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How Do Welsh Food Festivals Promote & Market Themselves?

17 Oct

Well my quick answer is that many don’t manage promotion very well. You might well say – so what does that matter to me as a producer? – well it really does matter to every trader attending. Let me throw a question to anyone wanting a tradestand at a food festival. Do you ever ask the organiser what promotion & marketing are they doing for their festival before you part with your hard-earned money? I’m guessing the answer is no,and you just assume they’ll do something, but you’re more concerned on whether you’ll get a stand at all and where you want to be sited. This is what I’m told by many of our Best Of Welsh & Border producers and I do listen carefully to what they tell me. So I can understand this, as producers have so much on their minds and so little time to get even their essential jobs completed.

So let me explain where I, as a journalist with a love of local food, stand. Many of the food festivals are funded from wag and at some stage I get a list from wag giving me a list of food festivals they are supporting that year. A success for me to crow about is that now I also get told how much each festival receives! That took a great deal of effort to get that, but I did and I think those amounts are helpful not only for me, but for traders too. Ian then talks to the various organisers during the year, obviously to see if we can get them advertising with us, but can you guess what many of them say? ‘That there’s no advertising budget this year’. Of course we have to accept that, we’re in a competitive market after all and it’s possible that they are using their local paper or even local radio. But I think it’s a pity that you as producers attending, are not told how a particular festival will be getting thousands of the people you need into their event.

So having to accept, with great reluctance of course, that some festivals will not be advertising in Welsh Country magazine, as a foodie journalist I do expect to get at least one press release about each festival. As I’ve worked in PR I know that it is worth sending lots of press releases out because you can never tell how much coverage you ‘might just get without placing an advert! Plus with the ease and speed of email why not send out to lots and lots of people? Yet out of the 33 festivals that wag are supporting this year, I’ve had only seven festivals send me through even a basic press release. As some of those were advertising with us anyway, our team would have pushed and pushed for us to be sent as many press releases as possible because they would all be put up on welshcountry.co.uk. Certainly if space was available, one would also go in the appropriate issue of the magazine too. This along with social media is part of the service package we offer to help promote their festival; in fact it is what we do for anyone advertising with us. I must at this point also confess that if we get a press release from a food festival not advertising with us, they go straight in my bin or my deleted box. This is because our company policy is to help and promote any advertiser that is supporting us.

My other grumble is that if we decide to visit a festival then I want to be able to easily find a website that has the details of all the producers attending on it. Annoyingly this doesn’t always happen, but it highlights another opportunity lost by the organisers and some promotion lost for you as traders.

Obviously there are exceptions to my list of grumbles, some festivals are very switched on and use e-newsletters, have super websites, which are regularly updated and make full use of social media. Over the years I have discussed food festivals with wag but have been repeatedly told that wag can’t ‘ask’ organisers to do these basic tasks, let alone insist that they do. Well I totally disagree with wag’s attitude, because if promotion and marketing were listed as one of their criteria and the festival didn’t get paid unless they did that, then it would be done and be helpful to many of us. Remove wag’s financial carrot and the donkey must go without. It amazes me that wag can insist that everything a festival produces must be bilingual, regardless of whether the bulk of your audience is English speaking, but wag cannot push organisers to do basic PR & Marketing.

My main argument is that there is no co-operation. I appreciate that the following comments don’t apply to all festivals as there are exceptions.  Anecdotally Welsh Country offered three wag funded food festivals a 32 page festival booklet produced and printed at no cost to the festival with advertising paying for the production and printing. Unbelievably for various reasons, all three rejected the offer. Why? Various reasons, one being the committee decided against it. But we are still puzzled that a no-cost offer was turned down.  We are astonished that festivals shouldn’t want offers like this. Add to this the fact that local businesses want to work with festivals, but some festivals appear not to want to use this free resource either. The tin lid on this long list of grumbles is the complete jobs- worth attitudes of some local councils. I am constantly complaining that signage is a problem, but also realise that many of the issues are not the fault of the festival organisers, but the local highways department. The local or county councils economic development team supposedly want to help local businesses and therefore allow and in many cases help local food festivals, but then the highways department stop signage preventing the economic development department doing their job and hindering local businesses in the process. On a positive note let me give the example of brilliant Council co-operation work, then look no further than Caerphilly, who at any of their festivals co-operate, sign well and all with a smile too! But before the cynics amongst you think I’m praising one of our advertisers, on this occasion I’m not!!!

My suggestion after ranting away about wag’s archaic system is that if you are unsure whether to apply to a festival, even after chatting to fellow traders, then why not ask the organiser how they are going to get the thousands of punters that you guys all need, into their event. Their answer will surely help……..

 
 

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  1. Producer

    October 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Good blog, and one I hope festival organisers and WAG read and digest.
    I feel it may come down to WHY the organisers of these festivals actually put them on. Is it for the producer, the local community, to publicise Welsh food? Well, obviously not! One look at the responses here show how fed up the producers are with some festivals, and the stalls let to food producers from England does not help Welsh food.
    Is it just to make money? To be fair, some of the festivals do a great deal with the grant money they get, but it is difficult to see where the money has been spent at others.
    I have asked a few times what advertising is being done when talking about booking, and have been met with a long silence. When one very small festival can run a website showing producers and attractions, but one much bigger one does not even have a web site, it makes you wonder why not.
    Its not rocket science. To make any event successful for both the organisers and the producers, you need customers through the gate. To get the customers, tell them the event is on by advertising. There are a number of ways of doing this for very little cost, so I am stumped as to why this does not happen.
    When it does not happen, we all lose out.
    Thanks for raising this.

     
  2. admin

    October 18, 2012 at 9:22 am

    Thanks for your kind comments
    My rankings on welshfoodbites are totally amazing 207,414 according to Alexa, whilst on the True Taste website, despite everyone having to use it for entering and to find out any news is behind me on 707,937. So I’m very pleased.
    I hope that wag read and take note, but with no-one yet in post as Head Of Food, I expect very little to be honest.
    Because I have done PR & Marketing in the ‘real world’ where you are judged on coverage achieved, I do look at things differently from others.
    But as food festivals are being funded out of the food budget, the main focus should be for the food producers. If food festivals was being funded by VisitWales, then I would expect the main focus to be tourism.
    Some organisers are, without doubt, doing a great job. Others have their focus on doing their job to help their area and put something back into their community. Well that is OK, but they must put food producers first and not as with many festivals, do we need organisers and committees on a power trip!!!

    Perhaps I’m looking at food festivals too simplisticly, but my opinion is that this is just very basic promotion. It cannot be too difficult to get the wag food festival criteria discussed and agreed, preferably discussed with producers first and foremost! But as our food festival farce continues, sadly it does seem that it’s too difficut for our powers-that-be to address.

     
  3. admin

    October 18, 2012 at 11:08 am

    I admire the way you keep on trying to change things and impressed how you have got wag to make some changes. I guess you don’t get any credit from them but just perhaps you get it from the Miller lot because your persistence and insistence for changes to be made has given them lots of work.
    I can recall chatting to you when the magazine was fairly new and you had your finger on the pulse for what we as producers needed. One point you raised with me was how to get wag to talk to us as a group but I’m afraid the meeting at Mac run by Miller – anpother job you gave them, didn’t work but then with them running it it wasn’t going to. You should have been there with Ian but you didn’t even get an invite.
    I only wish I could get out of food, but thanks

     
  4. BBB

    October 18, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    Back in 2009/10 there was the Rural Affairs Sub Committee report in the Welsh beer, cider, wine and spirit Industries. The more or less outright rejection of the recommendations resulted in a huge political backlash, and a hopefully long lasting change within certain parts of WAG.

    However, recommendation 13 of the report dealt specifically with food tourism, and whilst the initial response from the Minister was to reject this as the Food Strategy 2010-2020 consultation was still happening. We argued somewhat forcefully that there is a significant link between between food production, produce marketing and tourism, and this should be a major driver of both food policy and tourism policy. It was even mooted then that the food promotion budget should be moved to Visit Wales to ensure that the full tourism potential was realised…

    It was also stated in the repsonse that Wales the True Taste was the “legal route for the promotion of welsh food and drinks” [an odd phrase in its own right]… Subsequent debate and discussion keeps suggesting that True Taste might be an awards ceremony, but as a vehicle to drive awareness of Welsh Produce and as a basis of a food tourism strategy, it is severly lacking…

    Lets all keep the pressure on WAG to get something we can all work with…

     
  5. admin

    October 18, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    Thank you for your insight and interesting comments, thanks for finding the time to add your views.
    There is a sound link between food and tourism my moan is that visitwales are consulted but its the food festival budget that that pays out.
    I no longer feel alone in my desire to get things changed and convinced with so much support this will be done.

    I shall resist the temptation to have a rant about True Taste………..

     
  6. Bee

    October 19, 2012 at 8:31 am

    If wag had more of a backbone, no that isn’t right, if they HAD a backbone then your simple and basic ideas could have been incorporated into their MUST DO list before they agree to pay any of them. I have lost count of the number of festivals you have covered over the years when you say the same things: no signs, no news to press, no website, no advertising, it’s totally pathetic that we are still grumbling about festivals years down the track. Some have improved, many remain arrogant and make traders feel as the organisers are doing us a favour when even the dimmest of us knows you can’t have a food festival without food stands, even in Wales. If food festivals are now being said to be tourism events, then why don’t the visitwales lot hand over some of their money to the food department? I don’t get it, I really don’t. Joined up writing doesn’t exist in Wales.

     
  7. Peter

    October 23, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I am not sure how much longer you can go on repeating yourself before those mindless people in wag food listen and understand what you are complaining about.
    You have been saying much the same things about food festivals for years and years. I’m not going to be rude to you and say I’m bored hearing it, because I agree with most of what you say, I’m actually getting very angry about this. I just didn’t work out that wag food were so deaf to improvements or changes. If wag want to know what is working and what is not, all they have to do is ask one of the traders who doesn’t have a nose that has been feeding heartily from wag’s large trough, and then we’d see improvements at long last. Don’t give up though we need someone on our side and that is certainly you