I’m going to reveal a bit about myself to all of you today: I am not very good at cooking. Or even baking, for that matter. I think it takes too long, there is too much room for error, and requires too much clean-up for my tastes. I tend to blame all of this on my Italian roots and my mother who, as my childhood friends will remember, loved making food at all times during the day.
Nevertheless, I recently learned about King Arthur Flour. That’s weird, I know, since the preparation of frozen pizza and macaroni and cheese does not require flour. So I’ll admit, I haven’t actually purchased any products from the Norwich, Vermont based company. Nor do I intend to, to be honest. I heard about the company as a result of its annual Blog & Bake program, and it inspired me to write this post on the topic of gatekeepers, and how important they are in the field of public relations.
We work at great companies who make great products and do great things. It’s simply our job to make sure as many great people are aware of them as possible. But it’s hard to tell that many people, so we go about it in different ways. That’s where traditional media relations came in: we tell a few well-respected journalists at widely-read publications about our greatness, and he or she passes the information along to a lot of other people.
Journalists are many things – like employees, writers and story-tellers. Most importantly, though – they’re gatekeepers. They act as a filter, separating the bad from the good and the great. Each one represents a much larger population – if we can just tell the right journalist about how great we are, he can tell everyone else!
In the digital age, though, the landscape is changing as fewer individuals read print newspapers and magazines, and essentially anyone with an Internet connection has the ability to produce and share content on a personal blog like the one you’re all reading right now. Especially in less mainstream niches, like baking, different people are the truly influential ones.
King Arthur Flour fully utilizes gatekeepers through its Blog & Bake program. Each year, a dozen of the most influential baking-bloggers are invited for an all-expenses paid weekend in Vermont, learning new baking techniques and baking new foods. The coverage rate after the event is incredibly high, with at least 11 of 12 writers in 2013 writing at least one post on their blogs this year.
This kind of coverage of an event has a number of effects:
- Basic communication of King Arthur Flour’s great product to a huge but very targeted population.
- Individuals who read baking blogs are, obviously, passionate about baking and look up to the writers of the blogs as role models. If their baking-heroes are using King Arthur Flour, why wouldn’t they follow suit?
- Each blog post is loaded with a ton of high-resolution images from the weekend-long event. King Arthur Flour is seen as a tourist attraction among those that care about baking, and this kind of coverage can persuade people to visit the Vermont campus in addition to simply buying the flour.
- Last but not least – this event has King Arthur Flour buzzing. It’s referenced countless times in each blog post. It’s linked to in each blog post. It’s even in the majority of the posts’ titles! Can we recognize the search-engine-optimization results that this event is responsible for?
I know it’s hard to quantify and attribute SEO results to any individual act of promotion, but you would have to think Blog & Bake has helped King Arthur Flour rise to the top of Google. Currently, Googling “blog bake” yields King Arthur Flour’s blog on page one. Furthermore, Googling “flour bake” yields King Arthur Flour as the top two results.
As less people receive solutions to their problems by reading newspapers and Google plays a more prevalent role, SEO becomes significantly more important and that changes who the gatekeepers are.
On the off chance that I one day decide to begin baking (and care about my cakes & cookies enough to buy premium flour), can anyone guess where I’ll be ordering from?