Today I am attending a session on food blogging…my attendance was due to the fact that I would like to work with restaurants in the future and as such, I wanted to understand this new growing phenomenon. But, something was said during the session that got the attention of my PR antenna. It was recommended that you do not need to disclose that you are reviewing the food when at a restaurant. When I pressed further on this subject, the food blogger here today said she wanted an organic experience and did not want to receive special treatment.
I understand that point – however, I think it is only fair that the restaurant is aware that you will be reviewing its experience. It is only fair that the restaurant be made aware of your intention. I do not believe in personal ambushes.
Here’s what I would recommend to be the best practice for Food Bloggers – my approach is one that will build their integrity, reputation and brand in the food community.
1) Have a business card made that promotes your food blog. Have the back side contain blank lines where you can fill in the date that you intend to post your review and how the restaurant can contact you other than commenting on your blog post. These cards should be like those doctor and dentist appointment cards.
2) You don’t have to tell them you are a food blogger until after the meal is done and you have paid your bill. As you get ready to leave, give your card to your server and tell him/her you are going to blog about your experience. He then can either tell the owner or have owner come over and see you.
3) I highly recommend that you find the owner, if he/she is present you can personally introduce yourself. Remember social media is about relationships and not about ambushes. You do not have to tell them what your review will say and if they press you, you can just say benign statements like “it was interesting.”
By being direct and upfront about your business as a food blogger, you will build your reputation in this close community. Believe me, establishment owners belong to the same circles. And if you treat them with respect they will tell other proprietors about you.
Your brand is extremely important and one you need to keep an eye on as well.
Remember – just as one bad review can take down a restaurant, one bad review about you as a reviewer can do the same. Once your credibility is lost, it’s difficult to regain it once you are in the crisis communication mode.
In summary, be straightforward; provide outlets for rebuttal; be professional and knowledgeable without being snarky. And don’t ambush anyone.
Build your brand with integrity wherever possible.