Q: How does a company get these kinds of ratings from the media? –
- 100 Best Companies To Work For (Forbes) — ranked every year since 1998, ranked in Top 10 eight years consecutively
- Best Grocery Store 2007 (Food Network)
- Top Large Grocery Chain 2012 (Consumer Reports)
Or have David Rohde write “The Secret Sauce of Wegmans Is People” in The Atlantic?
A: Lots of reasons — but an important one is that they know how to work with the media.
“People” is a key word with Wegmans, a family-owned U.S. regional supermarket chain headquartered in Rochester, NY. Treating their customers, their employees and the communities where their stores are located to the best experience possible is a hallmark of the company. And that extends to the media.
And I’ll say this up front, right now — Wegmans is not my client, and I’m not being paid by anyone to write this (except myself, on my own time). I am a customer of Wegmans. I’ve also written about our local store for a magazine piece.
Wegmans gave a media tour of their 50 acre Wegmans Organic Farm. They did it by invitation. They don’t often do media tours and their last one for the organic farm was in 2008. A great deal had happened since then, and they wanted to show the progress and what they’ve learned.
If you’re going to do a media tour, here are a few lessons on doing it well:
As people arrived, we were greeted warmly by every employee involved. This tour began in their beautiful timber frame barn. Outside, one of their chefs prepared a couple of hors d’oevres with their organic veggies, along with a choice of herb-infused cold drinks – water, iced tea and fruit juice. It was a hot, muggy day — cold bottles of water were everywhere.
Here, CEO Danny Wegman talks to the media before the tour and answers questions. This was held in the yoga studio in the second floor of the barn. A sweatbox on a summer day, BUT…
This tour involved walking the farm, built on a hillside overlooking Canandaigua Lake (one of the Finger Lakes of New York State). To get us to the top, Wegmans provided a comfortable air-conditioned bus to take us to the starting point. Allison Hayes, one of Wegmans’ employee ambassadors, was equipped with a mike & there were plenty of headsets in case we needed them. The bus was also available to get us back to the barn.
More water bottles aboard and wow did that AC feel good!
Give the media some news to use.
Wegmans has learned new things about making better compost and had invested in a new machine to turn compost at precisely the critical moment of temperature. They gave a demonstration. What looks like smoke is actually the heat rising out of the compost as it’s turned.
New equipment, new ways of planting, new hoop houses, rotation planting… There were plenty of things to tell the media.
The setting for this organic farm is beautiful. It supports Wegmans’ message of sustainability, organics, local foods, quality and care for the natural environment.
Everything about the farm is photogenic.
The farm manager picked examples of new or unusual varieties of vegetables to show us. We were encouraged to taste heirloom varieties of cherry tomatoes we could pick off the vine. In the herb garden, my magazine editor, Mark (left) and I tasted lemon basil, lime basil, and brushed rosemary over our hands for the fragrance. The anise leaf I tasted knocked my socks off with its licorice-candy flavor.
The cherry tomato varieties were a burst of sunshine and tomato-sweetness in our mouths. The senses don’t lie — and Wegmans proved their point.
We all had different deadlines and were from different types of media. There were reporters from TV, from newspapers, editors and writers from magazines (us) and bloggers from the web. Media work on deadlines. And their days are packed.
Wegmans made sure to keep to a schedule — starting and ending on time. But they didn’t push anyone out the door at the end. Mark & I got a peek at a new dried lavender product they’ll be featuring at their flagship Pittsford store. We saw Wegmans Organic Farm (TM) produce being fresh-packed to transport to their Canandaigua store just 8 miles away. Ready to buy for dinner.
If you’re a large company looking to build better relationships with media — take a few notes here.
And if you’re small — you can still have a media tour, these rules still apply: Know what you want to accomplish. Be prepared. Have a time-frame. Be welcoming. Treat media with concern for their needs (like real people, working at their jobs). Show them something new, don’t just market-blah-blah. Provide the best media materials you can.
Did the Wegmans media tour do its job? I’m here writing about them today — and tweeting, and sharing on social media about them. I’d say it was a big success.