May 18, 2015 |

Respecting the Craft: Small Town, Big Opportunities

By Tony Gemignani

community marketing
I’m sitting in the car driving from Pittsburgh to Akron, Ohio, with Scott Anthony. We are finishing up a whirlwind trip of my book tour. We started in Punxsutawney, then to Altoona, Pittsburgh, Akron, and Columbus. I have toured big cities like New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles with large campaigns and have had great results. Executing this type of campaign in a small town may sound impossible, but it’s not. I have always been a fan of free marketing and community marketing. In this case, the community marketing we used drew a chain reaction of media that spread from print to social to several radio interviews and TV spots. In a town of 5,500 we were able to capitalize on all of this and it was one of the most successful media events that I have been a part of.

We teamed up with the Punxsutawney Campus at Indiana University of Pennsylvania for the event. The culinary institute’s students worked with me in order to get class credit. Students typically have to have so many hours in community service, so targeting an event that is obviously food related was great and we had them at our disposal. Having such a talented group of young aspiring chefs assist you was a pleasure. This event brought the mayor, the chamber, Punxsutawney Phil and about 150 people from the community. It also brought local radio, newspaper, school newspaper and social media outlets. I cooked pizzas and  talked about how to make dough, sauce and regional Italian- and American-style pizzas. We tossed pizzas and had a lot of fun. It was a learning tutorial about all things pizza. The community understood the words Respect The Craft.

This event set a chain reaction within a small community and generated goodwill in a neighborhood-like town. Word spread fast and people bragged about being at the event while those who did not go felt like they missed it and let the community down. For our event we sent out press releases, teasers, flyers and posters. The expense was minimal.

What I loved about this campaign is that we achieved three avenues of marketing: pre, present and post. I always try and do this. There is nothing like achieving all three, and that’s what we were able to do. Having the writers write about an event that will happen, write about it when it happens and then write about it after it happens is called “Maximized Marketing.” It’s the best!

This can be done with your restaurant and team. Building up and highlighting your chef or pizzaiolo from your restaurant, demoing some of your signature pizzas and making it educational can make an impact in your local community. Teaming up with a local organization like a school, culinary school, manufacturer, distributor, Italian Clubs, city organization, brewery, etc. can be the perfect fit for a great pizza media campaign.

Figure out what story you want to tell and then get started generating some local press!

RESPECTING THE CRAFT features World Pizza Champion Tony Gemignani, owner of Tony’s Pizza Napoletana in San Francisco and Pizza Rock in Sacramento.  Tony compiles the column with the help of his trusty assistants, Laura Meyer and Thiago Vasconcelos. If you have questions on any kitchen topic ranging from prep to finish, Tony’s your guy. Send questions via Twitter @PizzaToday, Facebook (search: Pizza Today) or e-mail and we’ll pass the best ones on to Tony.