Karine Bakhoum is the founder of KB Network News, a public relations and event firm that specializes in the restaurant, food, and hospitality industries. She helped launch Wynn Las Vegas casino and resort this past April, and her New York restaurant clients include Koi, Ono, and English Is Italian. You may have also seen her as a judge on the Food Network's Iron Chef America.
How do you get the press and the public to pay attention to your launch?
First we find out the who, what, when, and where [of the new restaurant], and let all our long-lead media contacts [such as monthly magazines] know this is coming so they'll know to make space.
We keep a constant dialogue with the press. We're very careful about who to give exclusives to and we make sure everybody's getting a piece of information. And we also don't want everything to come out at the same time, so we strategize beforehand what's going to be most beneficial for the client. It's about getting widespread, but consistent, coverage.
After the opening, it's about consistency and keeping people going. Ifit's a restaurant, we like to do a dinner. We want the press to get areal feel for the restaurant. Inviting them to a cocktail party andhaving them try to fight for passed hors d'oeuvres isn't going to givethem an idea of what the restaurant does. Basically we look at the endresult before we plan it. We ask: What is our objective? Who do we wanttalking about this place? Who do we want to reach?
What do you consider a successful launch? Something with lots of press?
It's not quantity, it's quality. I've been to a lot of other people'spress events where there's too many freaking people—that's notadvantageous to the client. The press doesn't like that. They're thereto work. I don't need them to leave saying, “Thanks, when can I comeback to try the food?” That's just a waste of money.
If it went well, and everyone showed up, we see a flood of emails thenext morning asking for more information. Then it's a matter of thepress results: our press dinners usually translate into 80 to 90percent of guests writing about the dinner.
What's an example of the kind of press that can follow a year after a launch?
After all the reviews have come out, we use the press that's alreadyout to pitch international press or in-flight press to go afterbusiness travelers and tourists. We can then get stories about the chefas an established person at a restaurant, and start pitching him to domore appearances and cooking classes, and meet his public. The moremediagenic the chef becomes, the better it is for the restaurant.