Media stirs up appliance coverage

PR pros can take advantage of the growing interest in kitchen wares by seeking placements on cooking shows and not limiting pitches to women's outlets.

PR pros can take advantage of the growing interest in kitchen wares by seeking placements on cooking shows and not limiting pitches to women's outlets.

Along with home entertainment, no consumer category has benefited more from the post-9/11 nesting trend than kitchen appliances and cooking products. Whether it's high-end Viking ranges, Sub-Zero refrigerators, or even silicon-coated pots and pans, consumers are not only investing more in their kitchens, but also are focusing on the form and design of their appliances. "There's been a movement to make the kitchen more of a family living room-type area, and the media's picked up on that," says Allison Allison, account supervisor with Richards/Gravelle, which represents Sub-Zero refrigerators and Wolf ranges. Placing products on TV Much of this interest can be credited to cable TV, especially The Food Network and the flurry of home decorating-themed programming. But, ironically, while those shows whet the viewer's appetite for professional-grade ranges, mixers, and pans, they are not the best places for an audience to learn about them. "Those networks don't have one dedicated show that talks about the latest cooking gadgets, so it can be hard to get their attention," says John Gabaldon, president of TAG Public Relations, which represents Cooking.com. Instead, Nancy Bauer, SVP and deputy GM in Fleishman-Hillard's Atlanta office, says those shows tend to be about product placement. "The value is in them using the products," says Bauer, who represents Viking ranges. "What we did with Viking was help them set up all their strategic alliances with The Food Network so that the network chefs cook on Viking ranges and other products." But there are plenty of other opportunities for coverage on local and national lifestyle shows, notes Grant Deady, account manager with The Zeno Group, which helped Whirlpool introduce its Polara range. The oven's built-in refrigeration preserves food during the day, and a timer automatically starts cooking dinner in the evening. "The morning shows were all over this," Deady says. "We did a VNR that got picked up across the country, and Today, Good Morning America, CBS' Early Show, and HGTV all picked it up, as well." Increasing print interest While food writing tends to be year-round, "There is definitely a cooking season that stretches from October through January, where products really step to the forefront in terms of their coverage," Deady says. "People aren't thinking about baking cakes, cookies, and pies in the middle of summer." The good news for kitchen-appliance PR is that the number of media outlets with an interest in product reviews and features seems to increase monthly. In addition to longstanding magazines, such as Bon Appetit and Gourmet, Gabaldon says new "magalogs," such as Cargo and Lucky, have become ideal outlets for kitchen items. The audience for kitchen products is still primarily women ages 25 and up, but men's outlets also have been increasing their coverage. Men's magazines tend to focus on technology that has a Jetsons' "kitchen of the future" feel about it: think automatic pan stirrers or lasers that can gauge a pot's temperature. "Men's Fitness has a new magazine launching in January, Sly, aimed at the older male that will have a cooking column," Gabaldon adds. "It's great for us because these men's magazines don't have enough time to look at all the products, so they just go to websites like Cooking.com to get input." There are also numerous opportunities in newspapers, though most are for a home-decorating story rather than a food piece. Monica Feid, VP at Dallas-based BizCom Associates, which represents Vent-A-Hood kitchen-ventilation products, notes, "I rarely work with food writers, but I'm always in contact with decor and lifestyle media regarding Vent-A-Hood's products. One of the things the media has taken on is the responsibility to educate consumers. They really want to give consumers more of the know-how." No one expects the media interest in kitchens to end anytime soon, but Deady says the coverage might evolve, especially as women spend more time outside the home. "Radio is something that we're looking at," he says. "Because every focus group that we go to, you ask moms, 'Where do you get your information?' and they say, 'Well, I get most of it from the radio because I'm in my car non-stop.'" Pitching... kitchen appliances
  • Look to align with chefs to help drive media interest in the latest kitchen appliance. Even local chefs often look to raise their profile and can provide good opportunities for a reporter to localize a national product launch
  • Most media outlets will showcase innovative new products regardless of their price point. Some high-end kitchen products might be priced out of the range of many consumers, but there is a certain aspirational quality to having a professional-grade kitchen
  • Don't neglect men's titles, especially for kitchen products with a tech/gadget feel to them

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