Carefully Crafted on January 05

Blogger Outreach Changes Perceptions, Buying Habits

Hi, my name is Heather and I’m a chain-restaurant snob. (I promise, this relates to PR, so stick with me …)

Tim Gannon, inventor of the bloomin onion

I live in downtown Columbus’s German Village, the largest neighborhood on the National Historic Registry. Scattered throughout the houses and brick streets are delicious, locally owned restaurants and shops. Combine that with the fact that, as a small business owner myself, I try to support locally owned businesses as much as possible, and it’s not that hard to understand why I shy away from eating at large chain restaurants, right?

But, last week, I was a guest of Outback‘s for the Outback Bowl. In addition to the parade, gala and triple-overtime game, we spent a lot of time with Outback staff.

Learning the story behind the food at Outback's R&D Center

Looking back at the trip, one of my biggest takeaways was Outback’s willingness to be open and transparent. We were the first non-Outback people to test food in the research and development center — sampling items currently available on the menu, as well as items in the pipeline. Outback’s VP of R&D talked at length about the thought and care that goes into each menu item. I was fascinated by the attention to detail, the strategy behind upcoming menu items, and the pride exuding from every R&D employee we met. I even met Tim Gannon, the man who invented the bloomin’ onion, which, he said, was inspired by the Japanese tradition of turning food into art. Who knew?!

While I won’t be abandoning my local restaurants, I’ll be more open and receptive to eating at an Outback after this trip. And there’s the lesson for those us in PR: My opinion only shifted because Outback was so willing to pull back the proverbial curtain. You don’t have to be a huge company like Outback or offer an all-expenses-paid trip to connect with bloggers and online influencers. Thanks to social media, all brands have the opportunity to offer a similar behind-the-scenes peak into their business.  Take the time to invest in social media. Develop relationships with bloggers and online fans/followers. Then you, too, can influence opinions, change behaviors and acquire new users/customers/clients.

Have you ever had an online interaction with a brand that changed your buying habits? Share your story in the comments.

Want to see more photos from the Outback experience? I’ve loaded a bunch to my Facebook page, and will be loading more throughout the week.

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