DSC01926

Being a personal chef can be a solitary endeavor. You develop recipes and create menus on your own, you shop alone, you often cook and clean up alone. It’s up to you to market yourself and attract clients. You are the one responsible for growing your business.

Nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s what we signed up for. But at some point we all need advice, education, and help with advancing our business. Joining a professional association can help with that. It should help with that. Joining a professional association means making a commitment to your career through networking with peers. It means having a forum that allows you the opportunity to take advantage of situations that arise where you are able to make personal and professional contacts that can benefit you at the present time and also provide beneficial opportunities in the future.

These days, it’s understandable that many professionals feel that the interactions they experience on social media can replace membership in a professional organization. Millennials especially have eschewed professional organizations, according to Entrepreneur magazine. They reported that in Buzz Marketing Group’s “Professional Organizations Study 2015” survey, more than one quarter of respondents referred to professional organizations as “old school.” Why did respondents, who were under the age of 40, leave older groups in record numbers?

  • 37 percent did not see value in the group.
  • 45 percent reported participation was too expensive.
  • 35 percent said the group wasn’t a community comprised of their peers.
  • 31 percent felt that groups lacked technology.
  • 27 percent said it lacked proper curation.

But, Entrepreneur also points out that that with social capital being so important to millennials, they’re being drawn into professional organizations that are millennial focused.

We think that’s short sighted. While being in a group of same-age peers can be useful, there’s a lot to be said for interacting in groups with multi-generational members who can learn from one another and expand opportunities across the breadth of experience and networks.

At APPCA, we’ve found that our members most definitely learn from the expertise of those who have been in the business for years and from the insights and knowledge of young members who are in tune with new technologies and lifestyles. We share these on our forums and at meetings–as well as on Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin. Our members tell us that they hope to get job leads from membership and that they want to get together at conventions.

DSC01811

On our Facebook group page, Carolyn Tipton Wold explains that, “Joining an association has given me hundreds of ‘sounding boards’ when I find myself with questions about pricing, marketing, recipes, etc. I also gain perspective on issues I haven’t yet encountered but could in the future. I gain a lot from the annual conferences and, depending on which association(s) you join, you can also get insurance coverage for your business and access to organizational cheffing databases.”

The consensus among experts in career advancement is that there are some key gains to be made by those who invest both time and some money in joining a professional organization. The top benefits they see include:

  • Networking
  • Business operations resources
  • Access to insurance or other member perks
  • Greater exposure to jobs/clients
  • Continuing education
  • Shared information
  • Inspiration and motivation
  • Mentoring
  • Developing leadership skills

Of course, simply joining an organization won’t yield results–unless you’re looking to just add the fact of your membership to your resume or website. You need to participate, get to know other members, share information and insights.

Winery

So, let’s say you’re game to join a professional organization. Homing in on the right ones takes some research. How do you evaluate their effectiveness for your specific needs? Here are some questions to ask when considering membership in a professional organization:

  • What resources and benefits are you looking for and are they offered by the organization? 
  • What in general does the association offer to members?
  • What are the criteria for membership?
  • Are industry-specific training materials and programs available to members?

photo 3

  • Does membership in the association offer its members professional credibility?
  • What professional continuing education opportunities does the association offer? Does the association offer professional certifications?  Are they valid? Are they meaningful in the industry?
  • Does the association provide assistance to members regarding job lead assistance? 
  • Does the association provide access to professional support such as specific general liability insurance?
  • Does the association provide internet interaction access between members for mentorship and support?
  • Does the association provide information about current trends impacting the industry?
  • Does the association provide ongoing industry support to members through blogs, social media, forums, etc.?
  • Does the association represent the members through participation in other prestigious professional organizations and the media in order to further the value of membership in the organization?
  • Does the association win awards for developing and furthering the industry it represents?
  • Is the association committed to the success of the industry and members it represents?
Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

Dennis Nosko and Christine Robinson Accept Chef of the Year Award from Candy Wallace

APPCA, for example, has long been committed to the success of our members. We offer all the tools and resources a budding personal chef needs to start a business–including our upcoming Personal Chef Seminar in San Diego this weekend–as well as support and guidance for those with more experience. We are revving up our Chef Summit this year. We offer this blog–which features discussions about business strategies, recipes, member spotlights, and special diets. We are active on Facebook and other social media. We operate an active member forum on our website. We provide access to general liability insurance. We help members design effective websites. We have software to support your business. We have developed an app to help potential clients find and hire personal chefs in the association. And, founder/executive director Candy Wallace is always available to help individual members address issues they’re facing with their business.

Candy being inducted by Michel Escoffier

Candy being inducted by Michel Escoffier as a Disciple of Escoffier at the prestigious Gathering of Gourmands

If you’re not already a member, make 2016 the year you join a professional association so you can get these benefits.

What are you looking for in a professional organization? What’s been holding you back from joining one?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

Perhaps you’re a new personal chef eager to jump start your business. Or maybe your client base is going through a shift. Are you anticipating summer holiday slowdowns? You could be launching a new line of services under your business–like catering or teaching cooking classes. Whatever it is, you need some media attention to draw in eyes who could turn into potential clients.

Now let’s stipulate first that simply getting a story about you in your local paper or getting quoted in a public radio story on food trends isn’t necessarily going to translate into more business. But media outreach should be another marketing tool in your arsenal–like social media, cooking demos, and, of course, having a quality website and business card.

Not sure how to get started? Well, here are five ways you can get reporters and editors to talk to you and, hopefully, about you:

1. Write a brief but well composed press release and send it to reporters covering the food, business, lifestyle, and/or health beats in your local media outlets (newspapers, news websites, radio, TV, bloggers, and podcasters). If you’re an APPCA member you have access to press release information in the training materials, including sample releases that you can personalize with information about you and your business. Be sure that the contacts you find are up to date–you don’t want to send a release to someone who hasn’t held that job in three years. And also be sure that the people you’re targeting are the right people for what you’re trying to accomplish. Tailor your press release to the angle of the story you’re pitching. You shouldn’t send the same release to a business reporter and a lifestyle reporter.

Facebook

 

Twitter logo

2. Assuming you’re on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, or other social media platforms–and you should be–start following/friending reporters with whom you want to develop a business relationship. Periodically ask them relevant questions. As you get friendly, let them know what you do and ask if you can send them info about an event you’re participating in or a new type of service you’re launching. Offer to serve as a resource if they have an article or segment they’re working on in an area you specialize in.

3. Do some research and find out if your target media people have their own blogs. Subscribe to them. Read them. Most important, leave friendly comments on them–but only if you can offer a relevant observation to the discussion. Be sure to include your website URL in the comment or sign in with the web URL to leave the comment so they can find you.

DSC01811

4. Create a small media event. Perhaps you’re launching a new fall menu for catering or you’ve just started a new cooking class series. Set up an event exclusively for media–a tasting, cooking demo or class. Alternatively, invite them to attend an event you’re already holding–as your (comped) guest. Either way, be sure to have useful takeaways on hand for them, such as recipes, a press release and fact sheet about your business and what you’re promoting, and perhaps a small package of cookies or jar of jam or some other edible treat you made.

5. Read, watch, or listen to stories by your target media. As you get to know what they’re interested in, you can tailor an email note, mentioning pieces of theirs you’ve found interesting and ask if they have an interest in an area in which you specialize–cooking for seniors or athletes, lessons learned in running a personal chef business, teaching cooking classes to children, etc.–and offer your expertise in a story. Do some research and provide data about related trends to demonstrate your knowledge of the topic. Reporters are always under the gun to come up with unique story ideas. If you have a pitch for a piece they find intriguing, you’re helping them do their job. That’s priceless.

Remember, this isn’t a one-shot attempt. This is a process. You’re building relationships and that takes time. And, honestly, you have to have something newsworthy to cover. Don’t waste attempts at attention with news that really isn’t all that newsy or media targets will simply delete or block your communications. Give them something to really excite–and help–them.

—————

Vegas sundae

Back in Las Vegas for week eight of Food Network Star and our Nicole Gaffney was one of six contestants left. This week, the six met with Alton Brown and Giada De Laurentiis in the Poker Tournament Room of Caesar’s Palace to learn what one-of-a-kind culinary experience they were to enjoy, take in the meal and the ambiance, and then divide into two teams to create their own special meal for the judges.

Nicole drew the $1,000 Golden Sundae at Serendipity 3, which she described as “Vegas on a plate.” She couldn’t finish the scoops of Tahitian vanilla ice cream and passion fruit-infused caviar served with a 24-carat gold spoon, but she told us on Twitter, “It was crazy good!”

Nicole then joined team Sarah as Sarah’s first pick, along with Luca, to create a four-course “Around the World” meal. Sarah gave Nicole frogs legs as an ingredient–something foreign to Nicole–who decided to fry the legs and accompany them with a spicy tamarind-glazed sauce with cucumber mango slaw. Then she took on dessert, with her toasted marshmallow ice cream as the star of a deconstructed s’mores dish.

Team Sarah totally bested Team Emma in the eyes of Alton, Giada, Susie and Bob, and guest judge Penn Jillette. Kudos to Nicole, whose frog legs (if not her story) and dessert were a big hit. Sadly, Emma, who surprisingly was unfamiliar with her assigned ingredient, Mangalitsa pork, and told a gruesome story about burning pigs in a barn, was eliminated.

And then there were five–who are off to New York for the next challenge! Stay tuned! Go Nicole!

Big Apple Bound

How have you successfully gotten media attention for you and your business? Please share!

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.

 

APPCA FB page1

We love connecting with you on our personal chef forums. But we also enjoy the relationships we’re building on social media. Some of you are just as active on social media as we are. But others are wary of this medium or uncertain about what to do. One thing we’ve noticed, particularly on Facebook, is that when we go to your business pages to try to promote your work or your page, it’s often neglected. The most recent posts are months old. Or, you haven’t got any useful content to speak of that would draw people to engage with you or help them understand what you do.

So, we thought we’d give you some tips for how to draw people in–people who could be potential clients, after all, or good contacts for networking–and keep them coming back. They aren’t difficult to do. In fact, all they do is make you more interesting, useful, and engaging. We like to think of social media as a large cocktail party filled with lots of conversations going on simultaneously. Do you want to be the wallflower or social butterfly? Think about how you act at a party. You find yourself in a small group of people. Do you monopolize the conversation and not let anyone else have a turn or do you ask others questions to learn more about them? Do you have some interesting anecdotes to share, some useful information or story you found in a newspaper or do you drone on about how hard it was to shovel snow from the driveway or get your car to start?

APPCA Twitter

The idea is to become a person who is helpful and entertaining. To be viewed as an expert with resources to share. To engage others. Yes, you want to promote yourself and your business–but not at the expense of being boring or viewed simply as a self-promoter. Be the cool guest at the cocktail party.

With this in mind, here are six ways to help you accomplish this:

1. Ask questions. Think of it as a way to learn more about your “friends” and “followers”–and as a useful market research tool. Find out what people’s favorite foods are, how often they eat at home with their families, if they enjoy cooking shows, what their favorite ethnic foods are, how they learned to cook–or if they cook. If you are ignorant about something–an ingredient from another culture or a cooking technique–ask if someone can share their knowledge. As you do this more frequently, you’ll find your questions will be more targeted and you’ll be surprised at what sparks a conversation. And that’s a great result.

FB question

2. Tag people with a purpose. One of the most annoying things on Facebook or Twitter is to be tagged by someone just because they want your attention. But if you have something to share (a link to a magazine article, a TV show, or cool website) that specifically mentions someone–a friend, a celebrity chef, a business–by all means tag them. If you want someone in particular to respond to a question, tag them. If you’re linking to a blog post you’ve written that mentions someone, tag them.

3. Use great photos. Facebook has recently acknowledged that long posts are out and photos are in. If you want to show up on other people’s news feeds, make sure you have at least one great photo to draw attention. It could be a beautiful dish you’ve prepared, a gorgeous piece of produce, an infographic, whatever. And, if you use a smart phone to shoot your photos, get an app called InstaFrame or one like it to easily create a multi-photo collage you can upload. You can do the same with PicFrame on a Mac (very helpful in blogging, too).

InstaFrame

4. Share posts others put up–or be a helpful retweeter. Be the good guy and generously spread their good news or interesting articles. You may even find other people like your business page because they’ve now discovered you.

5. Engage with others on their feeds or tweets. Read your news feed and become part of the conversation. If you have something useful to say, jump in with a comment, observation, solution, or question.

6. Be judicious in promoting yourself. All social media platforms are great resources for self promotion, but don’t overdo it and find ways to do it that are useful (like offering a recipe or cooking tips). Brag on a new gig you got or a compliment a client gave you for a dish. Announce what your services are and how you can help people. Illustrate it with gorgeous photos. Just do it as part of your larger engagement with others. They shouldn’t be the majority of your posts.

And, here’s an extra tip–feed your accounts regularly. Pick a few platforms that you think will do you the most good and be involved on them. If you try to be everywhere you’ll surely give up. It’s very frustrating to have people you’re trying to build a relationship with disappear for months on end. Don’t over post, but don’t go AWOL. Find your rhythm and try to stick with it.

And be sure to like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter (@AmerPersChef), and join our LinkedIn group! Let us know where we can find you so we can have a conversation!

What social media challenges do you have? Where can we find you?

Not an APPCA member? Now’s the perfect time to join! Go to personalchef.com to learn about all the benefits that come with membership.