I’ve had the great good fortune to know Christine Stutz, now marketing director for Eddie’s of Roland Park (www.eddiesofrolandpark.com), for 27 years. We first crossed paths when we were both writers for a chain of suburban weeklies in Baltimore. Like many people in public relations and marketing, Chris started in journalism before making the transition (“turning to the Dark Side,” as our Fourth Estate friends will quip). But enough exposition, let’s get to the Q&A with one of Baltimore’s most charming and informative PR people…
What’s your position at Eddie’s and how would you describe your duties? What’s a typical day like?
I am the marketing director, which means I’m responsible for how the company presents itself to the public and communicates information about our products and services. This includes our window and in-store signage, biweekly advertising circular, website, radio advertising, holiday menus, special events, printed collateral, public relations and social media, which includes a weekly e-newsletter, Facebook page and blog. My goal, naturally, is to increase customer traffic and sales.
In a typical day I work with our ad agency on circulars, collateral and signage; select appropriate photography for various uses; work with our events coordinator to plan upcoming events; update the Facebook page and/or website; work with our chefs and caterers on menus and special promotions; work on the weekly e-newsletter; respond to customer and vendor inquiries and donation requests; review traffic and sales figures to track success of various promotions; visit the stores to chat with managers, employees and customers, and make sure signage is in good order, and perhaps even visit other specialty grocery stores in the area to see what they’re up to.
Passover and Easter are right around the corner. How do such holidays impact your promotional activities?
We do a lot of catering business, and holidays are typically very busy for us. The spring holidays are not nearly as busy as Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas, but we do create special menus for Passover and Easter. Passover has so many traditional foods, and foods that are somewhat challenging to prepare to meet the requirements of the holiday, so customers rely on us to help them with their seders and other holiday meals. We have delicious briskets, roast chicken, kugels and flourless desserts, like coconut macaroons.
Easter is more of a home-cooking occasion, but our customers still come to us for our quality meats, prepared side dishes like our popular peach soufflé, specialty bakery items, and of course our gorgeous flowers, candy and gifts for this time of year. Our coconut cake is an Easter favorite.
I’ve noted that Eddie’s is active in social media. Do you find this an effective approach in reaching customers? How does social media complement your overall marketing strategy?
I think social media is most effective in driving a quick response, so I tend to post lunch and dinner specials an hour or two before mealtime, when people are figuring out what to eat. Posting photos of our employees and vendors always gets a strong response, as do postings about the Orioles and Ravens. These kinds of posts help us build stronger connections with our customers. And I love it when customers use Facebook to ask questions about our products and services, and I can offer a prompt reply.
As part of our overall marketing strategy, social media allows us to be more surgical, promoting single items or categories, whereas many of our other marketing vehicles by necessity take a much broader approach.
What PR efforts are you most proud of in terms of your work at Eddie’s?
When I came on board in October 2012, our advertising circular was in distress. We were struggling to achieve a consistent, appealing look on the cover issue after issue. Working with our ad agency at the time, we came up with a format that uses a full-page color photo of something delicious. We have worked hard to ensure that the circulars have remained attractive and tantalizing, while we migrated to a different ad agency that has helped us gradually update our brand to a fresher, more contemporary look. We now use top-notch color photography – often of our own prepared food – across our communications vehicles. We know this has had a very positive impact on our brand and on store traffic.
In the social media area, we have focused on consistency to promote customer engagement, and that has been successful. We have achieved strong open and click rates for our e-newsletter, and Facebook engagement has built steadily.
What’s been your most significant challenge?
I would say our biggest challenge is that our primary competitors in the market are established national specialty food chains, with huge marketing staffs and budgets. We are a family-owned independent with two Baltimore locations, and a marketing department consisting of one person. We work hard to present a sophisticated marketing program that can compete at the level of the big chains, but at a fraction of the cost. And I believe that with the help of an extremely talented food photographer, Dan Whipps, and a creative and versatile ad agency, idfive, we have been very successful.
You began your career as a full-time journalist, writing for newspapers, magazines and other outlets in Baltimore. What lessons have you learned since your transition from journalist to PR professional?
That transition began more than two decades ago, and it has been quite a journey, as I’ve had to acquire the skills necessary to be not just a good PR person, but a full-service marketing professional. As a reporter I had to be able to learn quickly and adapt nimbly to new situations, and that has served me well, for in order to stay current and marketable as a professional I have had to figure out how to do many new things, like edit photos, manage websites and tailor my writing for different vehicles.
Anything you’d like to add?
Just that I consider this my dream job, because it allows me to combine my knowledge of the food and beverage industry with my decades of experience in communications to promote a beloved Baltimore institution. Long before I was an Eddie’s employee, I was a customer, so it’s a privilege to be instrumental in shaping and presenting such a solid local brand.
Passover and Easter menus: http://www.eddiesofrolandpark.com/departments/catering