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.

Behind the Scenes: How Shift Secured a Two-page Spread in the Trib

Behind the Scenes: How Shift Secured a Two-page Spread in the Trib

Media Relations PR

by Therese Joseph, Shift PR Fellow

Yesterday, on November 2, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review distributed its Sunday paper, as per usual. However, unlike its usual paper, this edition contained a two-page, cover-spread story, the longest in the paper’s memory, on the behind the scenes making of Franksgiving, the Film Factory winning screenplay produced by Steeltown Entertainment Project.

Anyone who’s attempted to gain media coverage for a company or organization can understand the challenge of getting any mention or coverage within the paper. So how did Steeltown Entertainment Project manage to score a 2099-word article with three photos? Shift Collaborative provides PR support for Steeltown Entertainment Project, and we are happy share how we made this media relations dream into a reality for our client.

How We Got the Trib Onboard

Tim Colbert, Shift’s PR Director, works with Steeltown on a regular basis. Reflecting back on when he was working to secure coverage for Steeltown’s annual competition, The Steeltown Film Factory, Tim said that the competition “started to feel, in terms of media, like old news. Oh, okay well, they won a little contest and they did a little movie and you know.” But Tim was not satisfied. He remembers thinking, “There must be a way to elevate and promote this project.”

As the Film Factory competition was coming to a close, a possible solution to this dilemma came to Tim: a behind-the-scenes exclusive. He had been working with the Trib to provide coverage on the competition and the final event in May.  As Tim remembers working with the Trib, he said “They were really interested and really into Steeltown Film Factory. And my gut told me that, having gotten to know Steven Knezovich, director/writer of Franksgiving, that he would be up for it.”

So Tim decided to go for it. As he explained, “The worst thing that could happen was someone was going to say no. Fortunately, everyone said yes.”

The Timeline

On Saturday, May 17, Franksgiving won the Film Factory competition.  On May 20, Tim put in a call in to the Trib to see if they were interested. And before Memorial Day on May 26, he had gotten the meeting with the Trib and the Franksgiving filmmakers to work out the details.

By the end of May, Tim had secured a placement in the Trib in November, five months away.  Tim admitted this was a long-term project for everyone, but as he explained, “If you want to get the good placements, that’s the kind of commitment and that’s the kind of long view time frame that’s required.” Needless to say, Tim’s long-term view has been justifiably rewarded by the coverage the Trib provided for Steeltown.

The Agreement

In the meeting between the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Franksgiving filmmakers, they agreed that the Trib would have unlimited behind-the-scenes access, including production meetings, script read-throughs, and on-site privileges during four days of filming at three separate locations.  In addition, the Trib’s photographer/videographer, and journalist would have free-rein while they worked.  According to Tim, “They took full advantage. The journalist from the Trib followed and covered the project for nearly five months.”

What’s the Appeal of This Story

The key to securing any media placement is the story you have to offer. The story needs to be considered newsworthy to even have a chance to be published. The story also needs to be pitched to a journalist who writes about and is interested in that subject matter. Without these two aspects, it is highly unlikely that you will capture the interest of a news organization.

Steeltown’s Newsworthy Story

According to the media reports, the Pittsburgh region is on track for a record-breaking year in film and TV production, but many of the city’s residents don’t know how these movies are being created within their own backyards.  “We don’t know how movies and TV productions get made,” said Tim as he reflected on the story. “Who doesn’t want to go, particularly with the entertainment industry, behind the scenes and see how the magic happens?”

The Trib agreed. This story was an excellent opportunity to provide their readers a peek into the film production process that is continually happening all around the city.  As Tim remembered discussing the opportunity with the Trib, he said, “The Trib was very excited to offer its readers this behind-the-scenes opportunity. And they were good enough to devote considerable resources and space to the story.”

What Got Published

In the Trib’s Sunday edition, a two-page spread was published on a behind-the-scenes look at the making of Franksgiving. The spread included 60-column inches of copy (2099 words), not to mention numerous photos.

On the Trib’s website, the story includes with an exclusive three-minute video including behind-the-scenes interviews with the filmmakers and the cast of Franksgiving.

The Benefits of Media Coverage

With the advent of social media, some might question the value of obtaining media coverage. According Eric Sloss, principal of Shift, the main benefit of an organization receiving media coverage is third-party validation.  When comparing media coverage to an organization’s social outreach, Eric explained that “third-party validation of your company or organization via terrific media coverage is always going to be more credible and more persuasive. You are not saying how good you are, someone else is.”

Tim then went on to note, “We’ve seen, overall, the intersection of traditional media and social media. So part of being strategic about this is: the more media coverage you get, that feeds right into your social platforms. Of course you’re going to want to link to a great newspaper placement or a broadcast segment and promote it via your social media channels. This is where they work in concert with one another.”

How Steeltown Entertainment Project Benefits

This story has two benefits for Steeltown Entertainment Project in terms of publicity and finances. In terms of publicity, this story demonstrates Steeltown’s commitment to nurturing a growing film community in Pittsburgh through projects like Film Factory. “The beauty of the Film Factory competition is that it provides invaluable hands-on, professional experience for people who want to get into the business,” Tim said. “If you are a local, you’re not going to get work on the Will Smith movie if you’ve never done anything else.”

In terms of finances, this story has given Steeltown coverage that would have cost them a fortune to produce a similar impact through advertisement. According to Tim, attempting such an investment would have cost Steeltown $63,000.

How Franksgiving Benefits

Franksgiving, like Steeltown and the Film Factory competition, has also gained a tremendous amount of publicity from this story; the story has generated interest and excitement for the film’s world premiere at the Three Rivers Film Festival later this month.

How the Three Rivers Film Festival Benefits

The Three Rivers Film Festival kicks off later this week, on November 7. As this story is published on one of their featured films in the days leading up to the start of their festival, this story is also a nice publicity boost for their efforts.

View the Story and See Franksgiving

Now that you’ve read all about how Shift secured a two-page spread, why don’t you check it out? The story is featured on the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s website.

Franksgiving will be premiering at the Three Rivers Film Festival on November 10. For more details on the showtime and how and where to get tickets, visit the festival’s website.


Image Credit: Jasmine Goldband, Trib Total Media

PR Part 1: The Media Pitching Process

PR Part 1: The Media Pitching Process

Media Relations PR

by Therese Joseph, Shift PR Fellow

Public relations professionals have to acquire many skills to manage the public image of their clients including a solid media pitching process.  The  most successful PR professionals most often acquire and perfect these skills through an apprenticeship model. While this model of learning helps PR professionals to learn their skills without ruining a client’s reputation, it also ensures that the people outside of the public relations industry are less aware of how the best PR professionals work their magic.

In the month of September, we will be taking a closer look at some of the techniques we use at Shift Collaborative to work our own public relations magic.  We’re starting off our series with an in-depth look at how we gain media coverage by pitching a story.  If you ever wondered how we get journalists to care and write about your company, here are a few of our secrets.

1// A newsworthy story


To successfully pitch a story, we need one main ingredient.  The story must be newsworthy.  Journalists are rewarded for getting the scoop and spotting the trend.  If your story is old news or doesn’t have a unique angle of relevance to the public, then journalists won’t care no matter how we frame the story.

In order to be a reliable source for journalists, we have to spot what is newsworthy or not before we share.  Otherwise, we risk being blacklisted by journalists as someone who repeatedly shares stories that they can’t use.  The danger of being blacklisted is very much like the story of the boy who cried wolf; when we finally have that newsworthy story, no journalist will respond because they have made a habit of deleting our messages without reading them.

2// Compile a targeted list of journalists

A pitch is more likely to be read when it is directed to a specific person than a general editor.  Journalists are often swamped with deadlines and have very little spare time.  Due to their lack of time, they won’t read information that wasn’t specifically directed to them and they won’t redirect information that was misdirected to them.

As PR professionals, this means we must know who covers what stories at each publication and target individual journalists based on the story we are pitching.  These journalists expect us to know what they write about and to contact them with newsworthy stories that are relevant to their area of expertise.  Repeatedly sharing stories with a specific journalist that doesn’t match up with their area of expertise can be just as bad as repeatedly sharing stories that aren’t newsworthy.

3// Be aware of media deadlines

Journalists have deadlines they need to meet and require time to follow up on a story before they can publish.  Knowing when different publications and their sections are expected to submit finalized stories is a huge advantage.  One, if you pitch a story with enough time before deadline, a journalist is more likely to pursue the story.  Two, you can avoid irritating the journalist by presenting a newsworthy story that they cannot properly investigate.

4// Craft personalized pitches

Once you have your newsworthy story and a list of targeted journalists, you are ready to begin crafting your pitches.  Each journalist should receive a personalize pitch.  There are many advantages to this approach.  One, it allows you to frame the story with how it relates to their area of expertise.  Two, since journalists are looking to discover a story first, they will be more encouraged to respond when they are the sole recipient.  They will be eager to grab the story first and attempt to negotiate exclusive rights to the story, if possible.  Three, you can reach out to multiple journalists who write about different areas of expertise by adjusting the angle you frame the story from.

5// Follow up on pitches

This can be the trickiest part of the process.  As a PR professional, our goal is to secure as much coverage as possible for our story.  Increased coverage can be achieved by obtaining multiple journalists to write about the story or by obtaining one journalist at a widely distributed publication.  However, every journalist wants to be the only journalist on the story.  As requests for information come in, you  have to balance the need to secure coverage with the need to maximize the distribution of the story.  This can be nerve-racking as responses come in at different rates.

Follow-up can sometimes include a phone call to a journalist a few hours after we emailed a pitch.  All follow up communications of this type should ideally be communicated via that journalist’s preferred method of contact.  This is why is it crucial to cultivate long-term relationships with journalists so you can come to know such preferences.

6// Connect journalists with our client

When a journalist commits to writing a story, they often immediately want access to the client to ask addition questions for the story.  For a news article, this can be as simple as exchanging phone numbers and setting a time for them to talk.  For broadcast news coverage, we have to negotiate a time when the client can go to their studio to film the segment on the story.

In these or any other instances, a necessary step of connecting the client with the media is prepping the client to respond to the media.  This type of preparation usually includes reviewing talking points, issues to avoid, and how to respond to difficult questions appropriately.  Without this type of preparation, a thoughtless quote might overshadow the entire purpose of the original story.

 Our next post…

This post was the first in a series of posts taking an in-depth look into the public relation techniques used to manage our clients’ reputations.  If you enjoyed this post on media pitching,  check back on Thursday, September 18 when our next post, PR Part 2: The Social Frontier will go live.  In the post I’ll be discussing the techniques we use to monitor and manage your reputation through social networks.

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.

Carlos Danger Needs a Crisis Manager

Media Relations PR

 by Eric Sloss, Shift partner

New York City mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner is a great case study for what not to do during a crisis. He resigned from Congress for texting photos of his penis to various women he randomly met. A couple of years later, now running for Mayor of New York City, Weiner continued to send photos digitally under the nom de guerre “Carlos Danger.” One would expect a popular politician to have the money and support to find the right way to handle a crisis.
But methodically he severely damaged his chances to win the most coveted mayoral position in the world by mismanaging his own crisis. His wife, Huma Abedin, who took the Tammy Wynette tune “Stand by Your Man” right out of Hilary Rodham Clinton’s soundtrack, has tarnished her own image by her commitment to her husband. Abedin did not have to go far to find Clinton’s playlist—she is part of the former U.S. Secretary of State’s transition team. I was in New York City for business when the second Weiner photo revealed itself (sorry, I had to do it). New Yorkers interviewed by local news outlets were dismayed and disgusted by his actions, and by his wife’s commitment to her husband. His approval rating was 55% and his disapproval rating was 33% when I landed on Tuesday.

These numbers were turned on their head within a day. We have read all the headlines “Weiner’s Rise and Fall,” “Too Hard to Stop,” and my personal favorite “Stick a Fork in the Weiner.” Yes, his name does not help the crisis. When a client’s name is part of the jokes, professional communications consultants can only pray that the intelligent quotient of the fine citizens of America – for this particular instance New York City voters – will raise a few brain points and look past all the digs. One of the important tenets of communicating during a crisis is to define the problem, and Weiner clearly has yet to accomplish this. As much as we hate ourselves for laughing at the headline “Tip of the Weiner,” we also dislike Weiner for not telling us the truth: he may have mental disorder—an addictive illness that blends sexual dysfunction with ego. If you ask any professional in the crisis communication sector, defining the problem is the very first step, which his team has yet to do.

One of the many characteristics of a crisis that Weiner and company are currently facing is omnipresent media. Major metropolitan regions with a wealth of news outlets can sniff out a crisis, escalate it, and sustain a crisis for a long period of time. The New York City setting, one of the media capitals of the world, doesn’t help either. If this happened in, say, Weiner, Arkansas (yes, this is a real city), this might not be a headline of the Wienerschnitzel Bugle. Or at very least, those of us in Pittsburgh wouldn’t hear about the mayoral candidate who likes to share his privates online.

There are many principles of crisis communications. Professional consultation should tell him to use the Relationship Principle to his benefit, which tells those in a crisis to nurture their reputations. Weiner is doing this well, and it is almost his only option at this point in the race—he is a well-liked politician. However, he is doing a bad job of explaining himself and he is not executing the important Accountability Principle very well, which insists that “I’m sorry” won’t cut it. Nothing less than a full-out explanation with total candor and contrition will do.

Voters need to hear what psychological diagnosis he has, how he is going to deal with it, and most importantly, how it might affect him as in running one of the most vibrant cities in the modern world. The Disclosure Principle guides those in a crisis to tell as much as they can, as soon as they can. Running for Mayor in the city that never sleeps affords Weiner a lot of air time. The problem and the solution should be included in one of his many media appearances that are sure to come over the next few weeks. I have no horse in this race but my professional guidance tells me that in the final stanzas of this historic mayoral effort, Weiner needs to go back to step number one and define the problem.

He needs to tell the truth about his mental disorder and clearly state that he will not do it again, and assure the public that it will have no impact on his ability to represent New York City residents. He might gain a few votes on a sympathy message.