Video Kills the Press Release Star

Brandon Baltzley, video chef.
Brandon Baltzley, video chef. Photo: courtesy Pensiero

Ellen Malloy’s RIA Unplugged blog comes and goes (possibly with whether or not she has things to tend to in her garden). But when she’s on a tear, you get some of the best unvarnished commentary on PR out there (she says she’s now a former publicist turned IT entrepreneur with her reinventing-PR sites such as Spoonfeed), and you always learn something about the real business underneath the visible restaurant scene. Well, she’s on a tear right now and one excellent post last week was about using video to make announcements, inspired by the Brandon Baltzley/Pensiero announcement/video last week. Malloy is all for this, headlining her piece “The Video Press Release— PR innovation at its finest.” Having a little interest in food videos ourselves, we have a thought or two about this form which is sure to become increasingly common on the restaurant scene.

Malloy says:

…really, the idea of the video press release announcement of a restaurant “opening” is probably one of the best directions I have seen restaurant marketing take in a good long while.

Think of it: You’ve got one chance to announce your restaurant. You can either keep everything close to the vest and let everyone else tell your tale or you can get it all out there in a compelling and well-produced video.

We agree with the notion that video is a great replacement for a traditional press release— although part of that, of course, is due to the fact that the press release is a tired form in itself, capable of making even the new and original sound clichéd by forcing everything into the same format of a faux news article hoping to spur a real news article. (We’d be all for a shift to a simpler bulleted format.) Compared to that, video has some obvious advantages, starting with the fact that if you’re introducing a new place, it’s worth, oh, a thousand words to just let people see it for themselves, rather than try to describe it in restaurant-ese (“a contemporary American fun-casual upscale comfort food experience”).*

But we’re surprised that Malloy thinks video PR should be reserved for openings:

I think the video press release for major news is the slam dunk best direction for chef-driven restaurants. Major news: chef change, new restaurant, curing cancer. I doubt much else. Though I would love to see someone prove me wrong with an awesome press release of a menu change.

On the contrary, we think video is still an underutilized tool in all forms of journalism. In the online world, any piece of journalism can have video, and much more of it should have video than currently does. It should be as standard a way of illustrating a story as photography is.

Now, it’s true that certain jobs the press release performs will only seem even lamer if done up with razzle-dazzle music and production. You can slip news of your new bacon cheddar Big 10 Burger out there in cold print without mockery; make a movie about it in which everyone talks about it earnestly like the actors in a DVD extra making-of documentary (“I wanted to take this part because I felt like Face-Ripper #2 went on a really interesting journey”) and you’re liable to go viral, and not in a good way.

But look beyond the mere press release, beyond news. Video is not only a great way to communicate the real feel of your place, it’s also a great way to communicate that your chef is a real person (assuming he or she is), and show him or her off as someone diners would like to be hosted by. Certainly, shooting various video projects in various kitchens ourselves, we’ve had our views of who this or that chef was totally upended by exposure to the real person, who’s nearly always more interesting and interested and thoughtful than necessarily comes through on the menu or in their press. (At least the ones near the top of this leading market for dining have been.) And a video that can show that effectively will have no problem finding interest on the part of diners and viewers, regardless of whether it contains narrowly-defined “news” or not.

* That said, of course if video becomes ubiquitous, its clichés will become apparent as well. Personally, we’d already suggest going easy on the use of extremely short focus to make the bacon-wrapped scallop in front sharp while the ones behind it are soft and fuzzy. And we really don’t need to see any more Top Chef-style montages of chopping and sauteeing set to salsa music. In the immortal words of Sam Goldwyn, “I’m tired of the old clichés! Bring me some new clichés!”

Video Kills the Press Release Star