Sweet Surprise Dinner

aOne of the biggest challenges in public relations is to continue to capture and increase interest among our audiences – one of the hardest audiences being media. So how do you host a media dinner in the center of a major global media hub filled with influential writers who are constantly invited to multiple dinners a night?

With this challenge in mind, the NC Sweet Potato Team decided to add an element of surprise. On behalf of the North Carolina Sweet Potato Commission (NCSP), we partnered with Dinner Lab, a social dining experiment uniting undiscovered chefs with adventurous diners. Our team reached out to local media with a lone promise: enjoy a delicious, one-of-a-kind dining experience. What was our selling point? The air of mystery – mystery chef, mystery pop-up venue, mystery menu (with sweet potatoes of course).

Turns out, suspense wins! Held in a vacant factory penthouse lit up by skylight windows, the dinner was attended by more food editors and bloggers than we expected (fortunately no one had to sacrifice a seat).  Dinner Lab sold out tickets to consumers who exclaimed the dinner was “one of the best…

The Booze Bin

Millennials, Redefining Luxury


Credit: Forbes

Hide the Cristal. Millennials are now the target for many brands, but in the luxury space, there’s a striking shift from their predecessors.

“Gone are aspirations to acquire the must-have brand-name purse and thousand-dollar bespoke suit. They don’t see money as a way to show off. They don’t flaunt it or need to impress others.”*

Instead they seek out enriching experiences – from trips to the Amazon to the ports of Croatia – to feature on their Instagram feed. It’s more about sharing the opportunity with friends than showing extravagance. Today’s social media gives them the platforms whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or the newest platform, Periscope.   Nothing is off limits and their creativity has no bounds. They realize it’s not what’s flashy on the outside, but what’s beneath the surface.

So what does this mean for marketers, especially those in the alcohol category? You have to be more than a pretty bottle. There needs to be substance and quality to what you’re selling. Here are some brands we think will be in the hands of these “millennial millionaires.”


Higher Education

60 Seconds to Shine: Grading University Brand Videos


You’ve already learned the chords to your favorite song and watched cats flush the toilet.  When is the last time you took a really good look at what colleges and universities use as their introduction to the world?

Today’s university YouTube channels function as mini-websites, with a short introduction video at the top and categories (typically student life, academic, alumni, etc.) that segment everything else. With more than 1 billion users spending hundreds of millions of hours on the site each day, no school can afford to miss the mark.

If a 60-second video sparks prospective students’ interest and helps them find their dream school – job well done. Tough to do in under a minute, but some institutions are making it happen.


I found YouTube channels for three of the top 20 colleges with the most applicants according to Niche’s 2015 college rankings. As a recent graduate with a BA in mass communications, I put myself back in college search mode and evaluated each introductory video.



If you wanted to convince me an education from UCLA could solve the world’s problems, show me this video. I…

Media Relations

Ditch the Pitch—Sort of

Do you hate media relations? Do cold calls make you feel like a telemarketer during dinnertime?

Then it’s time to stop calling strangers—it’s time get social.


PR professionals’ beloved media databases allow us to find and email hundreds reporters and editors with a few clicks. And according to recent surveys and articles, we don’t even have to call them for follow ups! Just blast those suckers off and sit back and wait for your top tier hits.

If only it were that easy.


But I’m not here to take a stand on calling versus emailing (PICK UP THE PHONE!) when it comes to media relations. What I want to discuss is the personalized pitch. Yes, we all know it’s the way to go—but who has the time?

Researching individual contacts and reading all of their recent stories can burn through a budget (or a workday) very quickly. Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to stalk look up a reporter and find out key information in under a minute? Wouldn’t it be even better if it’s on a platform so seamless and…


In Defense of Origin and Geographic Branding – It’s the Where that Counts

the-real-deal3This week in Geneva, Switzerland, over 75 nations are debating why the ‘where’ is as powerful as the ‘what’ in branding premium products, from Champagne to Prosciutto di Parma.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Diplomatic Conference is laboring to update the existing 1958 agreement protecting appellations of origin on a global level, hoping this updated language will encourage additional countries to join. Let’s say, the Unites States, for example.

Having formed a career around defending the value of origin in wine and food, I can sincerely appreciate the importance of courting the U.S. and other countries to help protect the geographic identity of products made with passion and integrity for hundreds of years in a specific location.

After all, would you pay a premium for a jug of “Hearty Burgundy,” a chunk of domestic parmesan cheese, or a generic balsamic vinegar? All of these products have capitalized on the name of real deal products by using their geographic brand to label and sell less expensive products. In many cases, they are displayed side by side at retail, leaving it up to consumers to make the distinction.

But wait, there’s more!