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……..