The Singapore-based bar luminary on nailing the public relations game.

Good day to all fellow readers, barkeeps and drink enthusiasts. In the 21st century, we all know what “publicity” means. And we know that public relations (PR) agencies are built on professionals who are meant to know how to get good publicity (and how to deal with bad). But how to bring the right journalists and publications into our venues, and how to make them leave with our vision? This is where the real game starts. The top agencies out there will make the media excited and will pull them into our story. They will make the editors live the dream with us. So how do you know who is a top agency? When I think about our businesses, a bar, restaurant or a group we work for, the part which isn’t so clear is the “pre-PR”: not just how to hire an agency, but how to hire the correct one.

“Do we need PR? How will PR support my business and how do we find the right agency? What does ‘the right one’ mean?” Lots of young or new operators forget to ask those questions before they open, says Lynda Williams, founder of Vim & Vigour PR: “Don’t rush the selection process. Engage with a PR agency that you are truly in tune with and share the same values. Start a minimum of three months prior, depending on what support you need.” That minimum of three months is important – most magazines plan an issue that far in advance. The next step is to consolidate a list of all the top PR agencies and freelance PRs who operate in your region – ask your network, research online, get anecdotes from editors – and set up a face-to-face meeting. Andrea Seifert, director of communications at Accela, says thorough research is important when picking your PR partner: “It sounds simple and obvious, but it’s best to work with a PR agency that has experience in f&b, and therefore deep relationships with the right journalists.”

Next, both my experts agree the best way to speed up the process and deliver a great outcome, even from the first meeting, is by having a clear idea of what you want from the PR. “Come with questions, know the agency who you are meeting with, ask who you will be dealing with day-to-day,” says Lynda. Andrea also explains how a venue should begin by analysing the points where PR can help venues – “drive business, protect our brand, crisis communication, and brand positioning.” You can break those down further, but in general this is a good start. Last but not least, ask a few questions throughout that first conversation to test the knowledge of that particular agency. They must know all the hot new openings from past six months, the names of the editors for all major f&b and lifestyle magazines, and be ready to show their past work and collaborations with top journalists.

Good luck is always closer to those who are prepared, I say, so remember, think the PR process through and do your homework. Set up meetings with several agencies, so you can compare not only the financial part of the bargain, but the emotional side: PR is an extended part of your close team, so your agency will have to know you inside and out, and you have to have 100 per cent trust in their team skills. On the other side, your PR should not fall short in the level of passion they have for the industry. Only once you are sure of this should you seal the deal, and let them put up a fight for you in today’s unforgiving world of marketing.

With shakes and love, Zdenek.


Zdenek Kastanek is a resident bartender at 28 HongKong Street, Singapore and GM at Proof & Company, Singapore.

This article first appeared in Issue 45 of DRiNK Magazine China and Issue 03 of DRiNK Magazine Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. Subscribe to the magazine here.