Working knowledge What a restaurant publicist thinks you should know

Melany Robinson

Melany Robinson is the founder of Polished Pig Media, a public relations firm with a client list that includes Husk, Minero and McCrady’s, among other well-known restaurants. Robinson says her primary job as a publicist is “to help get butts in seats.” Here’s how she does it:

When Robinson started out in the PR industry, restaurants hired professionals to help them win awards and land appearances on magazine covers they could frame for their dining rooms.

Over the past decade, she says, “the business has evolved from ego-driven PR to revenue-generating PR.” That means developing an individual strategy for each restaurant, depending on whether the restaurant is more interested in cultivating a buzzworthy social media campaign, partnering with a philanthropic organization or doing something else altogether.

Robinson prides herself on carefully vetting clients before agreeing to work with them, but a restaurant owner or chef may veer off in an aesthetic or ethical direction that doesn’t feel like the right fit for her agency. “If we didn’t align professionally, we would respectfully agree to part ways,” Robinson says.

A chef is responsible for a restaurant’s concept, but it’s up to the PR team to help explain it to the dining public by pitching reporters, using social media and shaping special events.

“Our job is to help tell the stories behind everything from dishes, ingredients and cooking techniques to restaurant decor, playlists and more,” Robinson says.

You don’t like publicists? A writer for a national publication once told Robinson the same thing.

She responded, “The good news is I’m a human being first, and a publicist second.”

For Robinson, that means not manipulating the facts or wasting “the time of writers and consumers with bad information.”

She considers herself a storyteller, not a wordsmith.

As told to Hanna Raskin