Leveraging Influencer Marketing and PR in the Food and Beverage Industry with Bill Southard [Food and Beverage Marketing – Part 4]

What’s the secret to influencer marketing, PR, and getting earned media for food brands and beverage brands? In an exclusive interview with Bill Southard, we look at real examples and specific tactics to leverage micro-influencers, PR campaigns, in-person product sampling, earned media from traditional media sources, and more to grow your food or beverage product.

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This episode is Part 4 in a multi-part series on how to market food and beverage products. To continue learning on this niche, visit:

Watch the Podcast Interview on Leveraging Influencer Marketing and PR for Food and Beverage Products (Part 4 in the Series):

This episode on influencer marketing and PR for food and beverage products covers all of the following and more:

Note: These timestamps correspond to the video version of the episode

00:00 Host, John Bertino Episode Teaser

  • John teases the episode — it’s going to be a great one!

01:41 Welcoming Bill Southard, a seasoned expert with over 40 years of experience in influencer marketing for CPG brands, to the show

  • John Bertino and our guest expert Bill Southard start with some small talk about living in New York City and drive time into New Jersey
  • Bill has over 40 years of experience, starting in Journalism before moving to PR
  • Southard Communications started in the summer of 1994 (almost 30 years ago), has about 20 people, and is located in New York
  • There have been a lot of peaks and valleys — great relationships with clients is what helps you get through the hard times
  • 80% of business is consumer marketing
  • Wanted to make the best of both worlds: small agency (high touch) and big agency (have more senior people working on the project)

06:40 What are clients looking for when it comes to marketing help?

  • “Clients nowadays are looking for agencies to help them build their business…developing a product, naming a product, sourcing a product, building a sales team, and then obviously promoting it.”

07:27 Challenges with PR Campaigns in Food and Beverage Space

  • Oreos, Harry Blackstone, “Everybody Loves a Nut” with Planters Peanuts
  • Challenge: Change of landscape now with social media and (used to focus on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and other traditional media)
  • Viewership of TV or cable is now below 50%
  • Much more fragmented, and the consumer is smarter than ever and care more about health than ever before.
  • PR is still about brand awareness and credibility — it doesn’t really drive sales
  • You need a combination of PR, social, SEO, paid media (omni-channel)

11:10 With Audience Persons More Spread Out, How Do You Get to Your Customers?

  • Solution: Frequency and Reach
  • Understand who the customer is. Understand the competitive market. Understand what your point of differentiation is.
  • Then, put into place a marketing program where you will hit your ideal consumer with your message as often as possible. Be as cost-effective as you can.
  • What is the marketing mix? Take a 360 approach – be omnipresent where they are. Different channels, social media, influencers, in-person engagement, traditional media, and more. Use all the channels.

13:10 Secret Weapon for Food & Beverage

  • Now that COVID is over, Bill is a huge fan of product sampling and in-person engagement

13:35 How Do You Get a Physical In-Store Presence That is Effective?

  • It’s harder than ever.
  • Walmart example
  • Find “Mover Markets” – groups that have early adopters  (like California and Seattle for healthy foods). Hit a groundswell of people in the mover markets and it will spread across the rest of the country
  • It’s challenging to get your product on shelves — you have to pay slotting fees, spend money on marketing, etc. — so product sampling can be very effective

16:05 Influencer Marketing Strategy

  • There are a ton of influencers out there – and even businesses that sell influencer lists.
  • Look at brands you aspire to be and see the food and beverage influencers they are working with.
  • Lots of investigation and research — and trial and error
  • Micro influencers are actually often more effective (and more cost effective, often free or will share just with free product)
  • Example: Upscale Whipped Cream:  National Dessert Day – gave whipped cream to pastry chefs to make recipes for the ‘day’

19:33 Logistics of Sending Product Samples to Influencers

  • Bill and his team used to have a big closet and send out samples
  • Now they coordinate with the manufacturers

21:09 This Episode is Brought to You by The Agency Guide (TAG)

  • TAG helps matchmake brands with proven, vetted marketing professionals.
  • Consulting is pro bono!
  • Visit TheAgencyGuide.com to learn more.

22:13 Earned Influencers Vs. Paid Influencers

  • You don’t get to control what they say in their review or social media posts
  • Sometimes clients want certain messages in the reviews release on a specific day
  • Paid influencers will follow directions more closely and a brand can have more control of messaging and timing
  • Things can go wrong if a product has to be packaged in a cold box, opened, stored, and used quickly

25:25  Traditional Media Pro Tips!

  • Ellen is over, but there’s Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Kelly Ripa and Mark, Drew Barrymore  — as examples
  • Fewer mainstream publications now, so those folks are busier than ever. If you bring them a great story that doesn’t feel like a commercial. They WANT a great story delivered A to Z. It needs to be newsworthy, timely, and relevant.
  • If your pitch is too commercial, media will say it needs to be a paid integration.
  • Identify reporters, media, producers who they THEMSELVES actually care about types of products or genres of things so you know who to reach out to — do research on everyone involved via Twitter, social handles, websites, etc.

30:25  Paid Integration and Product Placement

  • On-air coverage, consumer interaction (give the audience produce), social media (for the channel), social media (for the host/personality)
  • Some media outlets charge everyone to come on now
  • Oprah giving away cars was a paid integration!

34:00 Example of Paid Integration + How to Pitch a Good “Story” or “Skit”

  • National Dessert Day: “Let’s have a pastry chef come on, make great recipes with whipped cream, give everyone in the audience some samples, and you have it all!” Act like a mini-show producer to deliver a full package to them. Do all their work for them.
  • Look at the timeliness of things. For example: Paulaner Beer. For Oktoberfest, they took over the plaza with dancers, a band, keg to open, drinks to sample, etc…made it fun. Fox & Friends talked about the beer five times! This was an earned segment that was green-lighted because of the timeliness (we can’t do that in May or June because it’s not relevant).
  • Chef M.J. Brando promoted their cheese brand on National Grilled Cheese Day

40:55 Conferences, Trade Shows, and Fancy Food Shows for Business and Brand Growth

  • Get editorial and/or paid placements in show brochures
  • Create relationships with retailers, influencers, buyers, media (give them one on one demonstrations), keep on trend with the market and what’s coming up
  • See how brands are positioning themselves in the market.

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Influencer Marketing and Public Relations with Bill Southard - Niche Marketing Podcast

About Host John Bertino and TAG:

A decade spent working for marketing agencies was more than enough to know that there are too many bad agencies and not enough objective marketers within them. John launched TAG in 2014 with the mission to provide brands unbiased guidance from seasoned marketing professionals at little or no cost.

TAG advises brands on marketing channel selection, resource allocation, and agency selection to ensure brands invest in the right marketing strategies, with the right expectations, and (ultimately) with the right partners.

TAG represents 200+ well-vetted agencies and consultants across the United States and Europe.

John’s professional background and areas of expertise include: Marketing Planning, Earned Media, SEO, Content Marketing, Link Acquisition, Digital PR, Thought Leadership, and B2B Lead Generation.

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About Our Guest Expert: Bill Southard

Bill Southard is Founder and CEO of Southard Communications, a firm he launched in 1994 and has since grown to become one of the fastest growing communications firms in the country. Since its founding, the agency has experienced consistent and considerable growth and today represents a broad range of clients across a myriad of industries. In his day-to-day role at the agency, Southard drives the creative process, provides ongoing strategic counsel and manages all crisis communications on behalf of agency clients. With more than 40 years of communications experience, Southard has counseled some of the country’s leading Fortune 500 firms and prior to founding Southard has been president of Earle Palmer Brown Public Relations, and previous to that General Manager with Dorf & Stanton Communications.

Southard Communications

Southard Communications is uniquely qualified, award-winning, aggressive and strategic marketing and communications agency. Their team is a group of seasoned, senior marketing and communications professionals.

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Email: John@TheAgencyGuide.com


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Bill Southard

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Transcripts of Influencer Marketing and Earned Media for Food Brands (Part 4 in the Series)


This transcript (of the video version of this episode) has been provided to assist you in finding extra information specific to your needs and goals. We have not edited it line by line for grammar, spelling, punctuation, or spacing. Please forgive errors. Feedback welcomed at social@theagencyguide.com.

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