Knowing what gets you featured in the press
By Francine Cohen
All photos courtesy of Lush Life Productions and Alia Akkam of Beverage Media ( and I shared with the USBG New York Chapter members recently at a monthly meeting held at Macao Trading Company ( as Lee introduced her PR 101 program. In short…RETURN MEDIA QUERIES!

Seriously, people. Wonder why so and so is getting all the press and you’ve worked longer or harder than they have and never get featured? Hmmm, maybe that’s because when the media calls, you don’t respond. Or maybe it’s because they don’t know how to find you. Well, that stinks. But it’s easy enough to change.

If you walk away with only two things from this story, remember this: 1) Return media queries (as noted above) and 2) Content is king.

What does this mean exactly? Well, if you want people to respect you, talk about you in a positive way, recognize your expertise and your skill, talent and know-how, and you want them to seek you out as an industry influencer and trendsetter who can collaborate with them to bring that same cache to their establishment (PS – you make extra money from this) then you need to make yourself accessible.

That open line of communication is what Akkam feels is crucial to your success. She explains, “As a writer and editor for a wine & spirits trade publication, my job revolves around bartenders: What are their guests ordering? What new liqueur are they playing with? What does their seasonal cocktail list look like? Without that knowledge, I simply can’t write the detailed, reported stories I demand. For me, being a part of the USBG event was an opportunity to reiterate to bartenders how crucial it is to maintain a constant conversation with the media. Yes, bartenders crave exposure, but the writers also crave the information. Together, the connection between journalist and bartender is quite powerful, and I hope the USBG meeting convinced bartenders to take stronger steps in building those relationships.”

When someone reaches out to you for a comment or a recipe all you have to do to gain visibility that pays off in spades is respond. Promptly. With thorough answers and an open door policy should more information be needed.

But don’t just respond, put yourself in the media’s path. How? Read trade and consumer publications or blogs/sites you enjoy and send a note to writers who have written something you find interesting. It doesn’t matter if you agree with their point of view or not; connecting (via a personal note) is the key. Letting them know you know they are out there, slaving away writing about the hospitality industry, and you appreciate it. In fact, you appreciate their efforts so much that you’d happily serve as a resource to them should they write a story to which you could contribute something valuable. And then let them know what you know about or think is of interest.

Here’s a quick, but valuable lesson for you, culled from the presentation of PR 101:
1) Content is king. What do you have to offer? Story ideas? Recipes? Opinions on trends in the industry? A new tool or technique or ingredient discovery? Share it with media who will spread the word to a wider audience and credit you with providing the insight to make that story possible.
2) Reach out to writers. They need your story ideas just as much as you need the exposure they provide you when they quote you. It’s a two way street. Mutually beneficial. Cultivate them.
3) Respond to media. Promptly. Remember they are reaching out to you because they’ve already decided you’re the expert with something valuable to say. You are and you do, right? Of course you do! Let everyone else know how smart you are, your mother already loves you unconditionally.
4) Be prepared. Have a killer bio and a photo and some recipes and even your previous press clips on hand to share with media who want to know more about you. Being able to shoot that over quickly in response to a press inquiry makes you stand out amongst the crowd.

Take these lessons to heart and you too can find yourself featured in a variety of publications. Lee comments, “I created my Bartender PR 101 as a way to give back to the mixology community and help its members amp up their careers. In my eyes, bartenders are the rock stars of our era and there are some easy steps to becoming a trusted resource quoted by the media. Having a simple bio and a photo readily available is like having a business card. It shows reporters that you’re professional and ready to step into the spotlight.”

Jason Littrell, President of the New York USBG chapter concurs, “Creating an identity as a professional is extremely advantageous to the growth or one’s career. Being ready when the press wants to know more about you and being able to respond within their deadlines can only create more opportunities. The best way to do this is to have a professionally written biography and photo of yourself just a hyper-link away.

Embodying that rock star status is easy as Lee and Littrell point out. To this end, Akkam, Lee and I offered up complimentary bio revisions to 10 USBG members. We still have space for more. So, while we won’t be discussing this with you at Macao over Negronis authentically made with Campari ( that were stirred by Chad Solomon and Christy Pope of Cuff & Buttons (, if you would like help with your bio (even if you’re not a USBG member, or a bartender), you know how to reach us.