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.

“Giant e-commerce companies like Amazon are acting increasingly like their big-box brethren as they extinguish small competitors with discounted prices, free shipping and easy-to-use apps. Big online retailers had a 19 percent jump in revenue over the holidays versus 2010, while at smaller online retailers growth was just 7 percent.

“The little sites are fighting back with some tactics of their own, like preventing price comparisons or offering freebies that an anonymous large site can’t. And in a new twist, they are also exploiting the sympathies of shoppers like Dr. Pollack by encouraging customers to think of them as the digital version of a mom-and-pop shop facing off against Walmart: If you can’t shop close to home, at least shop small.”

From “Online Shoppers Are Rooting for the Little Guy,” by Stephanie Clifford and Claire Cain Miller, New York Times, 1/16/2012.


15 Minute Social Media for Business


I spoke today with the Slippery Rock Business Association about social media and how they could use it to build business. Here’s the slideshow I used as a framework:

Key questions you might ask

1. Where can social media make the greatest impact for your business?

2. How can you blend social media into your existing communications and operations?

3. What social media and networks are your customers, stakeholders, employees, and competitors using?

Be a Favorite Place on Google

Big Big Design is a Favorite Place on Google
Big Big Design is a Favorite Place on Google

We received Big Big Design’s “Favorite Place on Google” sticker today, and I’m geekily excited.

The sticker is a window decal with a barcode that points to our business listing on Google and Google Maps. A person with a camera phone can scan the barcode to see our listing, including information we post there — hours, coupons and specials, reviews from customers or clients, photos and videos.

This is all free from Google, and it’s a nice tool set for any business or organization that has a local client or customer base. It’s part of a Google Local Business Center listing, which can act as a small and simple webpage for your business or as a landing page that points to your full website.

To get started, log in with a Google account (or sign up for a free Google account) and visit Start out with just basic information, and add to it over time. You’ll also be able to see how many people are looking at your listing, searching for your business, and more.

Need help? Give us a call.

20 Presence Management Chores *for Business* You COULD Do Every Day

Garden hand
Photo credit: enviziondotnet

A few weeks back, new media marketer extraordinaire Chris Brogan shared ideas and suggestions for maintaining a personal presence online. (“19 Presence Management Chores You COULD Do Every Day“) The list is dense and ambitious, but the time you put into this kind of effort pays off.

If you’re charged with maintaining the social media presence of a company, the list still holds great value, but it might need a bit of translation. When you speak for your company or for a brand, you’re stepping outside your individual persona, and your actions should reflect that. This is also true if you maintain separate online presences for your personal self and your work self.

Here’s my take on key online presence management chores for a company or brand. Continue reading

Get on the map


Flower shop on Google Maps

Flower shop on Google Maps originally uploaded by Larsz

If your business or organization focuses on local clients and customers, the most effective way to make sure they find you on the Web is to get listed on online map services, like Google Maps, MapQuest, and MSN Live Search.

These free business listings are an easy way to get your website to show up in searches — and they’re far cheaper than any search engine optimization available.

Listings take just a few minutes to create (although they take a bit longer to activate). Read on to find out what you’ll need, where to go, and what to do.

Continue reading

Secret weapon that’s no longer secret: Blogging for business

Quick links

The excellent blog of SmallFuel Marketing is full of great information about how to do better marketing for small business. But iif you don’t have time to read through the whole site, you can at least check out this article on the whys and hows of small business blogging:

The big picture of blogging for business goes something like this. In
order to be successful with business blogging you’ll need to put in a
good amount of time. Blogs need to be updated regularly, most people
say between 3-5 times per week, so there is a lot of writing involved.
Also, blogging is a very social activity. This means that you should
read and comment on other blogs, as well as network and build
relationships with other bloggers. In summary, it takes time and

The result of your efforts, however, can be truly outstanding. A
well-designed and frequently updated blog can boost your website to the
top of search results (blogs are awesome from an SEO perspective), it
can draw in thousands of visitors, and it can help build your image as
an authority. A successful blog can serve as branding, advertising,
networking, and sales all rolled into one. And they don’t even cost

The article is full of links to other useful resources too.

Bottom line: While a good blog requires time and effort, it provides excellent return on that investment.

(Link thanks to FreelanceSwitch.)

Mayday! The benefits of asking for help


Asking for help and incorporating what other can do for you will make
you more productive, but will also open up perspectives and points of
view that you might not have possessed previously. Asking for help
also creates an obligation for you to return the favor or at least be
available to help others. This creates a sense of shared work and
shared effort, and builds a stronger team. When individuals don’t seek
each other’s advice, team building and collaboration are much harder to

Thinking Faster touts the benefits of asking for help. This is great advice for small business owners and entrepreneurs who are used to carrying the weight themselves: Share the load with others, and you’ll be stronger and go faster.

(Link thanks to Designing Innovations.)