way to help the ARThouse was through Earned Media—that is by helping Vanessa and the ARThouse gain exposure via news outlets.

In order to get the attention of the media, a compelling story such as Vanessa’s is a great start, but it also takes careful crafting of new releases and strategically approaching the appropriate media channels. This is why we think of this media coverage as “Earned Media.” We teamed up with Vanessa to craft an effective news release and to reach out to the appropriate channels, and we ultimately by strategically contacting the right media sources, helped secure placements on KDKA-TV’s “Sunday Business Page,” a weekly public affairs program that features individuals who are making a difference in the Pittsburgh region, and the world; as well as in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s “City Walkabout” which focuses on beat writer Diana Nelson Jones’s coverage of Pittsburgh’s unique neighborhood.

Through her Indiegogo campaign, Vanessa German and the ARThouse have raised over $38,000 toward the purchase and renovation of the ARThouse’s new location. At Shift, we are proud to have been a part of this campaign to help Vanessa make a difference in Homewood, and in the lives of its kids.