Our Take

Musings on the Foodservice Industry

A Healthy Diet of Organic PR is Good Food for Your Brand

If you want to publicize a food product that’s billed as natural or organic, you’d be well advised to start with a marketing program that looks and feels organic in its execution.

The first step in coordinating an effective PR program for your food brand is to create messages that are straightforward and easy to understand. Consumers have long been fed a steady diet of what constitutes good and bad ingredients in the food and beverages they purchase. Those messages are often confusing, as guidelines change and medical studies disprove old assumptions.

Certain foods and beverages (i.e., red wine and dark chocolate) were once thought of as indulgent consumption, before studies began to reveal their health benefits. Yet, there have been recent reports (another study) that seem to contradict those findings.

Mixed messages make it hard on serving up a truly organic PR campaign. The best advice is to believe in your pr loveproduct and story, and craft messages that do not underestimate your audience. Here are some essential ingredients to consider when crafting a PR/Marketing campaign for your brand:

  • Be truthful– Be prepared to back up claims about your product. That’s especially relevant in the food industry, where regulations are increasingly stringent. As a PR firm, it makes our job easier to know that what we are promoting is truly what it claims to be. Subway was “outed” by food blogger Vani Hari, (known as Food Babe), for using the food additive azodicarbonamide to bleach flour and condition dough (per NPR.org). The World Health Organization has linked the substance to asthma in people. Subway did the right thing by quickly and publicly announcing their intention to phase out the additive, telling NPR: “We are already in the process of removing azodicarbonamide as part of our bread improvement efforts, despite the fact that it is a USDA and FDA approved ingredient.”

In another example, Kraft was using artificial dyes in three varieties of its popular macaroni and cheese offerings in 2013 when a nationwide petition by Change.org prompted the food giant to remove them. Kraft denied that the petition, signed by well over 350,000 people, had anything to do with their decision to remove the dyes. (via AP.org) Not necessarily the best PR maneuver.

  • Be authentic– Your message should convey exactly who and what you are.  California Avocados are a perfect example in this organically presented spot.
  • Be unique– what makes your product different? Why would someone want to buy from you? Your organic story doesn’t always have to shake up the world. It could involve humor, insight or even nostalgia. What’s important is that it should be an honest, direct reflection of you and your brand. Nature’s Path mixes humor with a straightforward message in a 30-second TV spot.
  • Presentation – In today’s 24/7 world of information, people have very short attention spans. How your product looks on the shelf (or on a website) is critical as first impressions mean everything. Field Roast productsget high marks for presentation and explanation of their ingredients.

recent Gallup Poll, found that 45 percent of all Americans actively try and include organic food in their diets. Consumers want to eat foods that are natural and organic, even if they are not always sure what constitutes natural or organic.

Some big brands, such as McDonald’s, seem a bit disingenuous in proclaiming their affinity for natural products. In an interview last year (Bloomberg Business), McDonald’s CEO Don Thompson said his company would consider adding organics in their products as a way to boost sales. On the other hand, McDonald’s is not claiming to be a bastion of healthy eating, so that transparency is probably the best way to present their decision to add organics.

There exists a commonality between healthy, organic food and a PR plan built around an authentic message. I often tell clients to consider an “organic” approach to their PR; to stay on message and avoid hyperbole, the “antibiotic” of the marketing universe.

Our agency has turned away business where we felt the story or product didn’t ring true. Like food that proclaims to be natural but is filled with nasty additives and preservatives, a PR program with too many shady, mysterious ingredients leaves a bad aftertaste.

Organic PR is about telling an authentic, truthful story of real, organic products that a consumer can rely on. It’s that simple.


Howard Ruben is President and Founder of Howard Ruben Public Relations, a national agency with clients in fashion, beauty, film, music, sports and nonprofit. Ruben also blogs as a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report, a division of Turner Communications.

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