NOSH TALKS: How a girl spoke to a room full of strangers and survived to tell about it

Thanks to our PR rep, Type A's Allison Palestrini, I was invited to be part of the Nosh Talks Panel on Hospitality Branding along with Brad Nix of Reformation Brewery and Michael Lennox of Ladybird Grove and Mess Hall. Being more of a head-burried-behind-a-computer-all-day type I was hesitant to get out and share my thoughts in front of a room full of strangers. I can write a blog post all day every day (and am enjoying writing this one right now!), I love sales, events, and meeting with clients, shooting from the hip and weaving large tapestries of ideas all across the land. But again,  ROOM FULL OF STRANGERS. Would what I have to say even be interesting? Would it be relevant? What do they know about hospitality branding? What don't they know? Questions like this played over and over in my head in the weeks before the event.

Whelp, I did it. I survived public speaking and didn't barf, fall or pass out--though at the time I was certainly interested in dabbling in all three. Aside from talking WAY TOO FAST, I think it went pretty well. I loved hearing what my panelists had to say and was honored to be in their company. In case you missed it, here's my presentation with some notes on what I had to say. 

Slide 1

Show off the brand, try to make it look like I know what I'm talking about.

Show off the brand, try to make it look like I know what I'm talking about.

Slide 2

Acknowledge general hatred of public speaking.

Acknowledge general hatred of public speaking.

Slide 3

Introduce self, company and what we do- garner credibility.

Introduce self, company and what we do- garner credibility.

Slide 4

Show off bomb-ass client list and accomplishments in tangible numbers to gain trust. 

Show off bomb-ass client list and accomplishments in tangible numbers to gain trust. 

Slide 5

Change from awkward subject of self to way more fun topic of ANYONE ELSE.

Change from awkward subject of self to way more fun topic of ANYONE ELSE.

Slide 6

People love venn diagrams. They make you look super smart and capable. 

People love venn diagrams. They make you look super smart and capable. 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and who people perceive you to be. This is the part that’s the most important. Like how I’m making my presentation about YOU, your concept needs to be less about yourself and more about your audience. 

Slide 7

Kiss the asses of your co-panelists- great advice, Dad!

Kiss the asses of your co-panelists- great advice, Dad!

Slide 8

Just look at all these matching reds. Do you even know how hard that is?

Just look at all these matching reds. Do you even know how hard that is?

Slide 9

This is where I used a real restaurant in Myrtle Beach as an example of bad branding. I'm blurring it out here because I don't want them to know and then feel compelled to contact me in any way about it. 

This is where I used a real restaurant in Myrtle Beach as an example of bad branding. I'm blurring it out here because I don't want them to know and then feel compelled to contact me in any way about it. 

Slide 10

And then I did it with six more restaurants from Myrtle Beach.... 

And then I did it with six more restaurants from Myrtle Beach.... 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
MB has a captive audience of diners who are not very discerning. Atlanta, on the other hand, has a glut of amazing restaurants and a highly discerning dining population. Before you even get a chance to impress people with your food, you have to convince them to come through your front door. And that’s why you need not just good branding, but audience-attuned branding. 

Slide 11

Where to get brand. This is a stock photo, BTW. Who even has time to sketch? 

Where to get brand. This is a stock photo, BTW. Who even has time to sketch? 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
Look for a legit branding company that specializes in your industry

I don’t know, maybe Treebired Branding. Maybe someone else. 

Don’t use your cousin. Or your wife’s friend. Or someone you found on google who uses a gmail address. And Do NOT do it yourself! 

Analogue: My husband might be a very good home cook. And he could probably throw a tremendously successful dinner party for up to 8 guests. On one night. Now imagine him walking into one of your kitchenson a Friday night and saying, “Yeah, I know how to cook, I can handle this.” 

Get a recommendation from a brand you admire in your industry. 

Look at their work. Does it all look the same? Are their clients real? Successful? 

You want good branding, you need to budget and pay for it. If you’re only willing to pay for a side salad, you can’t expect a dry-aged steak. 

Branding is an investment. (I love this quote. Allison Palestrini contributed that one.)

Finding the right branding firm can be a bit like dating. They might look perfect on paper, but they’re personality might not be for you. You need to be honest with yourself too about the level of service you require. 

Slide 12

Time to get serious. 

Time to get serious. 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
First rule of Branding is to know your audience. Your REAL audience. Not the audience that you think you have. The audience that you already have. Know who they are, what they like to do, how much money they make, what they spend their money on.  

This was a little awkward because Brad Nix of Reformation Brewery said the first rule of branding is "Why" and he's totally right. Why are you doing what you do is really really important. But I also think the "who" is just as important so let's just call it a tie. 

Slide 13

Old faithful, Your Brand as a Tree. Thank you Patrick Kelly for creating this with me and making me look smart. 

Old faithful, Your Brand as a Tree. Thank you Patrick Kelly for creating this with me and making me look smart. 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
After you know your audience, let’s look at your brand as a tree. 

Your brand starts by having a solid foundation at the roots, this is your extended mission for what you’re doing, why you’re doing it and who for. What can you claim that only you can claim? 

The trunk is like your logo, website, packaging, menu design.

The branches is your staff, your service, your product and pr. 

The leaves of your brand is what everyone else is saying about you, good or bad. The only way to control your leaves is to have a strong base that starts at the roots. 

Slide 14

Ha! This guy....

Ha! This guy....

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
Do not jump on trends! They will make your brand look dated. Stick to branding that is both current but also classic. It doesn’t matter if you’re a bbq restaurant or a dive bar, there is always a place for timelessness. 

Other tips

Get a recommended and professional photographer. Your branding partner should have a list they recommend. If not, look at other restaurants and find out who their photographer is. ALL restaurant budgets are tight and there are a lot of affordable photographers in the industry that know how to shoot food, know how to shoot head shots and interiors and can do it quickly and on budget. 

Get a professional email address. Do not use gmail. You will look like an amateur. 

Your social media needs to be as carefully planned and curated as your brand. If you’re not willing to put in the time and money to support constant and consistent messaging, don’t do it. 

Finally, if you’re going to do some DIY branding or you have a staff member that says they know InDesign, proceed with caution and make sure they have the brand guide and understand that they are not to deviate from it. This is where your brand will fall apart, when people are using your business as a platform to express their creativity. 

Slide 15

Ok, this is my favorite new thing to talk about thanks to my pal Sarah Martis who introduced me to what the difference between Input vs. Feedback is. She also gave Treebird and impromptu handshaking seminar shouting "meat to meat" at all of us. It was effective. Read on...

Ok, this is my favorite new thing to talk about thanks to my pal Sarah Martis who introduced me to what the difference between Input vs. Feedback is. She also gave Treebird and impromptu handshaking seminar shouting "meat to meat" at all of us. It was effective. Read on...

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
As you’re getting started, you’re going to be tempted to share your ideas and your branding with others. BE WARNED: this is more dangerous than you realize! Everyone has an opinion, and everyone loves to share their opinion. But the opinions of people with no skin in the game will most times harm you more than help you. They will lead to second guessing and indecision when what you really need is simplicity and clarity. What it comes down to is Input vs. Feedback. 

Who gets to give you Input

Professionals and experts in your inner circle. 

Your partners, your branding firm, trusted consultants. People you pay to be professionals in their field. 

Who gets to give you feedback

Anyone you ask--but you don’t have to ask that many people if you don’t want to. 

And you don’t have to implement any of it--so ask for feedback wisely. And don’t do it while drunk. 

Slide 16

Damn, why did I make so many slides? 

Damn, why did I make so many slides? 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
Consistency. Consistency to the point of boredom. 

You might be bored with your brand, but you’re seeing it every single day. Your guests might see it once or twice a year so it’s important to be consistent to the point of boredom.

Only AFTER your brand has been established, then you can start to play around with it. It’s like having a seasonal menu. You can change things up a bit as new ingredients come in, but if you’re a steakhouse you’re not going to implent Taco Tuesdays. Stick to your aesthetic. 

Budget to get photos done every 6-12 months especially if your menu changes or you do a lot of special events. 

Slide 17

Brad used them as an example too! Brilliant minds? Probably. 

Brad used them as an example too! Brilliant minds? Probably. 

What my script said that I may or may not have actually said in the presentation:
A good logo should last you about 5 years, depending on your concept. A website about 3 years. Today, people are used to branding updates. Look at Starbucks and Target. Their branding updates constantly and is a sign of prosperity and growth. Now if you have the same tired logo and menu that looks like it’s from 2004, your audience is going to think your food, experience is tired and boring. A re-brand or a branding refresh is a sign of strength for your audience, not weakness. But don’t do it too soon. You’ll need to identify your brand refresh sweet spot.

Ok, I'm pretty sure that I said almost none of that during my presentation.
 

Slide 18

Time to wrap it UP! 

Time to wrap it UP! 

Slide 19

YOU DID IT! You survived, got some laughs and hopefully didn't sound like a total goober!

YOU DID IT! You survived, got some laughs and hopefully didn't sound like a total goober!

In the end, it really wasn't that bad. The audience was very supportive and interested in the topic and asked smart follow-up questions. I definitely have room for improvement but I would also definitely do this again. 

Finally, thank you to Friendly Human for hosting, and an extra special thank you to Karen Pagano, founder of Nosh Talks for having me. Congratulations on bringing Atlanta's already impressive hospitality industry even closer together as a result of your hard work. 

Jaci Lund